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Overcoming Psychological Dependence

holding hands while overcoming psychological dependence

Dependence is characterized by the symptoms of tolerance (requiring more of a substance to elicit the same effects) and withdrawal (symptoms that manifest when the substance is absent from one’s system). It is possible, albeit unlikely, to have a physical dependence without being addicted. Addiction, also known as substance use disorder, is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a chronic, relapsing brain disorder. It is characterized by compulsively engaging in rewarding stimuli (e.g., drinking alcohol, abusing drugs, gambling, etc.) without regard for consequence. An individual with substance use disorder will prioritize satisfying his or her addiction cravings above all else. This is largely due to biochemical changes in the brain and central nervous system that have occurred as a result of chronic substance abuse. 

What Is Psychological Dependence?

Psychological dependence refers to the emotional and/ or mental attachment to a substance. Healthline further explains, “Psychological dependence is a term that describes the emotional or mental components of a substance use disorder, such as strong cravings for the substance or behavior and difficulty thinking about anything else.” Individuals that habitually abuse drugs and/ or alcohol inevitably develop habits, patterns, and rituals surrounding their substance use. These behaviors can carry significant weight with regard to developing a psychological dependence. Often individuals with a psychological dependence will feel compelled not only to compulsively procure their substance of choice but will also feel the need to partake in and honor the established substance abuse-related rituals developed in order to fully satisfy his or her cravings. 

Treating Psychological Dependence

The treatment process for psychological dependence is a bit more nuanced than treating purely physical dependence. Each person is unique and will require a customized treatment plan that is comprised of a variety of psychotherapeutic modalities, to ensure all nuanced mental health needs are addressed. Some common psychotherapeutic treatment methods used to treat psychological dependence include talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), expressive arts therapy, and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Many treatment plans will emphasize integrating healthy daily practices into one’s life, including regular exercise, maintaining a nutritious diet, getting ample nightly sleep, and additional self-care methods. Another essential component to overcoming psychological dependence is following an aftercare plan. Aftercare plans are generally co-created between an individual and his or her clinical care team. An aftercare plan is made up of various suggestions that are intended to help an individual with his or her process of reintegration back into society. Aftercare plans can range from very detailed schedules to general recommendations and anywhere in between. Developing and adhering to an aftercare plan is integral to one’s continued success.

For Information and Support 

Substance abuse and addiction can be incredibly dangerous and can result in severe short and long-term consequences. If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse or addiction, please get help as soon as possible. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to leading happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives. There is no reason to go through this alone, and we are here to help. Please feel free to reach out to us for further information or with any questions regarding substance abuse or addiction. We are available anytime via telephone at: 213-389-9964, or you can always email us at:

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