What’s the Difference Between Physical & Psychological Addiction?

Can one exist without the other?

What’s the Difference Between Physical & Psychological Addiction?

May 3rd, 2016 in Psychology of Addiction
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Physical vs. Psychological Addiction

Addiction is an interesting subject. There are things that do not have addictive properties, yet people cling to them and have seeming withdrawal symptoms without them. According to a Canadian online journal called Calgary Herald, Ecstasy is not considered to be addictive. Many disagree with this claim, while an equal opposition believes it to have no addictive properties. In a way, this highlights the fact that there are physical addictions and psychological addictions. “Though there are psychological addictions that will change the brain,” says D.J. Diebold, a Behavioral Health Therapist.

With a physical addiction, the substance has actual chemicals and ingredients that trigger a dependency in the brain and/or body. Substances such as cocaine, heroin, and alcohol all fall under physical addictive substances. Very often a physical addiction will also create a psychological addiction, which is why many recovery services recommend going through therapy after detox, as detox only treats the physical.

A psychological addiction takes hold of the mind and creates the illusion of dependency. The mind thinks that it needs this substance or activity in order to function, and without it causes withdrawal. Psychological addiction plays into cross addictions and/or cross dependence. We say activities because things like video games and sex can be addictive. This is not to say that either of these things are bad, only that abuse of them can lead to a psychological addiction. Truth be told, anything can cause a psychological addiction if it is abused and the desire for it takes precedence over any other priorities; to include work, relationships, and finances.

“Primarily, brain chemistry,” is what Diebold says is the difference between the two forms of addiction. A good thought releases, “we release dopamine, serotonin, or epinephrine,” which can immediately relieve many withdrawal symptoms and uplift our mood. While these thoughts can be of the next hit or drink, releasing these chemicals to alleviate our bodies until we get our substance, the same mentality can be utilized as part of therapy and treatment.

The Law of Attraction

“Like energy attracts like energy, it’s no different than any other form of magnetism.” Diebold talks about how our mood, our attitude, and our own thinking can correlate towards fighting addictive mentalities, as well as depression.

“Our thoughts are very important. Focusing on the positive allows us to release the aforementioned dopamine, serotonin, or epinephrine. These endorphins soothe us psychologically and physically.” It can be said that if you focus on the positive things in life then you are more likely to notice the little things that can make life worth living. A negative attitude tends to notice the bad things going on around us and refuses to acknowledge any good event or action.

In an article by Psychology Today, depression and unhappiness are correlated to addiction. Despite the fact that it is human nature to seek pleasure and avoid pain, there are many people who seem dependent on being miserable. We know the time-old saying, “misery loves company,” and this could even be a factor into being addicted to misery. We can even go as far as to say that some of these people addicted to misery are afraid of joy, fearing that it is a setup for disappointment.

The bottom line is that our thoughts greatly dictate what we perceive. The Law of Attraction explains how energy is attracted to energy that is similar to its own, and a positive attitude can go a long way in recovery.

Can I Have One Without the Other?

A physical addiction can also be called a chemical addiction, whereas a psychological addiction can also be known as a habitual addiction. As such, a chemical addiction can and more often than not will create habits around the substance. In other words, when you are addicted to, say, alcohol or cocaine then you are likely to use it more and more to the point that your mind latches onto it as well as your body, creating a psychological addiction.

On the other side of things, being habitually addicted to something does not change that substance’s chemical compound. With this understanding, we can safely say that it is unlikely to have a physical addiction without a psychological addiction, but we don’t always have a psychological addiction with a physical addiction.

Again, recovery services will often recommend therapy and rehabilitation after detox because it only treats the physical aspect. If someone is suffering from both a psychological and a physical addiction then detox will only tackle half of the problem, and the client may be completely unprepared to deal with the other half on their own.

“As we evolve… we can now see the benefit of choosing positive thoughts.” Rehabilitation is an incredible opportunity for those seeking to better their lives, and positivity will help your own recovery tremendously.

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