Psychological Dependency On Non-Addictive Substances: How It Is Similar To Physical Addiction

As many people enter recovery centers they are surprised to discover that not all addictions are rooted in the physical realm. Some addictions are purely psychological, although the side effects of not having what one is addicted to are very much the same as a physical addiction. As you will see, there are some valid medical reasons why, and how, the treatment process differs. If any of this sounds familiar to you, you may have a psychological rather than physical addiction.

Cues That Tip off the Therapist

When you enter a drug rehab center and the substance you claim to be addicted to is not ordinarily an addictive medication, that is the first sign that your dependency issues may actually be psychological. When you speak with a psychiatrist in the center, he or she already knows that opioids are addicting, but over-the-counter pain relievers are not. Similarly, you might chug cough syrup for the low doses of alcohol in it, but you cannot become addicted to it in the same way that a patient with alcoholism and alcohol does.

Why You Still Need Help for a Psychological Addiction

The brain is a funny thing. It will respond with increased levels of dopamine, the happy chemical the body makes in response to all things pleasurable, when a pill, alcoholic beverage, or behavior makes you happy. Even if a substance is not physically addictive, the body still produces dopamine in response to doing something that the person thinks is pleasurable. Ergo, if ingesting lots of chocolate-flavored laxatives and having never-ending BM's feels good to the patient, the dopamine levels increase and the brain is trained to believe that the patient cannot live without this activity.

How Your Treatment Will Differ from Treatment for Physical Addiction

Physical addiction requires the complete removal of the substance to which the patients are addicted. They have to spend time in a room alone, going through withdrawal symptoms, until they are ready to join cognitive behavioral therapy. They might be prescribed medications as substitutions for their poison of choice to help them through the withdrawal process, as is the case with methadone for heroin (a very physically addictive substance).

Your treatment for psychological addiction, on the other hand, starts immediately with cognitive behavioral therapy to reduce the stress you feel when you do not partake of a non-addictive substance or behavior. (You will also abstain from your non-addictive substance of choice, but you will not be prescribed medication substitutions for it.) You learn what triggers you to do what you do, and how to refrain from doing it. Once you can show that you have maintained adequate control, you can leave the recovery center.

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