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Physical vs. Psychological Dependence: Why Both Are Important to Treat

Addiction is defined as compulsive substance use despite harmful consequences and is characterized by an inability to stop using a substance; failure to meet work, social, or family obligations; and, sometimes (depending on the substance), tolerance and withdrawal. Addiction is a disease, and like many other diseases, the underlying cause of the problem can vary. For example, just as the root cause of hormone imbalances can be thyroid issues, stress, or even eating disorders, there can be different root causes of addiction. However, the root of addiction typically boils down to two factors: physical and psychological dependence.

Treatment options differ depending on the root cause of the problem and, if you or a loved one is seeking help for a substance use disorder, it’s important to first understand the underlying factors in your specific situation. After that, you can discuss the best path to recovery with counselors from one of the drug and alcohol treatment centers in Tampa, like Phoenix House Florida, based on your individual situation.

Related: Why Is an Individualized Program Important for Drug Rehab?

What Is Physical Dependence?

Physical dependence occurs when the body adapts to the substance, requiring more of it to achieve a certain effect (tolerance) and eliciting substance-specific physical or mental symptoms if substance use is abruptly ceased (withdrawal). Physical dependence can happen with the chronic use of many substances— including many prescription drugs, even if taken as instructed.

Because physical dependence can form to legal and necessary drugs, physical dependence in and of itself does not constitute addiction. This distinction is important because, as is the case with prescription medications that may be necessary, the need to increase doses over time can represent tolerance or a worsening underlying problem, as opposed to the beginning of substance use or addiction.

What Is Psychological Dependence?

Before we dive into psychological dependence, it should be noted that nearly all cases of physical dependence also carry a physiological aspect. Psychological dependence refers to the cognitive and emotional aspects of addictive behaviors. The symptoms associated with the psychological components of addictive behaviors include:

  • Cravings
  • Issues with anxiety that occur when someone tries to stop their addictive behavior
  • Issues with depression when one is not using their substance of choice or tries to stop their addictive behavior
  • Irritability and restlessness that occurs when someone is not using their substance of choice or trying to quit
  • Any other issues with mood swings that occur when one is not using their substance of choice or attempting to quit
  • Appetite loss or increased appetite associated with not using the substance of choice
  • Issues with sleep associated with quitting or not using the substance of choice
  • Issues with uncertainty about being able to stop using the substance of choice
  • Denial that one has a substance use disorder or romanticizing one’s substance use
  • Obsessing over obtaining or using the substance of choice
  • Cognitive issues, such as issues with concentration, memory, problem-solving, and other aspects of judgment, etc.

How to Find Help for Psychological and Physical Dependence

Struggling with addiction and trying to separate physical from psychological dependence on your own can be more difficult than when you have support. If you or a loved one are struggling with a substance use disorder and need drug addiction recovery in Tampa, help is available. In-person and virtual recovery meetings, as well as telehealth services, are available through Phoenix House Florida.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, speak with a specialist regarding drug rehab in Tampa. To schedule a consultation with Phoenix House Florida, please request an appointment today.

Disclaimer: The contents of this website are for general educational purposes only. All content and media on the Phoenix House Florida website does not constitute professional medical advice nor is the information intended to replace the services provided by Phoenix House Florida or other qualified medical professionals. If you believe you are having a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.

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At Phoenix House Florida, we have a passion for healing. If you or your loved one are in need of subtance use treatment, we are here to help. Give us a call or submit our appointment request form today.

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The Derek Jeter Center

The Derek Jeter Center Adolescent program in Brandon, FL provides comprehensive outpatient services that help families deal with teen substance use and related mental health conditions.

At Our House

For some patients, stepping away from the buzz of everyday life is the only way to make a full recovery. Inpatient treatments help patients refocus their recovery efforts to achieve positive, long-lasting outcomes.

At Your House

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to recovery. Outpatient treatment must follow a continuum of care that starts with a thorough needs assessment and ends with recovery monitoring.