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Physical vs Mental Addictions: What’s the Difference?

All addictions are not created equally. Some addictions affect a person mentally, some cause physical symptoms, and sometimes addictions can become both physical and psychological. It is important to understand if an addiction is physical, mental, or both in order to identify the best course of treatment.

Physical Addiction

Physical addiction is most commonly caused by substances like heroin and methamphetamine. With a physical addiction, a person will experience actual physical symptoms from drug use or withdrawal. This can occur with drugs as harmless as caffeine to drugs as dangerous as cocaine. When your body physically reacts to not having the drug that it is used to depending on, you have a physical addiction. Individuals with a physical addiction will feel pain and sickness when not using the drug they are addicted to. Think of that caffeine headache you get when you don’t have your morning cup of coffee. That’s withdrawal from your caffeine addiction. Unlike caffeine, however, many physical addictions occur with drugs that are much more serious and that have much more dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal from a physical addiction can be mild to severe, depending on the type of drug your body is addicted to. Drugs like alcohol pose potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, including delirium tremens and seizures. Other drugs cause withdrawal symptoms as mild as fatigue and sleeping problems. The kind of withdrawal experienced from a physical addiction largely depends on the addicted person, and the kind of drug he or she is addicted to. Only drugs containing addictive substances, such as nicotine, can cause physical addictions. However, other addictions can form as a result of substance abuse – even if the drug itself doesn’t have addictive properties.

Psychological Addiction

In comparison to physical addiction, psychological addiction occurs when a person does not have a physical need for a drug but rather a mental desire for it. Psychological addiction is most common in people who use substances like marijuana. Marijuana does not contain any physically addictive ingredients, but people who smoke marijuana can develop a daily mental desire for it, which may then affect their daily lives in negative ways. Sometimes people say it’s not possible to form an addiction to these drugs, but that is simply not true. Psychological addiction can occur with essentially any substance. These addictions are influence by the part of your brain called the nucleus accumbens. This part of your brain controls pleasurable feelings and gives you the desire to recreate those pleasurable feelings. If you use a substance or engage in an activity that is very simulating to your brain’s pleasure center, you are more likely to repeat that behavior again in the future.  Therefore, if you eat chocolate and your brain finds it very pleasurable, you are more likely to eat chocolate regularly in the future. Unfortunately, your nucleus accumbens plays a key role in psychological addictions (it also plays a role in physical addictions).  Thus, it is this part of your brain that causes you to develop attachments to otherwise non-addictive substances.

Psychological Addiction vs Physical Addiction Withdrawal and Recovery

It is important to understand the nature of your addiction before you begin the detox or recovery process. If you suspect you have a physical addiction, it would be wise to go to a professional detox center to make sure that you detox safely, with medical professionals monitoring you for withdrawal symptoms. If you have a psychological addiction, you should speak to an addiction therapist, who can help you work through your psychological addiction efficiently. Often, addicted people find that their addictions are of both a physical and psychological nature. Many often find that they are psychologically and physically addicted to alcohol.  This combination of psychological and physical addition isn’t surprising when you consider the fact that your brain, and therefore its psychology, is a part of your physical body. The best treatment for this kind of addiction would likely be to both seek out a medical detox center, as well as speak to an addiction recovery therapist. To help you overcome all of your addiction needs, holistic drug rehabilitation programs offer a range of treatment modalities to address all aspects of your life – from your mental and emotional state to your physical and spiritual health. No matter which type of addiction you suffer from, holistic drug rehab is the best way to get on your path to recovery. Contact The Ranch PA today to learn more about how holistic treatment can help you overcome your physical and psychological addictions. (Photo via)

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