Psychological dependence is a mental disorder that involves emotional symptoms like anxiety and anhedonia after ceasing prolonged drug use.
It involves a belief that you need the substance to do certain things like sleeping or socializing, and it develops through frequent exposure to a psychoactive substance. While previous definitions of anhedonia emphasized the inability to experience pleasure, anhedonia is now used by researchers to refer to reduced motivation, reduced desire and reduced enjoyment during activity. Psychological dependence doesn’t just result from drug use; it can also happen as a result from a behavior, like exposure to pornography.
Environmental enrichment and physical activity can diminish psychological withdrawal symptoms. Environmental enrichment is the stimulation of the brain by its physical and social surroundings. Psychological dependence is not to be confused with physical dependence, though they are not mutually exclusive. Additional symptoms of psychological dependence include panic attack, dysphoria, cravings and stress.
The major difference between psychological dependence and physical dependence is the symptoms they cause. While symptoms of psychological dependence relate to emotional and motivational impairment, physical dependence entails somatic symptoms like increased heart rate, sweating and tremor. Empirical studies have shown that cravings, which are associated with psychological dependence, do involve a physiological element.
In most cases, cognitive behavioral therapy is the best way to address psychological dependence, whether it occurs on its own or alongside physical dependence. In therapy, you’ll explore patterns that trigger your use and create new patterns of thought and behavior.
Definitions surrounding psychological dependence are tricky, and not just because it’s a sensitive subject. There are a lot of terms involved that, though related, mean different things. At the end of the day, psychological dependence refers to the way some people come to emotionally or mentally rely on drugs and alcohol.