What’s the Difference Between Physical vs. Psychological Dependency?

Raleigh Drug RehabAddiction is when you can't stop doing something even though you know it’s not good for you. It can be doing drugs, drinking alcohol, overeating, having sex, gambling, shopping or any activity that’s done to an extent that it interferes with life. There can be both a physical and a psychological dependence on the substance or activity that makes a person want to do it again and again.

If you feel you are dependent on drugs or alcohol and want to get help, call Legacy today to speak with an admissions counselor. We have many options that can help you overcome your physical and psychological dependence on drugs or alcohol. Don’t live a life of dependency. Read on to learn more about our affordable Raleigh drug rehab and alcohol treatment.

Physical vs. Psychological Dependency

Excuses, Excuses
Many people who become addicted to something spend a lot of time in denial. They do not believe they have a problem, or they believe that it is not something that should be a big issue. It is often friends and family that see the problem first because they notice a change in their loved one. A person who has developed a dependency on a substance may make excuses as to why he or she needs it. Common excuses include:

I’ve had a bad day, so I need a drink.
I have anxiety, so I need it to relax.
Social situations intimidate me, so I need something to calm my nerves.
My doctor prescribes the drugs, so it’s okay for me to take them.
It’s not a big deal. I can quit any time.

The difference between a physical and psychological dependence is related to the body (physical) and the brain (psychological), but they do overlap and most often occur together. Let’s take an in-depth look at each one.

Physical Dependency

Raleigh Drug RehabA physical dependence occurs when a substance is given to the body so much over a period of time that the body begins to need it to function. The body develops a tolerance for it, since it was considered a foreign substance at first, then it begins to see its presence as part of its normal function. If the substance is taken away, the body craves it and goes into withdrawal because it thinks it needs it to survive.

The severity of the cravings and withdrawal symptoms varies depending on the type of substance, how long it was used and how much was used. Some common symptoms include headaches, sweating, increased heart rate, seizures, tremors, nausea, diarrhea, chills, and body aches and pains.

Withdrawal can last from a day or two to a week. It depends on how much of the substance is in the system. Some people choose to wean themselves off the drug or alcohol so that it is easier to manage symptoms of withdrawals. In cases of people who are addicted to opiates, other drugs, such as methadone or naltrexone, are given to help ease cravings and withdrawal but we do not advocate for this type of therapy because you're trading one addiction for another. Legacy Freedom offers drug free Raleigh drug rehab and alcohol treatment plans so you do not have to worry about developing a new addiction.

Physical dependency can be reversed through detox, but it does not address the underlying issues associated with addiction. Treatment of the psychological dependence can help tackle that aspect of addiction recovery.

Psychological Dependency

A psychological dependence occurs when a person becomes mentally dependent on a substance or behavior. It describes a person’s mental need for it. The brain reinforces behavior when it feels it was rewarded. So, if someone takes a drug that makes him feel good, the brain associates the activity of taking the drug with that good feeling. When someone is not feeling good, the brain “reminds” them of that thing that worked before. A habitual drug user or alcoholic was constantly rewarding the brain, so it develops a strong tie to that substance. Breaking that tie is an integral part of recovery from addiction.

Psychological dependence can be just as strong and powerful as a physical one. Psychological dependence is hard to break because it is a perceived need. Symptoms of a psychological dependence can include:

  • Intense cravings
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Loss of appetite
  • Periods of denial
  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Depression

Treatment for psychological dependence is done through behavioral modification. A person must learn to break the association between their drug use or alcohol consumption and the good feelings it produced. Developing a psychological dependence can be similar to developing a habit. It takes about 21 days to create a new habit, but nearly 90 days to break a habit, according to some experts.

Comprehensive Raleigh drug rehab and alcohol treatment plans can offer suggestions on how to break psychological dependence through learning new coping techniques and addressing past issues that may have triggered the desire to turn to drugs or alcohol. It can also help a common problem people in recovery have – triggers. When someone sees something that reminds them of their past life using drugs or drinking, such as a needle or a case of beer, they may feel a strong desire to engage in that behavior again. Triggers can cause relapse because they can, in a sense, give someone a justification for using or drinking again.


It’s not easy to overcome an addiction, but with the right help there is hope. The physical and psychological aspects of dependency are different, but they both must be addressed in order to create a path toward recovery. Some may experience more symptoms relating to the physical aspects while others may have more difficulty overcoming the physiological effects of addiction. Choosing a treatment plan that will work best for each situation is key to finding what works best for the individual.

Affordable Raleigh Drug Rehab and Alcohol Treatment | Legacy Freedom

Legacy Freedom of Raleigh is the top choice for drug and alcohol addiction recovery. Our personalized approach to recovery is what makes us unique. There's no way to create a single plan that works for everyone, so we personalize our substance abuse treatment services to meet your needs. It's about real recovery from addiction, not just a 12-step, one-size-fits-all rehab program. Our treatment options include a variety of holistic and alternative programs that have worked for countless patients.  Call us today to learn more about how you can get started with quality Raleigh drug rehab and alcohol treatment.

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