Understanding Psychological Addiction

August 31, 2022

Written By: Dr. Kristina Honiotes DNP,RN,NEA-BC

In the United States, more than 20 million people suffer from addiction. Addiction is a complex disorder that can have psychological and physical components. But while psychological and physical addiction are often used interchangeably, there are several key differences between them.

So, what makes them different? What does psychological addiction look like? And how can a person overcome this form of addiction?

What is Psychological Addiction? 

Psychological addiction is a term best used to describe the emotional, mental, and compulsive nature of substance use. Simply put, it’s the feeling of need.

Stressed and frustrated man with headache

This form of addiction can describe the emotional and mental desire to continue taking a substance, like drugs or alcohol. However, it can also describe psychological dependence on other substances.

For example, let’s say you enjoy coffee every morning with breakfast, but one morning you’ve run out, or you’re running late, so you don’t have time to brew a cup. It’s natural to feel a brief bout of disappointment or annoyance, but what if you think about coffee throughout your entire morning?

What if you think about and dwell on how it tastes, smells, or the feeling of having that first sip? What if your desire for coffee interfered with your daily tasks, work, or school? That is psychological addiction

The Symptoms of Psychological Addiction

The symptoms of psychological addiction can vary significantly from person to person. However, common symptoms include:

  • -A persistent belief that you need a substance to get through the day, complete tasks, socialize, or function
  • -Intense emotional cravings
  • -Anxiety, depression, or moodiness when deprived of the substance or trying to quit
  • -Increased or loss of appetite when not using the substance
  • -Changes in sleep patterns
  • -Spending a large amount of time thinking about the substance 

Tired man distracted from computer work lacking motivation

Drugs Commonly Associated With Psychological Addiction 

  • Cannabis
  • Psychotropic medications, such as antidepressants
  • Hallucinogenic drugs, such as LSD
  • Stimulant drugs, such as Ritalin and cocaine
  • Most inhalants 

Psychological Addiction vs. Physical Addiction 

Physical addiction is characterized by the inability to quit a substance and the physical symptoms in response to the attempt. Additionally, those addicted generally need more and more of the substance to elicit the same effect it once had.

In our earlier example, a person who is physically addicted to coffee may experience physical side effects, such as persistent headaches, fatigue, or feeling crummy throughout the day.

A person can be physically and psychologically addicted to a substance simultaneously, or they may experience one or the other. However, it’s not uncommon for psychological addiction to lead to physical addiction, and early prevention is key. 

How to Overcome Psychological Addiction

Overcoming addiction can be challenging, but having the right support will help you on your road to recovery. It’s important to have a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.

Supervised detox is a crucial step in overcoming addiction when a psychological addiction turns into a physical addiction. Detoxification is the process of addictive toxins leaving your body. This process can take weeks to complete, and withdrawal symptoms can become debilitating and, in some cases, life-threatening. These symptoms can also lead a sufferer to relapse, furthering the destructive cycle of addiction. Supervised detoxes are important for many reasons, including:

  • Clinical supervision
  • Minimize withdrawal effects
  • Medical intervention to wean off drugs 

Common Psychological Addiction Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms and their severity vary between substances. However, in some cases, symptoms can become so severe they become life-threatening, furthering the need for supervised detoxes.

In addition to drug-specific withdrawal symptoms, you may experience symptoms such as:

  • -Low energy, apathy, depression, or other mental health symptoms
  • -Difficulty managing stress or engaging in daily activities
  • -Mood swings or difficulty controlling emotions
  • -Sleep problems, including insomnia
  • -Cognitive issues, including problems concentrating, making decisions, or with memory
  • -Difficulty in maintaining personal relationships 

Woman with low energy laying on the couch at home.

Get Support from Buena Vista Recovery

Intervention is key to recovery if you or a loved one suffers from physical or psychological addiction.

Buena Vista is here to help you on the road to recovery through our professionally supervised detox and inpatient, outpatient, and therapy-based treatment programs.

Reach out to learn more about addiction treatment and our programs that will help you or your loved one overcome addiction once and for all. 

Buena Vista Recovery works with most insurance plans, including but not limited to Cigna, Magellan, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Humana, and Aetna, among others. On rare occasions, if a plan is not included in our network, our clinical outreach director will assist you in finding a placement that is in your network.