The Difference Between Physical vs. Psychological Dependence (2023)

When it comes to addiction, there is a big difference between physical and psychological dependence. Physical dependence impacts your body while psychological dependence impacts your behavior. When it comes to addiction, a person may become both psychologically and physically dependent on a drug.

When looking at physical vs psychological dependence it’s important to know the different signs and symptoms of each. Together, they can create major problems for you and your loved ones. Becoming dependent on a drug usually means that addiction is right around the corner. Being dependent means that you’ll begin to experience withdrawal symptoms when the drug is not being used.

As time goes on, dependence can end up making it hard to quit using a drug once you’ve become addicted. Knowing the difference between physical vs psychological dependence and possible treatment options can be very useful when it’s time to get help. At Harmony Place, we provide several therapies and treatment options for you and your loved ones. Don’t wait to get help!

A Look at Physical Dependence and Its Symptoms

In all cases of drug or alcohol abuse, there are symptoms and physical effects on the body and mind. These effects can vary depending on the quantity abused and the type of drug being used. Over time, drugs can end up changing the chemistry in a person’s brain. The biggest difference between physical vs psychological dependence is that physical dependence is something a person physically feels or experiences.

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When a person becomes physically dependent and they stop using the drug, they will begin to experience withdrawal symptoms. There are withdrawal symptoms that vary depending on the drug the person is addicted to. With this in mind, there are a few general withdrawals that are common among many drugs. These symptoms can include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Depression
  • Trembling
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Agitation or anger

Nausea and Vomiting

Vomiting and nausea is a common withdrawal effect of many drugs. A mix of dehydration and malnutrition can be to blame for vomiting or an upset stomach. The physical symptoms of many drug addiction typically include some level of stomach pains or vomiting/nausea. Nausea and vomiting is specifically a physical issue which once again shows the difference between physical vs psychological dependence.


Seizures are some of the most intense withdrawal symptoms that occur from physical dependence. They are described as uncontrollable and sudden disturbances in the brain’s wave pattern. If you or a loved one is experiencing seizures, contact medical attention immediately.

Many symptoms are less problematic than seizures, such as watery eyes, or sweating. These physical symptoms help define the line between physical vs psychological dependence. However, even if these aren’t as problematic, they are clear indicators that an addiction has developed. Over time these symptoms may worsen and other more severe ones might take their place.

(Video) Physical and Psychological Dependencies Explained


Depression is a common withdrawal effect of dependence and drug addiction. It is considered a physical symptom of drug addiction (specifically withdrawals). In general, mood swings (anger, sadness, etc.) are part of the withdrawal process. Depression is defined as constant feelings of sadness and loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy. This emotional disturbance can create problems before and after treatment. Sometimes depression can make quitting extremely tough since people may drink when they get depressed. This ends up causing a vicious cycle of drug abuse.


When it comes to physical vs psychological dependence, trembling is considered a physical symptom. Trembling is described as uncontrollable shaking. Those who quit using drugs like heroin or cocaine might experience trembling and intense shaking as a result. Trembling is just one of many different physical symptoms associated with physical dependence.

Trouble Sleeping

Insomnia and lack of sleeping are another set of typical physical dependency signs. Getting the right amount of sleep is important in a person’s day-to-day life. Insomnia and other sleeping problems can end up causing other adverse effects on a person’s life. Addiction is said to affect a person’s sleeping patterns as well as other parts of their day-to-day life. Lack of sleep (insomnia) is a physical trait when it comes to comparing physical vs psychological addiction.

Agitation and Anger

As mentioned before, mood swings are usually a big part of a person’s addiction. It is not uncommon to see addicts dealing with constant anger or agitation. When discussing physical vs psychological dependence, anger/agitation is regarded as a physical symptom of addiction. Anger during addiction usually happens because the person may feel hopeless or frustrated that they may never be able to overcome their addiction. While it may be tough to recover from addiction, it is completely possible with the right help and attitude.

(Video) What Is The Difference Between Psychological And Physical Dependence - Call 1(800) 615-1067

A Look Psychological Dependence and Its Symptoms

Psychological dependence on the other hand affects how someone behaves. Many people don’t realize that addiction is more than just physical symptoms and health problems. Addiction can completely change how a person acts and behaves. These behaviors can come about when a person has become dependent on a drug. Their entire life may revolve around getting and using the drug. It’s important to know the differences between physical vs psychological dependence so you can get proper help for yourself or a loved one.

A few common psychological symptoms include the following:

  • Unable to control drug usage
  • Using drugs to deal with life’s stresses
  • Continuing to use drugs even if they cause harm
  • Building a tolerance to a drug (using larger doses)
  • Getting defensive or making excuses for drug use

Using Drugs Even if They’re Causing Harm

Oftentimes, a person may continue to abuse a drug even if problems begin to arise. These could be health effects or social problems at home or work. This tends to happen when a person has become completely dependent on the drug and cannot stop using it. This is why it’s important to turn to medical professionals and a rehab center you can trust like Harmony Place.

Building a Tolerance to the Drug

Tolerance occurs when a person must use the drug at larger doses to get the desired effect. This usually makes the situation worse (healthy-wise and socially). Additionally, using a drug at larger doses opens the door for possible overdose or other worse health effects. This is considered a psychological symptom because it is a result of the brain’s interaction with the drug.

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Unable to Control Drug Usage

One of the most apparent symptoms of addiction is not being to control your drug use. This psychological symptom can make it really hard to quit once an addiction has developed. This is a clear psychological symptom in terms of physical vs psychological dependence. Some may feel like they’ll never be able to stop using the drug. However, with the right help and guidance getting clean is possible.

Using Drugs to Deal with Life’s Stresses

One of the main reasons people turn to drugs or alcohol is to cope with stress and problems in their life. A person may see drugs or alcohol as the only way to cope with these stresses. However, what tends to happen is dependence and addiction can end up forming – which causes much bigger problems and stresses. This behavior is characterized as a psychological symptom of dependency. If a loved one is constantly turning towards drugs to deal with their stresses, it may be time to get help.

Getting Defensive or Making Excuses for Drug Use

A common psychological symptom of dependence is making excuses or getting defensive about your drug use. When a person becomes addicted to a drug they may go to far lengths to be able to use it again. This can mean being deceptive or making excuses to loved ones or friends. This only makes the situation worse and justifies further use of the drug. This is a clear psychological symptom in terms of physical vs psychological dependence.

Dealing with Withdrawal Symptoms

Both the psychological and physical symptoms of dependency can be stressful and problematic. Fortunately, there are different ways you can cope with these feelings and thoughts. Getting the right treatment and practicing the right lifestyle changes is crucial. When it comes down to physical vs psychological dependence, both can be just as stressful in the long run.

(Video) Physical dependence - Intro to Psychology

Here are a few tips you can try to use while getting treatment or if you are starting life after recovery.

  • Exercise
  • Staying hydrated
  • Picking up hobbies and interests
  • Meditation and relaxation techniques
  • Eating healthy (lots of protein and proper vitamins)
  • Speaking with a friend, family member, or specialist

These practices can help you live a better and healthier life. While they may seem simple enough, you’ll be surprised what a healthy mind and body can do for your cravings and urges. Staying committed to a balanced routine can make all the difference, regardless of physical vs psychological addiction.

Start the Journey at Harmony Place

There are many different symptoms between physical vs psychological dependence. Physical dependence affects the body while psychological dependence affects a person’s behavior. Both can be extremely problematic and will only worsen through addiction. If you or a loved one is struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction, it’s time to get help. Contact us today to start your journey towards a healthier, cleaner life.


What is the difference between psychological dependence and physical dependence quizlet? ›

What is the difference between physical dependence and psychological dependence? Physical dependence is when a person has a chemical need for the drug. Psychological dependence is when the person believes that they need the drug to feel good.

What is the difference between psychological dependance and physical dependance? ›

Psychological dependence is associated with numerous emotional and cognitive symptoms, whereas physical dependence is typically associated with the development of tolerance and withdrawal symptoms that are not primarily emotional or cognitive in nature.

What is the difference between physical and psychology? ›

Physiological relates to the physical and chemical processes of the body, and may be used to describe physical diseases or disorders. Psychological relates to the processes of the mind, and may be used to describe mental illnesses.

What is the difference between physical and psychological addiction brainly? ›

Physical dependence is considered tolerance and withdrawal. Psychological dependence is the dependence on the drugs or the substance of choice.

What does physiological dependence mean? ›

A condition in which a person takes a drug over time, and unpleasant physical symptoms occur if the drug is suddenly stopped or taken in smaller doses.

What is psychological dependence quizlet? ›

Define psychological dependence. A compulsion to continue taking a drug because its use is rewarding.

What is the difference between physiological and physical? ›

While physical and physiological both refer to bodies, physical means the body itself while physiological refers to the body's functions.

What is the difference between physical and physiological example? ›

So physical is about the body where physiological is about the function of the body. So a physical trait might be big muscles and a psychological function would be the bodies ability to do things like transfer oxygen.

What is the difference between physical and psychological development? ›

Physical development involves growth and changes in the body and brain, the senses, motor skills, and health and wellness. Cognitive development involves learning, attention, memory, language, thinking, reasoning, and creativity. Psychosocial development involves emotions, personality, and social relationships.

What is an example of physical dependence? ›

If you experience physical symptoms when you stop taking drugs or alcohol, you have a physical dependence. When you have a physical dependence on drugs or alcohol, your brain and body have come to rely on them to function. That's why when you go without these substances, you experience physical withdrawal symptoms.

What are three of the signs of physical dependence? ›

General physical signs of addiction include but are not limited to:
  • Enlarged or small pupils.
  • Sudden weight loss or gain.
  • Bloodshot eyes.
  • Insomnia.
  • Unusual body odors.
  • Poor physical coordination.
  • Looking unkempt.
  • Slurred speech.

What is the difference between mental and psychological health? ›

Psychological health, aka mental health, is defined as a person's emotional and or psychological wellbeing. The psychological health definition and mental health definition go hand in hand in that they both involve the emotional, behavioral, and social health aspects of a person's life.

What is an example of dependence in psychology? ›

One example of psychological dependence is the associations your brain makes with people, places, and things tied to alcohol and drug addiction. Research shows the addicted brain develops strong links between substance use and: Where you use substances. Who you use them with.

What does it mean to be psychologically dependent on a drug? ›

Psychological addiction can occur with essentially any substance. Psychological addictions tend to occur because of a substance or experience activating the pleasure center in the brain, which causes you to want to recreate those same pleasurable feelings in the same way.

What is another word for psychological dependence? ›

Psychological dependence (addiction) on information technology (IT), such as the internet and mobile phones--also referred to as habituation--is characterized by excessive use and an intermittent craving for IT-related activities.

Which is the best description of physiological dependence? ›

Physical dependence, or physical addiction, means your body cannot function normally without the drug. This physical need for your drug happens over a period of time. During that time, you abused the drug over and over. Your body changed its ways and means to work with the drug you kept abusing.

How does psychological dependence develop? ›

Development. Psychological dependence is caused by consistent and frequent exposure to a drug or behavioural activity. It is often associated with effects of drug use, but it can also be caused by behavioural activity e.g. pornography.

What can cause physical dependence? ›

Physical dependence can develop from low-dose therapeutic use of certain medications such as benzodiazepines, opioids, antiepileptics and antidepressants, as well as the recreational misuse of drugs such as alcohol, opioids and benzodiazepines.

Which of the following is an example of psychological dependence quizlet? ›

Which of the following is an example of psychological dependence? Using stimulant drugs to feel more self-confident.

What is psychological quizlet? ›

The scientific study of behavior and mental processes.

What is physical dependence AP Psychology? ›

physicaldependence. a physiological need for a drug, marked by unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when the drug is discontinued. psychological dependance. a psychological need to use a drug, such as to relieve negative emotions.

What is the difference between psychological and physical stress? ›

While physiological stress activates a motoric fight-or-flight reaction, during psychosocial stress attention is shifted towards emotion regulation and goal-directed behavior, and reward processing is reduced.

What are the differences between psychological and physical measurement? ›

Difference between physical and mental measurement

In physical measurements units of measures are constant and measures are express d in equal unit and starts from a true zero. On the other hand in mental measurement, measures are generally not express d in equal units and it is not possible to measure from zero.

What is the difference between physical and psychological barriers? ›

However, materials for physical barriers are built to last many years and require less maintenance. A psychological barrier is an electrified fence that causes the animal to have a fear of the fence line once they have been shocked from touching the barrier.

What is a physiological example? ›

For example, physiologists have studied the electrical activity of cells in the heart that control its beat. They're also exploring the process by which eyes detect light, from how the cells in the retina process light particles called photons to how the eyes send signals about images to the brain.

What is physiological in your own words? ›

: characteristic of or appropriate to an organism's healthy or normal functioning.

What is psychological development in simple words? ›

psychological development, the development of human beings' cognitive, emotional, intellectual, and social capabilities and functioning over the course of a normal life span, from infancy through old age. It is the subject matter of the discipline known as developmental psychology.

How would you describe psychological dependence? ›

Psychological dependence is a cognitive disorder that involves emotional–motivational withdrawal symptoms—e.g. anxiety and anhedonia—upon cessation of prolonged drug abuse or certain repetitive behaviors.

Which of the following describes psychological dependence? ›

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.

What is an example of psychological dependence? ›

One example of psychological dependence is the associations your brain makes with people, places, and things tied to alcohol and drug addiction. Research shows the addicted brain develops strong links between substance use and: Where you use substances. Who you use them with.

What does psychological dependence on a substance typically include? ›

The general symptoms of psychological dependence include: Cravings. Triggering anxiety when attempting to stop drug use. Triggering depression when not under the influence of drug use.

What substance is most likely to cause physical and psychological dependence? ›

Narcotics. Narcotics (including heroin, morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, codeine, and others) have a high potential for both physical and psychological dependence as well as resulting in increased tolerance.

What are the two types of drug dependence? ›

"Substance dependence", as defined in the DSM-IV, can be diagnosed with physiological dependence, evidence of tolerance or withdrawal, or without physiological dependence.

What is the psychological impact of dependency? ›

Psychological dependence is an emotional state caused by how chemicals affect the brain. A person's emotional behavior changes, resulting in mood swings, feelings of irritability, and depression. Physical dependence occurs when the body has become dependent on a substance.


1. Chemical Dependency vs. Psychological Dependency
(The Mental Breakdown)
2. Physical vs Psychological Addiction - Adelante Recovery
(Adelante Recovery Center)
3. Psychological Dependence vs Physical Dependence
(Joe Pascarella)
4. Difference between Phsychological drug Dependence and physical drug dependence, (Pharmacy lecture)
5. Psychological dependence - Intro to Psychology
6. What is psychological dependence?
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