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      Sober Nation

      Putting Recovery On The Map

      01-15-20 | By

      Understanding the Physical and Psychological Addiction

      Do you know what the underlying causes of your addiction are? Many people sort addiction into one of two categories: either physical or psychological. However, substance abuse is much more complex than people realize. Both physical and psychological symptoms of addiction can overlap, so you may not know whether you or someone you know is suffering from one from the other.

      What Is Addiction?

      What exactly do people mean when they talk about addiction? The dictionary definition of addiction is “the compulsive, chronic, physiological, or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity having harmful physical, psychological, or social effects and typically causing straightforward symptoms upon withdrawal or abstinence.”

      So where does the physical and psychological line come through? Just think about it this way: The body controls physical addiction and the mind controls psychological addiction. This is the best way to figure out the difference between physical and psychological, even though there is a lot of overlap between them.

      Here’s an example: A gambling addiction is a psychological addiction, since there is nothing being physically taken into the body. However, if you’re addicted to a substance, such as drugs or alcohol, your addiction will be both psychological and physical.

      Physical Addiction

      Sounds confusing? It’s not really. When you have a physical addiction, then drug leads to the body’s dependence upon it, so much so that you cannot do without it.

      Here’s another example: You will develop a tolerance for opiates if you take them for an extended time. The receptors in your brain will show decreased sensitivity, and you will end up needing more and more of the drug to get the same effect.

      When you intake drugs into your body, your system has to pay through its own chemical reactions to fight off the effects of those drugs. Soon, your body can no longer naturally placate your brain with these chemical reactions which is how you become dependent on the drugs. This is why it is called physical dependence.

      This physical dependence occurs when your body adapts to an external substance. When this substance is taken away, your body suffers from symptoms of withdrawal. Actual changes in the brain have occurred in the brain as a result of physical dependence. In fact, it’s possible to be physically dependent on a substance without being psychologically addicted.

      With physical addiction, the degree and speed it occurs depends on the following factors:

      • The substance you’re abusing
      • How frequently you take the substance
      • The way you take it
      • Your family medical history

      Psychological Addiction

      The dictionary definition of the word “psychological” is “of or relating to the mind and behavior.” So, when people talk about psychological addiction, they’re referring to the ways that the mind becomes dependent on substances or the how use of these substances affects behavior.

      If you’re psychologically addicted to a substance, you have an emotional or mental attachment to it. You’ll also have a strong desire to find and use the drug you’re addicted to. If you can’t get what you want, it can lead to drastic and disturbing changes in behavior and thought processes. It may seem to others that you have become a different person.

      Withdrawal Symptoms

      Here are the physical symptoms of withdrawal:

      • Memory loss
      • Blackouts
      • Headaches
      • Seizures
      • Nausea
      • Vomiting
      • Disorientation
      • Shortness of breath
      • Dry mouth
      • Constricted pupils
      • Body aches
      • Pulse rate changes
      • Blood pressure changes
      • Tremors and shaking
      • Restless legs

      Psychological addiction symptoms can be just as strong and debilitating. They include:

      • Mood swings
      • Depression
      • Irritability
      • Intense substance cravings
      • Denial
      • Insomnia
      • Inability to imagine coping without the substance
      • Feeling restless when you’re not using the substance
      • Being mentally obsessed with getting more of the substance

      Cravings are a key factor in psychological addictions. Once you try to stop your addiction, or even just cut down on your drug use, you’ll experience cravings. These can be so extreme that they completely take over your life.

      Treating Addiction

      Most treatment plans will focus on the physical aspects of addiction, and treat the psychological symptoms separately. However, these two go hand in hand. Most luxury drug rehab centers will understand this and treat you accordingly.

      Medically supervised detox is usually the first step in treating the physical signs of addiction. Detox cleans your body but it does not address the underlying desire to use drugs. Once you have all traces of the drug out of your system and you’re stable, you’ll need treatment to address the psychological aspects of your addiction.

      Counseling and behavioral therapy are very important aspects of treatment. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing, and family therapy are all excellent forms of counseling that are used to treat psychological addiction.


      Addiction affects both the mind and the body, and so can only be cured by looking at both aspects. Physical and psychological addiction manifest in different ways, but they overlap and both of them need to be understood in order to allow one to recover.


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