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Physiological Dependence definition Psychology Glossary

Physical addiction manifests itself in a physical way affecting the body. Physical addiction dependency is chemical level changes in the brain that are changed by the addictive chemicals in the drugs. Alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence are not the same thing, but both are commonly thought of as “alcoholism”. Alcohol dependence is defined by physiologic dependence on alcohol from consistent, heavy use. It manifests as physical withdrawal symptoms such as shakiness, nausea, vomiting, delirium, and even seizures when alcohol is stopped abruptly.

physiological dependence on alcohol

By modifying the required response (e.g., increasing the number of lever presses required before the alcohol is delivered) researchers can determine the motivational value of the stimulus for the animal. Schuckit MA, Klein JL. Correlations between drinking intensity and reactions to ethanol and diazepam in healthy young men. Rimondini R, Arlinde C, Sommer W, Heilig M. Long-lasting increase in voluntary ethanol consumption and transcriptional regulation in the rat brain after intermittent exposure to alcohol. The effects of carbamazepine and lorazepam on single versus multiple previous alcohol withdrawals in an outpatient randomized trial. 1In operant procedures, animals must first perform a certain response (e.g., press a lever) before they receive a stimulus (e.g., a small amount of alcohol). Substance use disorder involves psychological aspects and changes to the body’s processes.

Comparing Psychological and Physical Dependence

There is no objective way to measure distress, but a person knows when they experience the symptoms . Acknowledging the pain and finding the professional help to alleviate it and begin the appropriate therapies are essential first steps in recovery. As their body becomes physically dependent, the brain experiences chemical changes due to substance abuse. When the level of drugs and alcohol drops, the brain sends messages that the body needs more.

  • With regular use of depressants, it is relatively easy to develop a physical tolerance.
  • The higher the dose used, the greater the duration of use, and the earlier age use began are predictive of worsened physical dependence and thus more severe withdrawal syndromes.
  • You’ll start repairing these emotional wounds and learn healthier ways to cope with challenges.
  • While it is true that alcohol can cause a person to fall asleep, having alcohol in the system can lead to sleep disruptions and reduced sleep quality.
  • Physical dependence is a physical condition caused by chronic use of a tolerance-forming drug, in which abrupt or gradual drug withdrawal causes unpleasant physical symptoms.
  • As people’s psychological and physical reactions aren’t universal across all types of drugs, it’s hard to put all the different signs and symptoms of addiction into two completely distinct categories.

Another notable difference is that most stimulant users will go through psychological withdrawal, rather than a physical one when they cease to use drugs. What this means, is that they will usually experience cravings physiological dependence on alcohol and strong desires to use again. Conversely, if you are a regular user of stimulant drugs, it is entirely different. In sensitization, lesser amounts of a drug like cocaine can cause its effects to become intensified.

How Does Physical and Psychological Addiction Differ?

There is so much help out there if you’re just willing to take the first step and ask for it. Cravings are a key factor in psychological addictions, so it’s important for you to understand what they are. A craving is an intense desire for something and is one of the hallmarks of psychological dependence. The origin of CBT is that a professor and psychologist realized that subconscious thoughts could deeply affect mental health. For instance, every person has “automatic” thoughts that arise in response to a situation. Often, people are unaware of these thoughts even though they can result in a mental illness.

As previously noted, increased anxiety represents a significant component of the alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Importantly, this negative-affect state may contribute to increased risk for relapse as well as perpetuate continued use and abuse of alcohol (Becker 1999; Driessen et al. 2001; Koob 2003; Roelofs 1985). Indeed, both preclinical and clinical studies suggest a link between anxiety and propensity to self-administer alcohol (Henniger et al. 2002; Spanagel et al. 1995; Willinger et al. 2002). Becker HC, Lopez MF. Increased ethanol drinking after repeated chronic ethanol exposure and withdrawal experience in C57BL/6 mice. Psychological dependence traditionally refers to the behavioral decisions, emotional triggers, and other feelings and mental health factors which fuel addiction or result from it.

Physical Dependence vs Psychological Dependence: What’s the Difference?

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. Treating physical dependence to drugs or alcohol begins with medical detox.

  • The physical and mental aspects of any substance disorder are complicated and unique to the individual suffering.
  • Like other chronic, relapsing diseases, including high blood pressure and diabetes, treating drug addiction is an ongoing process.
  • We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals.
  • Violent vomiting can cause a person to throw up blood from a variety of alcohol-related GI issues.
  • They want to know why people become addicted and what causes addiction.
  • When you forfeit activities that were usually enjoyed before drug use, it is an implication of the social symptoms of an addict.

Addiction is a brain disorder involving compulsive substance use despite negative outcomes. It’s a complex condition with both psychological and physical elements that are hard to separate. Psychological dependence is a term that describes the emotional or mental components of substance use disorder, such as strong cravings for the substance or behavior and difficulty thinking about anything else. When someone eats a piece of chocolate, the brain can find it very pleasurable and it stimulates the reward center in the brain. Because of this, a person is much more likely to want to eat chocolate regularly in the future. The same is true for drugs, which is how addictions are formed. Understanding both physical and psychological addiction, how they work and how they go hand-in-hand is important for treatment.


For some people, psychological withdrawal is also a problem, and they begin to experience very strong alcohol cravings. If you are experiencing a psychological addiction and attempt to quit using your drug of choice, you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms as your body tries to compensate for the lack of chemicals in its system. As with any substance abuse, being dependent on alcohol signals that something is wrong with your life and habits. It may be possible to be physically dependent on alcohol without being addicted to it, but physical dependence is usually a sign of alcohol use disorder .

For example, drugs like alcohol, benzodiazepines, methamphetamine, and opioids may result in physical dependence faster than drugs like marijuana or ecstasy. Still, repeated use of any addictive substance can lead to both physical and psychological dependence. Activation of the HPA axis and CRF-related brain stress circuitry resulting from alcohol dependence likely contributes to amplified motivation to drink. Similarly, systemic administration of antagonists that selectively act at the CRF1 receptor also reduced upregulated drinking in dependent mice (Chu et al. 2007) and rats (Funk et al. 2007; Gehlert et al. 2007). However, if this person takes it for several years they’ll likely develop a physical and psychological dependence. They might experience withdrawal symptoms if they tried to stop. Also, their tolerance may go up, which means they’ll need a higher dose.

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