The difference between physical addiction and psychological dependence isn’t always easy to understand. Making it particularly difficult is the fact that the terms addiction and dependence are often used interchangeably by some people.
The term substance abuse disorder is usually used in the scientific and scholarly community when discussing addiction and dependence. Dependence, whether psychological or physical, is when the states of tolerance and withdrawal exist. When individuals have a psychological dependence, they believe they can’t function without the substance in question.
Mental dependence is usually driven by triggers, which then provoke an emotional response or thoughts that drive the person into using the substance. Such triggers can be something as simple as visiting a certain place.
It’s possible to have a dependence without having an addiction, but addiction can develop quickly. Addiction causes people to have a marked behavior change where their entire life and motivation begins to surround use of the particular substance. They will continue to use and focus on the substance to the detriment of themselves and those around them. They will also begin behaving in an irrational manner if they don’t have the substance or can’t get it. When people have both a mental and physical dependence on a substance, addiction is usually the cause.
What Does Psychological Dependence Mean?
The definition of psychological dependence is a state where the substance provokes emotional and motivational symptoms of withdrawal. This is when not using the substance gives people a sense of unease, anxiety and dissatisfaction until they are able to use the substance again. For example, individuals might use a substance before entering a social situation because the substance lowers their inhibitions or reduces their anxiety about such situations. When they feel like using the substance enabled them to enjoy the situation, they may feel like they need the substance before every subsequent situation.
This produces a type of conditioning where people feel like they can’t be themselves or deal with the situation without the substance. This is also why those with certain other mental disorders such as depression or anxiety, may use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate their condition. Dependence of this sort can’t be addressed through detox or medication and that’s where behavioral therapy is strongly needed. It’s a common misunderstanding that substance abuse is all about the actual substance and the physical dependence it creates.
However, the mental dependence can feel just as strong as physical dependence. That’s why professional treatment with behavioral therapy is necessary in the treatment of addiction.
Why Professional Treatment is the Only Answer to Addiction
Substance abuse disorders are a serious disease that will get progressively worse if left untreated. A good comparison is other progressive diseases like cancer, heart disease or diabetes. Most people would never consider treating these conditions by themselves. They also wouldn’t consider simply not treating it at all. The same holds true for addiction. It’s virtually impossible to break free of the mental and physical dependence that characterize substance abuse disorders without the help of trained professionals and effective treatment.
At Serenity Lodge in Lake Arrowhead, we treat many clients who have co-occurring disorders along with addiction in a process called dual diagnosis. Serenity Lodge is a men-only rehab center with the following services:
- Inpatient Residential Treatment
- Partial Hospitalization (PHP)
- Intensive Outpatient Programs
- Dual Diagnosis
Don’t wait a day longer to seek the professional, caring treatment you deserve. Call Serenity Lodge right now at (855) 932-4045.