Everything You Need to Know About Psychological Dependence

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Everything You Need to Know About Psychological Dependence

What is psychological dependence? It’s a term used when a person becomes emotionally or mentally dependent on a substance, thinking they cannot live properly without it. This constant usage can impose danger to the life of the user. Psychological dependence is used to denote psychological addiction. However, the two aren’t exactly the same.

So, what is the difference between dependence and addiction?

Psychological dependence can refer to the physical dependence on a substance. It’s a buildup of tolerance to certain drugs that an individual constantly takes to feel high. However, dependence does not equate to addiction.

Addiction causes a change in behavior due to continuous substance abuse. An individual prioritizes the use of the substance regardless if it is harmful. It causes people to act irrationally. People often use the phrase psychological addiction while actually referring to what is psychological dependence. Take note that doctors use these terms in wide variations.

What Are the Symptoms of Psychological Dependence?  

Symptoms of psychological dependence vary from one person to another but usually shows a mix of:

  • Depression
  • Appetite loss
  • Denial
  • Mood swings
  • Intense craving for a particular substance to function
  • Irritability
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble sleeping

Physical Dependence Comparison  

Physical dependence means a person relies on a substance to function. However, this isn’t always negative, such as when you take blood pressure medications. People depend on this drug because if they stop, a symptom of withdrawal would be present that would hinder the body from functioning properly.

To illustrate it better, let’s use caffeine to understand better what is psychological dependence, physical dependence, and the two together.

Psychological Dependence  

You’re used to drinking caffeinated drinks during an important event because you know you need the extra energy boost, but today you lost track of time and missed buying that latte on your way to work. You feel anxious because you could not get the caffeine boost, and you end up stuttering during your presentation as fear takes hold of you.

Physical Dependence  

You prefer to drink a cup of coffee the minute you wake up every morning because your body relies on that caffeine to be alert and active. You stop drinking that coffee and notice you’re suddenly irritable and have trouble concentrating.

Psychological and Physical Dependence  

You always think about that coffee the entire day, longing for its taste and smell and thinking of the road you take on your way to your favorite coffee shop. You crave the physical sensations of the coffee just as much as that familiar chime as you open the door to the cafe and that familiar sound of boiling water and grinding of beans.

It’s possible to experience both physical and psychological dependence.


People think that withdrawal symptoms from physical dependence are the same as the symptoms of withdrawal from opioids and alcohol. Withdrawal from these substances can be severe and sometimes become life threatening if left unattended.

However, many forms of physical dependence result in simpler withdrawal symptoms that are mostly just uncomfortable. It’s also possible to suffer withdrawal from both psychological and physical dependence.

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)  

Withdrawal has two stages.

Acute withdrawal is the first one. During this period, physical withdrawal symptoms are experienced. The second stage is the Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS), during which the symptoms persist even after resolving acute withdrawal. PAWS is an example of psychological withdrawal. These symptoms come and go unexpectedly after the symptoms of physical withdrawal have receded.

Each episode of Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome lasts for a few days, and the triggers are not apparent. You might wake up one day having one of these symptoms and carry it for a few days, but as long as you endure it, it will pass as rapidly as it comes.

An important thing to remember is that although episodes usually last for just a few days, Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome may last for two years, and this condition ranges from mild to severe.


Physical Dependence  

Treatment of physical dependence is straightforward. The best approach will be to work with a professional to reduce the dose over time and ultimately stop using it altogether. This would hinder the likelihood of a relapse. Withdrawal symptoms should be supervised to ensure safety.

Psychological Dependence  

Treatment for the symptoms of psychological dependence is more complicated. Professionals will measure the level of dependence to determine the best approach since treatment varies. Some treatments are:

  • Detoxification of withdrawal from the drug.
  • Living at a facility for supervised interaction with peers.
  • Outpatient treatment where you can still work your obligations and stay at home.
  • Therapy for individuals to target the cause, build up motivation, and enhance positive thinking.
  • Aftercare treatments for long-term recovery.

The best course of action is to work with professionals to address whether you are experiencing psychological or physical dependence only or together. If you are looking for a recovery center near Clarksville, check Haven House.