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What is Psychological Dependence?

Sep 2019 What is Psychological Dependence?

When dealing with addiction, there’s a lot to consider. In fact, an individual who struggles with addiction has to deal with both physical and psychological dependence. Unfortunately, few people know what physical and psychological dependencies are. More specifically, most people don’t know what psychological dependence is or that they could need a cognitive behavioral therapy program in Southern CA like that offered at Phoenix Rising Recovery to treat it.

What Is Psychological Dependence?

Most people are aware that physical dependence refers to the physical symptoms that people experience when they are addicted to drugs or alcohol. However, people are less familiar with psychological dependence.

The easiest way to describe psychological dependence is to look at the hold that substances have on the mind. It includes the emotional need that people have for their drug of choice. 

Once people remove those drugs from their lives, they experience harsh withdrawal symptoms. In fact, sometimes, the emotional symptoms are just as strong as the physical ones. 

Some common symptoms of psychological dependence include:

  • Irritability and restlessness
  • Cravings
  • Changes in appetite
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Changes in sleep pattern
  • Fear of not being able to quit
  • Cognitive issues
  • Obsession 
  • Denial

Is There An Overlap Between Physical and Psychological Dependence?

Simply put, yes there is some overlap between physical and psychological dependence. In fact, that’s why some people aren’t aware that there are two different types of dependencies in the first place. After all, the emotional distress that mental dependence creates can be physically painful. In that regard, it can sometimes be hard to determine the difference between the two.

Also, it’s worth noting that both of these dependencies typically occur in tandem. In other words, people with substance addictions tend to experience both of these dependencies at the same time. 

People don’t experience physical dependence with all forms of addiction, just drug and alcohol addiction. Gambling and sex addicts, for example, don’t experience physical dependence. They do experience strong psychological dependence though.

What Substances Are Associated with Both Physical and Psychological Dependence?

While all substances of abuse have both psychological and physical dependencies, certain substances have a predominantly psychological dependence, especially when it comes to withdrawal symptoms. 

Examples of substances that cause a strong psychological dependence include:

  • Most hallucinogens
  • Cannabis products
  • Psychotropic medications such as antidepressants
  • Stimulants
  • Inhalant products

On the contrary, there are certain substances that have a stronger physical dependence than psychological one. Some of those substances include: 

What is the Root Cause of Addiction?

When people learn what is psychological dependence, they must determine the cause of their addiction. Usually, finding the cause of one’s addiction can shed some light on overcoming it as a whole. This is especially true since, oftentimes, psychological problems lead to drug abuse in the first place.

The real issue is if people attempt to overcome addiction without addressing the cause. In these cases, they’re much more likely to relapse. The reason is that they didn’t solve the problem that led to addiction in the first place.

Furthermore, people who relapse find that getting clean a second time is even harder. For that reason, they must find reliable treatment the first time around. Thankfully, Phoenix Rising Recovery is a high-quality addiction treatment center that treats both physical and psychological dependence on substances. Thus, by attending rehab at Phoenix Rising Recovery, many people with substance addictions and dependencies can get their lives back on track.

What Are My Treatment Options For Psychological Dependence?

As is the case with many other forms of addiction and dependence, there are treatment options available for psychological dependence. Like with anything else, the first step in the treatment process is to detox from whatever drugs or alcohol are in your system. Without ridding the body of these harmful substances, the body cannot truly begin the recovery process. 

Detoxing should be done under the care and supervision of trained medical professionals at either a local medical facility, a dedicated detox center, or a treatment center that also provides detox services such as Phoenix Rising. Attempting to self-detox can be incredibly dangerous and even life-threatening. Once medical detox has been completed though, the treatment can begin. 

When dealing with psychological dependence, the majority of treatment will focus on the mental side of things. You will work directly with mental health professionals and addiction specialists to come up with the treatment plan that works best for you. 


Therapy is a major component of the overall addiction recovery process. This is even more vital when dealing with psychological dependence. After all, without addressing the mental side of a person’s addiction, there is no recovery. 

During individual, group, and even family therapy sessions, the person in recovery can address the underlying mental issues that might have led him or her to abuse certain substances in the first place. These sessions can also be valuable for learning ways to stay sober once treatment has been completed. 

During the therapy sessions, individuals will work on new and healthier ways to address potential triggers such as stress, social situations, and any other emotional issues that might have led to a patient’s development of addiction. Being aware of your thoughts, feelings, and actions is crucial to not only your recovery but also to staying sober in the long run.


In some situations, a person’s mental health and addiction issues might be so severe that medication is required in order to help with the recovery process. While this isn’t always the case, sometimes there is no other way around it. If your psychiatrist or psychologist thinks that certain medications might help with recovery, you may be prescribed certain ones for a period of time during treatment. 

Support Groups

Another valuable tool that treatment centers offer to individuals with substance addictions or co-occurring substance addictions and mental illnesses is support groups such as 12-step groups (AA and NA), anger management, psychoeducational groups, and process groups just to name a few. 

These support groups are not only a great way to build up a support system while in treatment and recovery. They are also a great source of support after leaving treatment. After all, who better to understand what you are going through as a newly sober person than someone who is also newly sober or in recovery. Not only can people in addiction recovery support groups help you work through some of the issues you come across in sobriety, but they also sometimes share their own experiences with you as well. 

Are You Suffering From Psychological Dependence?

In addition to the physical dependence that comes with addiction, there is also a psychological component. After all, it’s your brain who is the one telling you that it craves and wants more of the substance that you’re dependent on. That’s why when in recovery, we feel that while it’s important to address the physical dependence issues that are associated with substance addiction, it’s equally as important to address the psychological ones. 

Here at Phoenix Rising Recovery, we have one of the top cognitive behavioral therapy programs in the United States. This is in order to better help our patients with their psychological dependence in addition to their physical dependence. 

We also use a wide range of services to aid in any individual’s overall recovery. Such services include:

Don’t waste your time trying to overcome drug addiction alone. If you or someone you know is suffering from either a physical and/or psychological dependence on substances, contact us today. We want every one of our patients to live long sober lives that are filled with happiness and health.