Psychology is a term that describes behavioral processes linked to emotions and the mind. What is psychological dependence, then?
Psychological dependence refers to the mental and emotional processes connected to the onset, progression, and recovery from substance use disorders (addictions). While it’s possible to define psychological dependence, cognition and emotion are intricately linked to physiology. This means that there is no complete separation between body and mind. It also means that psychological dependence is equally serious as physical dependence. Read on to explore beyond the definition of psychological dependence and discover how to connect with evidence-based treatment for substance abuse.
Psychological dependence refers to the cognitive and emotional dimensions of addictive behaviors or the withdrawal process from substances like drugs, alcohol, or prescription medications.
Conversely, physical dependence is a condition associated with tolerance leading to the manifestation of physical withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation – nausea, diarhhea, vomiting, hallucinations, and seizures for instance. While symptoms triggered by psychological dependence can be more variable in intensity than those associated with physical dependence, it is not possible to objectively measure a person’s distress levels, either physically or emotionally.
Beyond this, even symptoms deemed primarily psychological – cravings, for example – are linked to physiological bases and processes. Similarly, symptoms that indicate physical dependence, such as tolerance and withdrawal, are linked to psychological variables, and both categories exhibit a complex interplay between physiological and psychological factors.
What Substances Can Cause Psychological Dependence?
All addictive substances exhibit physical and psychological aspects of dependence. That said, many sources distinguish the aspects of developing an addiction (substance use disorder), categorizing substances based on whether their withdrawal symptoms are predominantly psychological. Substances associated with mainly psychological withdrawal symptoms include:
- Most stimulant drugs, such as cocaine, meth, and Ritalin
- Hallucinogenic drugs like LSD
- Marijuana products (though emerging evidence suggests a notable physical withdrawal process in those who use the drug heavily)
- Many inhalants like whippets
- Psychotropic medications, including antidepressants
Substances linked to the development of strong physical dependence, by contrast, include:
- Opioids like morphine, heroin, oxycodone, and fentanyl
- Benzodiazepines, including Xanax, Valium, and Ativan
- Barbiturates like phenobarbital
Many drugs of abuse can trigger both types of withdrawal symptoms and promote both forms of dependence.
Signs of Psychological Dependence
Identifying psychological dependence involves recognizing various behavioral and emotional signs that indicate a person’s reliance on a substance. These signs may manifest during the development of a substance use disorder or when attempting to abstain from the substance. Common signs of psychological dependence include:
- Cravings for the addictive substance.
- Anxiety issues when attempting to cease addictive behavior.
- Depression issues during periods of abstinence or attempts to quit.
- Irritability and restlessness when refraining from substance use or trying to discontinue use.
- Mood swings when not using the substance of choice or during attempts to quit.
- Appetite changes associated with not using the substance.
- Sleep disturbances related to quitting or not using the drug.
- Uncertainty about the ability to stop using the substance.
- Denial of having a substance use problem or romanticizing substance abuse.
- Obsessive thoughts about obtaining or using the preferred substance.
- Cognitive issues like problems with concentration, memory, and judgment.
Recognizing these signs can help people engage with treatment before issues of psychological dependence worsen. Seeking professional help and support can facilitate a comprehensive approach to address the underlying issues and promote sustained recovery. What does treatment involve, though?
Treatment for Psychological Dependence
A critical distinction between drugs associated with physical and psychological dependence lies in the withdrawal process. Drugs linked to strong physical dependence are more likely to trigger life-threatening seizures during withdrawal. Individuals recovering from substance use disorders involving these substances should undergo supervised medical detoxification to promptly address any seizure activity.
While seizures are less commonly reported in those recovering from the abuse of other substances, the approach to treating any addiction or dependency should prioritize a supervised medical detox program. This is essential because the first phase of recovery from any substance of abuse can involve significant physical and emotional distress, increasing the risk of dangerous situations such as overdose during relapse, accidents, or suicidal tendencies.
Long-term treatment for people with psychological addictions or psychological dependence is broadly similar to that indicated for those battling physical drug dependence. Thorough assessment, physician oversight, treatment for co-occurring issues, involvement in ongoing therapy, participation in support groups, support from loved ones, and engagement in supplementary therapies tailored to individual circumstances remain key components of comprehensive recovery plans for both groups.
CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), contingency management, and motivational enhancement therapy are examples of behavioral interventions aimed at modifying patterns of thinking and behavior associated with substance use.
One-on-one counseling sessions provide a private and supportive environment to explore underlying issues contributing to psychological dependence. Therapists work collaboratively with individuals to develop coping strategies and set realistic goals for recovery.
Participating in group therapy sessions fosters a sense of community and shared experiences. Group settings offer mutual support, encouragement, and insights into coping strategies from peers facing similar challenges. Involving family members in the therapeutic process can address interpersonal dynamics, improve communication, and create a supportive environment for recovery.
Mindfulness techniques, such as meditation and mindful awareness, can help people develop a heightened sense of self-awareness, emotional regulation, and coping skills. Complementary approaches like art therapy, yoga, and exercise contribute to overall well-being, promoting emotional balance and stress reduction.
Participating in support groups, such as 12-step programs or non-traditional recovery groups, provides ongoing encouragement, shared experiences, and a platform for accountability.
Informative sessions about the nature of psychological dependence, triggers, and coping mechanisms empower individuals with knowledge and skills essential for long-term recovery.
Developing a comprehensive relapse prevention plan equips people with strategies to identify and manage triggers, anticipate challenges, and maintain their commitment to recovery.
When co-occurring mental health issues contribute to psychological dependence, integrated treatment addressing both substance use and mental health is imperative. Combining various therapeutic approaches ensures a comprehensive and personalized strategy to effectively address psychological dependence and promote sustained recovery.
Get Treatment for Psychological Dependence at Ohio Recovery Centers
While psychological dependence on drugs or alcohol can be extremely aggravating and disruptive it is also highly treatable. At Ohio Recovery Centers in Cincinnati, OH, we treat all types of substance use issues, including dependence, in an outpatient setting. This enables you or your loved one to get the help you need while remaining engaged with your everyday commitments. We also offer more intensive outpatient programs for those who require a more structured recovery experience.
All Ohio Recovery Centers treatment programs deliver personalized treatment plans that may include medication-assisted treatment, holistic therapies, psychotherapies, and counseling in group, individual, and family settings. To minimize the chance of relapse, all of our treatment programs also incorporate a comprehensive aftercare component. Call 877-679-2132 when you are ready to unshackle yourself from psychological dependence on drugs or alcohol.