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What Is Psychological Dependence?

psychological dependence

Drug addiction affects millions of Americans each year. There are multiple factors in developing an addiction. One of the critical factors is the onset of something called psychological dependence. If you’re affected by this form of dependence, you’ve reached the threshold of clinical addiction. But what exactly is psychological dependence? The answer to this question may help you recognize when a serious drug problem has taken root. If you qualify for an addiction diagnosis, our drug rehab program in Colorado can help you recover.

Psychological Drug Dependence as a Component of Addiction

Drug addiction is a chronic illness that makes long-term changes in how your brain functions. This illness has three main components:

  • Physical drug dependence
  • Psychological drug dependence
  • Compulsive drug-seeking behavior

As a rule, physical dependence occurs first. It develops when your brain comes to physically rely on the presence of a given drug. Once this reliance or dependence exists, you can no longer stop taking that drug without consequences. Specifically, if you stop or make rapid cuts in your intake, you will develop withdrawal symptoms.

Physical dependence and withdrawal are common symptoms of addiction. However, by itself, it’s not enough to leave you addicted. Before you cross that threshold, you also become psychologically dependent. Compulsive drug-seeking follows and marks the onset of full-blown addiction.

Defining Psychological Dependence

When you’re psychologically dependent, you have an emotional need to take a given drug. If you don’t take the expected amount of that drug, you will develop emotion-based withdrawal symptoms. The exact symptoms can vary from person to person. However, common problems include:

  • Anxiety
  • Powerful feelings of discomfort or unease
  • Rising stress levels
  • A reduced ability to feel pleasure
  • Strong cravings for the drug in question

The impact of these problems creates a compelling motivation to keep using drugs. In turn, that motivation drives compulsive drug-seeking behavior. Such behavior is not voluntary. Instead, once activated, it operates on its own.

The Impact of Psychological Dependence on Addiction Recovery

Psychological and physical dependence both have a significant effect on the course of drug rehab. But in some ways, the psychological effects of addiction are harder to manage. For example, in drug detox, physical withdrawal symptoms typically start to fade within a matter of days. However, your psychological symptoms can last for much longer.

In fact, the majority of people in drug rehab experience something called post-acute withdrawal. This is the name for withdrawal symptoms that last for weeks, months, or even longer. Almost all of the most common post-acute symptoms are psychological, not physical. These lingering symptoms can make it harder for you to recover.

Fortunately, there are effective treatments for psychological dependence. That’s true for both short-term and post-acute symptoms. Psychotherapy is the main option for dealing with these symptoms. In some cases, you may also receive medication.

The goal of treatment is to reduce the odds that you will relapse back into drug use. This is largely accomplished by teaching you how to cope with any lingering psychological effects. Once you complete treatment, regular check-ins with your doctor will help you keep your recovery on track.

Get Help for Psychological Drug Dependence at Northpoint Colorado

Need help for psychological dependence and other addiction indicators? Talk to the professionals at Northpoint. We offer a full slate of services to support your recovery.

Treatment begins with our inpatient drug detox program, which you can follow up with enrollment in our inpatient rehab. We also have outpatient services available. Each step of the way, you’ll receive help that targets psychological dependence and helps you stay sober long-term. For more information on how we can help, call us today at 970.579.4569 or fill out our online form.