One of the biggest myths surrounding substance abuse and addiction recovery is that many situations involve a chemical dependency—and is something that can be remediated through detox alone. As a result, many individuals who are struggling with addiction fail to recognize the involvement psychological factors have on their drug or alcohol abuse. Some may even try to attempt detox on their own through “cold turkey” methods.

While self-implemented detox is dangerous and carries little success, approaching addiction from just a physical standpoint alone can really hinder proper recovery. It is essential for all individuals struggling with substance abuse to understand the presence of psychological dependency and how addressing these factors in addiction recovery can be extremely beneficial for long-term results.

What is Psychological Addiction?

In many cases of addiction, an individual will become chemically—or physically—dependent on a substance through repetitive or chronic use, such as those who use heroin, cocaine or opioid painkillers. Physical addiction is defined by the body’s actual need for the drug to function at a level that is comfortable to the user; without the drug the body will enter withdrawal.

In psychological addiction, there may not be a physical need to use a substance, but rather a mental desire. When psychological addiction occurs alongside a physical dependency, detox will only resolve half of the problem. After an individual has fully detoxified and gone through the symptoms of withdrawal of a chemical dependency, it is most likely that he or she will need to examine the psychological reasons that substance abuse took place.

Reasons for Psychological Addiction

There are many reasons and causes an individual may become psychologically addicted to a substance, as well as physically dependent. While physical dependence will often form from the body’s reaction to a substance—psychological addictions will often be motivated by mental health issues that, if identified early on, can be addressed before the substance abuse grows out of control. Here are some common reasons:

  • Stress

Many times, individuals who are not chemically dependent on drugs or alcohol will turn to illicit substances as a way to improperly treat stress—whether derived from work or home life. For instance, the pressure to perform well academically can drive many students to become reliant on study drugs. Others may find that alcohol, while also physically addictive, is a welcome stress relief despite the harm it may cause to the body.

  • Social Anxiety

Addiction will often occur after an individual engages in recreational substance abuse—or the use of drugs or alcohol for social purposes. Individuals who experience high social anxiety, whether in professional or personal environments, will sometimes find that drugs or alcohol can act as a “social lubricant” to ease the pressures of being around others.

For some, substance abuse can be a way to feel more at ease around others, engage in conversations and form personal connections. While this desire to relieve social anxiety is not a bad thing, using drugs or alcohol as a solution can lead to both physical and psychological addiction.

  • Depression and Trauma

Similar to the instances above, drugs and alcohol can also be seen as a way to escape from depressing situations, feelings or traumatic experiences. Individuals who experience signs of depression may feel that the only escape from unhappiness is to use drugs or alcohol—substances that may temporarily improve mood and outlook. However, it is important to note that this use only continues the cycle of depression, rather than treats it.

In addition, individuals who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder will find that drugs or alcohol allow them to momentarily numb the pain that is associated with the trauma. Rather than finding medical and therapeutic ways to properly treat the trauma, many can enter a dangerous pattern of addiction that keeps the trauma present at all times in one’s life.

Treating Psychological Addiction

As noted above, recognizing psychological factors in addiction is necessary when attempting to build a more effective recovery plan. Even in cases of physical dependence where detox and withdrawal takes place, it is highly encouraged that those involved with substance abuse seek mental health guidance to further examine and treat any psychological issues that may contribute to or encourage an addiction.

At Chapters Capistrano, we offer a comfortable on-site detox at our oceanside inpatient rehabilitation facility. This allows our guests to make a smooth transition into residential treatment after resolving any chemical dependency that may have formed. Throughout our flexible recovery program, guests find comfort in being able to address their addiction through various treatment modalities that fit their needs.

Whether through cognitive behavioral therapy, group counseling or dual diagnosis treatment—guests at Chapters Capistrano can find many resources to help treat both physical and psychological causes of addiction, allowing for a more positive recovery experience.

If you are looking for an inspiring atmosphere with a trusted staff to help you or a loved one enter recovery for physical and psychological addiction, please contact Chapters Capistrano today at 949-276-2886.

Medical disclaimer:

Chapters Capistrano strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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