What is psychological dependence?

Given our present understanding of behaviour, the idea that conduct can be divided into mutually exclusive components, such as mental or psychological elements of activity and merely physical parts of behaviour, is untenable.

All the processes that we experience a physiological foundation, and all complex behaviours (behaviours that aren’t just reflex movements) have a major emotional and psychological component. The traditional dualism division of mind and body is a fallacy and an impractical way to think about almost any kind of action. This covers behaviours that are linked to drug abuse and process addictions.

With that said, there is a definition and criteria of signs and symptoms that showcase the existence of psychological dependence.

What is psychological dependence?

The term psychological dependency is used to define the emotional and mental processes that accompany the development of a drug use disorder or process addiction, as well as their rehabilitation. However, emotion and cognition cannot be completely separated from physiology.

It’s also called “psychological addiction” in some cases. Although the phrases “dependence” and “addiction” are sometimes used interchangeably, they are not synonymous:

Addiction vs dependence

The process by which your mind and body become reliant on a substance to keep you feeling a specific way is referred to as dependency. When you stop taking the drug, you may experience withdrawal symptoms.

Addiction is a brain condition characterized by compulsive drug use in the face of negative consequences. It’s a complicated disorder with psychological and physical components that are difficult to disentangle (if not impossible).

The diagnoses of “substance dependence” and “substance abuse” (aka addiction) were removed from the most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) due to widespread misunderstanding. (Now, both are classified as drug use disorder and are graded on a scale of mild to severe.)

Symptoms of psychological dependence

Most people or sources that talk about psychological dependency are talking about the cognitive and emotional elements of addictive behaviours or the withdrawal process from drugs or alcohol, rather than trying to categorize substances or activities as psychologically or physiologically addicted. The following are some of the symptoms linked with the psychological aspects of addictive behaviours or psychological dependence:

  • Anxiety problems arise when someone attempts to quit doing something addicting.
  • When a person stops taking their drug of choice or tries to stop their addicted behaviour, they may experience sadness.
  • When someone isn’t taking their drug of choice or attempting to quit, they get irritable and restless.
  • Any additional mood fluctuations that occur when a person isn’t using their substance of choice or trying to stop
  • Appetite reduction or gain connected with abstaining from the drug of choice
  • Sleep problems caused by stopping or not taking the medication of choice
  • Cravings
  • Issues with not knowing if you’ll be able to quit taking your preferred drug
  • Denial of one’s substance abuse is harmful.
  • Obsessing about getting or taking one’s preferred drug
  • Problems with attention, memory, problem-solving, and other parts of the judgment, for example.

The following are some examples of psychological dependencies:

  • Being incapable of putting an end to drug use
  • Even with the existence of obvious health issues, the person persists in the abuse of medications.
  • Using drugs to cope with life’s difficulties
  • Obsession
  • Taking a chance
  • Increasing the dosage of addictive substances such as medications

Taking higher dosages of a drug or substance is a symptom of psychological rather than physical dependency. Once your brain has become used to the effects of your chosen substance, you will need to take bigger and higher dosages to have the same initial impact. Withdrawal symptoms become more severe as a result of this.

There is also a symptom overlap between psychological and physical consequences. One of the psychological repercussions of overlapping symptoms is the redirection of your food budget to purchase the substance in the issue. However, you will be unable to ingest enough nutrients as a result of this, which will have a bodily consequence.

The difference between psychological and physical dependence

Physical dependence is generally linked with the development of tolerance and withdrawal symptoms that are not predominantly emotional or cognitive in nature, whereas psychological dependency is connected with a variety of emotional and cognitive symptoms.

The development of psychological dependence

Consistent and regular exposure to a substance or behavioural activity causes psychological dependency. It’s frequently linked to the negative effects of drug usage, but it may also be induced by harmful behaviour, such as pornography.

A neuronal counter-adaption, which is confined to regions of the brain responsible for a drug’s positive reward, is involved in the mechanism that causes dependency. Changes in neurotransmitter activity or receptor expression cause this adaptation.

Withdrawal is related to decreased levels of GABA and neuropeptide Y as well as increased levels of dynorphin, corticotropin-releasing factor, and norepinephrine in anatomically different regions of the rat brain; these oscillations might lead to psychological dependency.

Receptor expression changes

Variations in receptor expression have also been related to drug withdrawal symptoms. An inhibition of 62 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in the mesostriatal dopaminergic pathways was reported in a study of rats enduring nicotine withdrawal.

Neurotransmitter activity changes

The nucleus accumbens displays decreased levels of serotonin and dopamine in rats suffering ethanol withdrawal, stimulant withdrawal, or opioid withdrawal, according to studies.

Certain substances are associated with psychological dependence including :

  • Most stimulants, such as cocaine and Ritalin, are addictive.
  • The majority of hallucinogenic substances, such as LSD, are found in cannabis products (although there is mounting evidence that there may be a significant physical process of withdrawal that occurs in chronic users of cannabis products)
  • Several inhalant products are available.

Antidepressant drugs, for example, are among the many psychiatric medications available.

Psychological Dependence is treated in a variety of ways.

One significant distinction to make between medications that cause physical vs psychological dependency is that the withdrawal process from certain of the drugs that cause physical dependence, such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, and barbiturates, can result in potentially deadly convulsions. This syndrome, on the other hand, does not usually occur with opiate withdrawal, which is likewise regarded to be very physiologically addictive.

The treatment of psychological dependency is a little more complicated. When people have both a physical and psychological addiction, the psychological side of things can occasionally resolve on its own after the physical addiction is cured.

Working with a therapist, in most circumstances, is the best way to manage psychological dependency, whether it happens alone or in conjunction with physical reliance.

Group Therapy: 12-Step groups, anger management, process groups, and psychotherapeutic groups all provide avenues for people to address their psychological dependence on drugs or alcohol, gain oversight from others, and learn skills to deal with symptoms of psychological dependence like cravings, recurring thoughts about using, and feelings of “needing” drugs or alcohol to cope. Because everyone’s psychological reliance is different, some people opt to participate in support groups for months or years after finishing treatment.

In treatment, you’ll usually look at the tendencies that lead to your addiction and focus on developing new thinking and behaviour habits.

It’s difficult to talk about substance use disorder, and not only because it’s a touchy subject. There are several words that, while related, have diverse meanings.

The term “psychological dependency” simply describes how certain people become emotionally or psychologically reliant on a drug.


Q. Can someone be dependent without addiction?

While psychological and physical dependency can (and frequently do) coexist with addiction, they can also exist independently. An individual taking prescription opioids exactly as prescribed by their doctor is an example. This individual may build a tolerance to the medication over time, and if they stop taking it suddenly, they may experience physical withdrawal symptoms. This is an illustration of physical reliance. The individual would not be classed as having an addiction if they are not participating in obsessive and irresponsible drug-seeking behaviours, such as taking more medicine than prescribed or engaging in criminal actions to get more opioids.

Q.What’s the Difference Between Psychological and Physical Dependence?

When it comes to addiction, the words psychological and physical dependency are frequently interchanged. However, there are several significant distinctions between the two.

It’s all about the body when it comes to physical reliance. When someone develops a drug or alcohol addiction, they may experience physical withdrawal symptoms if they stop giving themselves the substance they’ve been using on a regular basis. It refers to the body’s need for alcohol, narcotics, or any addictive substance; without the drug, the body’s cells are unable to operate normally.

Q.What are two signs of physical dependence?

Rapid weight loss, as well as digestive problems such as diarrhoea, loss of appetite, nausea, and stomach cramps, are all frequent indications of physical dependency.

Can dependence lead to withdrawal?

When it relates to withdrawal, many people think of the traditional symptoms associated with alcohol or opiate withdrawal.

Withdrawal from some drugs, if left mismanaged, may be harsh and even life-threatening in rare circumstances. Other withdrawal symptoms, such as those described in the coffee example, are just unpleasant.

However, you may also feel psychological withdrawal. Consider the terror and dread in the third scenario. Physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms are also possible.

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