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Differences Between Physical and Psychological Addiction

Addictions impact all areas of life. It is a disease that seizes control over those that experience it daily. If you or someone you know needs help, it’s best to first understand that there are various types of addictions.

Some people experience a physical addiction, while others are psychologically affected. The exact symptoms of addiction can vary from person to person, but typically, those suffering from addictions experience both physical and mental symptoms to an extent. 

If you understand the differences between a physical and psychological addiction, you’ll be able to seek the best course of treatment for recovery.

What is Addiction?

An addiction is a treatable neuropsychological disorder. You may also hear it referred to as a chronic medical disease that facilitates intricate interactions between the person’s life experiences, genetics, brain circuits, and environment. 

Those that live with an addiction (usually referring to a substance, but can also refer to a behavior such as gambling) engage in drugs/alcohol and behaviors that continue compulsively despite adverse consequences.  

The brain system undergoes this chronic dysfunction based on memory, reward, and motivation. Your body will crave a particular behavior or substance to pursue a perceived reward, which is usually a feeling. It is an obsessive drive that shows a low regard for the results of their actions. 

Every type of addiction is harmful to both the person addicted and those around them. Still, there are notable differences between being psychologically addicted to something and being physically addicted or dependent.

Physical Drug Addiction

Understanding a physical addiction is relatively straightforward because it is directly related to physical effects on the body. 

A physical addiction develops when a person’s body cells no longer operate correctly when they aren’t using alcohol or drugs. Your body gradually builds up a tolerance after long-term substance use, and without these substances, the cells begin to malfunction. When your cells are in disarray, it causes withdrawal symptoms.  

These symptoms are generally painful, leading the individual to alleviate any pain and discomfort by consuming more drugs and alcohol.

Symptoms of Physical Addiction

  • Gastrointestinal discomfort
  • Lack of sleep
  • Abdominal pain
  • Shaking and trembling
  • Nausea
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Irritability
  • Body aches
  • Blackouts
  • Headaches
  • Body aches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pulse/Blood pressure changes
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Psychological Drug Addiction

A mental and emotional dependence on alcohol or drugs is a psychological addiction. Moreover, when an individual wrestles with the psychological repercussions of addiction, they’ll inevitably have a compulsion to use again. 

It is not uncommon to have a strong dependence on alcohol and drugs psychologically without having the physical side effects of withdrawal.

However, individuals who develop a chronic psychological addiction can become obsessed with using their drug of choice. These substances eventually consume their lives and become the driving force behind everything they do, to the detriment of their career, relations, and health.

Symptoms of Physical Addiction

  • Mood swings
  • Obsession
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Denial
  • Obsessive-compulsive thoughts
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Intense cravings
  • An inability to imagine coping without the substance

What Are Cravings?

As they pertain to individuals who abuse substances, cravings refer to an intense desire to use substances such as nicotine, alcohol, or drugs. Cravings are often referred to as urges — another word used to describe powerful desires to perform compulsory actions.

There’s usually a feeling of powerlessness when a person experiences cravings; they may feel as if they are relegated to simply giving in to the urge by using the substance to make the craving stop. However, using nicotine, alcohol, or drugs to relieve cravings temporarily will only serve to create a vicious and unrelenting cycle that causes more cravings.

Dependence or Addiction

There’s a meaningful distinction between dependence and addictions that can be hard to understand. Some people and organizations use the words interchangeably, and others have different definitions.

Typically when someone uses the term “dependence,” they refer to the physiological dependence that one has on a given substance. Furthermore, dependence is associated with the symptom of tolerance and withdrawal of an individual.

Even though it’s possible to be dependent on a substance physically without being addicted, in most cases, physical dependence comes with addiction. If someone isn’t quite addicted yet, it’s probably on the brink of happening.

In general, dependence is characterized by physiological effects, whereas addiction is characterized more so by behavior than physiological effects.

Getting Help for Physical and Psychological Addiction

Comprehensively understanding psychological and physical addiction is essential when it comes to treatment. Moreover, people who are physically dependent on a substance are likely to undergo a medically supervised detoxification process at the beginning of the program; this will go a long way to alleviate their withdrawal symptoms.

After this, individuals have to grapple with the psychological side of addiction — the underlying cause of their substance abuse. Contact a treatment center today to begin the journey to recovery toward a better, healthier you.

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