What Is the Difference Between Physical & Psychological Addiction?

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Suffering from addiction is never easy. Most people require some form of treatment to be able to resume their normal lives. However, to choose among the best addiction solutions Florida has to offer, you need to know whether your addiction is of physical or psychological nature. The difference between physical & psychological addiction mainly comes down to which part of you is afflicted. Physical addictions induce physical dependence whereas psychological addictions change your behavior. In this article, we will go in-depth into both addictions, show you the differences between them and present you with viable treatment options for both.

The difference between physical & psychological addiction

Addiction is essentially a chronic condition that induces compulsive behavior in people suffering from it. It brings various negative consequences and can be quite difficult to cope with. Addiction can be either physical or psychological, depending on the effect that substances have on your body or mind. All addictions induce compulsive behavior but their symptoms may manifest in different ways. With a physical addiction, your body is affected and the compulsive behaviors are usually connected to removing the adverse effects of the addiction on the body. Psychological addiction, on the other hand, is all about continuing to use addictive substances to maintain their mental health and emotional well-being.

person holding a lightbulb, symbolizing the difference between physical & psychological addiction
Both your body and your mind can suffer from addiction.

Some substances can induce both physical and psychological addiction. Alcohol is perhaps the most common substance that is known to produce both. That is why different alcohol rehab Florida programs focus on different aspects of addiction. Treating physical addiction is quite different from treating a psychological one, after all. There are two options when it comes to choosing the best addiction program. You can either let the experts decide what the nature of your addiction is or you can figure that out on your own. The latter is a better option, of course, as figuring out your addiction on your own is the best way to start healing. But to do that, you need to understand both addiction types.

Understanding physical addiction

Physical addiction appears when the cells in your body can only function normally while there is a certain substance present. When the substance is absent, the cells themselves malfunction and trigger withdrawal symptoms. One of the key components of numerous drug rehab Florida programs is identifying the exact symptoms of addiction. While these symptoms vary from person to person, some of them are more common than others. To get a better understanding of the difference between physical & psychological addiction, we need to look at some of the most common withdrawal symptoms

Most common withdrawal symptoms

Not every addiction is the same. Consequently, there are countless withdrawal symptoms that may appear. Some of the most common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anger
  • Lack of sleep
  • Depression
  • Trembling
  • Seizures
  • Gastro-Abdominal problems
a fist hitting a wall
Anger is one of the most common withdrawal symptoms of physical addiction.

Other symptoms include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Body aches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Blackouts
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Irritability
  • Changes in pulse rate
  • Shortness of breath

Most of the time, a person suffering from addiction is going to experience multiple withdrawal symptoms. Together, these symptoms may make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to continue operating in a normal capacity. Some substances, such as heroin, all but require a person to undergo one of the heroin rehab Florida programs. The more addictive the substance, the harder is to deal with its withdrawal symptoms. There’s a world of difference between heroin addiction and an addiction to Xanax, for example. That being said, you can’t afford to treat any addiction lightly. It is always in your best interest to seek help as soon as you figure out that you have an addiction problem. And you can do so by observing some of the most common withdrawal symptoms. Let’s take a look at them now.


Anger is one of the most common indicators of physical addiction. It is usually the result of the person’s feelings of helplessness and inability to overcome their addiction to a certain substance. While anger may appear in certain psychological addictions, it is usually a good indicator that your body is dependent on a substance. Dealing with addiction-induced anger is quite difficult and all but impossible to do on your own. That is why many crack cocaine rehab centers maintain a professional staff that is specialized in dealing with angry outbursts. Most of the time, once the person is free of the addiction, the anger issues vanish altogether. But it may be necessary to deal with anger first, before being able to continue with the treatment.

angry person
Anger may significantly interfere with your day-to-day life.

However, anger alone is not usually enough to notice the difference between physical & psychological addiction, as it may appear in both cases. It is best to analyze the other symptoms before making a decision.

Lack of sleep

Needless to say, sleep is one of our most essential needs. Addiction interferes with sleep patterns, potentially causing a chronic lack of sleep and, in some cases, insomnia. Some of the most common addictions that interfere with sleep patterns include meth addiction, cocaine addiction, alcohol addiction, and any addiction that has to do with amphetamines, depressants, and sedatives. These addictions can be quite difficult to overcome and usually require enrollment in one of the meth rehab Florida programs, for example. Sleep deprivation can lead to numerous negative consequences, such as weight gain, weakening of the immune system, memory loss, heart disease, diabetes, and even brain fog.


Depression is another very common symptom of physical withdrawal. The problem with depression is that it makes it significantly harder to seek and obtain help when you really need it. For example, let’s say that you want to get into a Florida prescription drugs addiction treatment program and you are suffering from withdrawal depression. You will first need to get your depression under control or you will most likely not go past the inquiry stage. The best treatments for depression include psychotherapy, medications, self-help, and certain medical procedures such as ECT, TMS, and VNS. Do note that depression is not unique to physical addiction and may appear in psychological addiction as well.

depressed person, personifying the difference between physical & psychological addiction
Depression is one of the most common symptoms of physical addiction.


Once your physical addiction progresses enough, you may experience trembling and shaking. These tremors are usually connected to problems in several brain regions that are influenced by addictive substances. They may manifest through a shaky voice, drawing and writing difficulties, as well as shaking in your legs, arms, hands, and even torso. Tremors can also occur due to the cells in your body malfunctioning due to the absence of the addictive substance. Oxycodone (Roxycidone, OxyContin, etc.) is one of the most common tremor-inducing drugs and oxycodone rehab usually involves getting the tremors under control first. If left unchecked, these tremors can pose a significant problem for day-to-day operations and may make some operations (driving, for example) all but impossible. Tremors are usually a good way to spot the difference between physical & psychological addiction, as they are almost exclusive to physical addiction.


Seizures are one of the most debilitating physical withdrawal symptoms you may experience. They occur when there is an interruption between typical connections between brain cells, something that may happen via an addiction to certain substances. A seizure is basically a sudden, uncontrolled, action that has the effect of disturbing brain wave patterns. They usually are accompanied by loss of consciousness, temporary confusion, uncontrollable jerking movements, as well as numerous emotional side-effects. People who experience seizures on a regular basis have it much harder to control overwhelming emotions during rehab, as well. Seizures are almost always connected to physical addiction and are a definite indication that something is very wrong. If you happen to experience seizures, your first answer should be to seek professional help.

person mixing a white powder
Cocaine is one of the most common substances that may induce seizures.

The difference between physical & psychological addiction – Gastro-Abdominal problems

Physical addiction can also cause a number of gastro-abdominal issues, most notably constipation and diarrhea. If left unchecked, gastro-abdominal issues can lead to much larger health issues such as kidney failure, kidney stones, dehydration, and many others. The problem is that you may attribute constipation and diarrhea to other issues and not realize that they are actually withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, if you want to break the addiction cycle in the family, keep a close eye on whether your family members are suffering from any of these issues. Chronic constipation or diarrhea usually indicates a physical addiction of some sort.

What causes physical addiction?

There are countless substances that can cause physical addiction in some shape or form if abused for too long. According to National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, 50% of people age 12 or older have used illicit drugs at least once. But only about 25% of people who use illegal drugs develop a drug disorder. The fact of the matter is that some substances pose a much greater risk of addiction than others. Here are some of the most addictive substances on today’s market:

  • Alcohol
  • Nicotine
  • Opioids (Heroin, Fentanyl, Methadone)
  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan)
two beer glasses
Alcohol may seem benign but it is actually quite addictive.

As you may notice, most of these substances are quite legal, although some may require a prescription. Basically, the more addictive the substance is, the more heavily regulated it is. You can’t find heroin in a store anywhere in the world, for example, due to its extremely high addictive potential. Alcohol and nicotine are perfectly legal, though, provided that you are of a certain age. But that does not mean that these substances are not dangerous. Some of them induce psychological addiction while others induce physical addiction. But regardless of the difference between physical & psychological addiction, treatment can get very costly. Luckily, insurance covers alcohol rehab in most cases. Every treatment center has a list of approved insurance providers, however. In the case of Bright Futures Treatment Center, we accept 17 insurance providers, including AETNA, Amerigroup, CoreSource, Qualcare, UnitedHealthcare Group, and First Choice Health insurance.

Understanding psychological addiction

Psychological addiction does not cause any symptoms due to a lack of any particular substance in the body. Instead, people suffering from psychological addiction suffer from compulsions or perceived needs. What this means is that these people think that their enjoyment is directly related to the substance and that they have to use it in order to feel good. This behavior is commonly connected with going out and drinking alcohol but can manifest itself in many other ways. A person suffering from a psychological addiction may believe that they are simply incapable of “being at their best” without the use of their preferred substance. This behavior may also be present in couples who may think that their sex life is dependent on drugs. In fact, this is one of the most common reasons why people are seeking couples rehab in Florida. Other withdrawal symptoms of psychological addiction may include:

  • Obsession
  • Taking risks/gambles
  • Taking larger doses
  • Not being capable to stop using drugs
  • Abusing substances despite health problems
  • Utilizing substances to deal with problems

Psychological and physical addiction may also share a couple of withdrawal symptoms such as anger and depression. That is why it is usually best to take a look at other symptoms first when determining the difference between physical & psychological addiction. Let’s do that now.


Obsession usually occurs when someone is absolutely infatuated with the addictive substance. It is a form of psychological dependency and it may create feelings that getting the substance and using it is the most important thing in the world. Needless to say, this can be extremely dangerous both to the person seeking the substance and to others. While under the throes of obsession, a person is capable of doing things they would never do under ordinary circumstances.

cigarettes, symbolizing the difference between physical & psychological addiction
Being obsessed with a substance is a sign of psychological dependency.

Do note, however, that obsession may also be connected with physical addiction. If the source of the obsession is physical discomfort, pain, or any other symptom, it may indicate that you have a physical addiction. But if you do not suffer any adverse physical effects, obsession is one of the primary indicators of psychological addiction.

Taking risks/gambles

Psychological addiction can also make you “gamble” with your decisions. What this means is doing things you would never do otherwise, things that may come with considerable risks. An example of taking risks includes stealing to get the addictive substance or even trading sexual favors for it. This behavior is usually closely connected with obsession where the most important thing is to get your hands on the substance. Therefore, noticing these patterns is one of the best ways to figure out the difference between physical & psychological addiction.

Taking larger doses

Physical addiction does not require your body to consume increased amounts of the substance to function properly. Taking larger doses to maintain the desired effect is a purely psychological thing. During the course of substance abuse, our brains and bodies “acclimate” to its effects and the effect of the substance lessens over time. That, in turn, prompts people with a psychological addiction to take in more of the stuff. Needless to say, increased consumption may lead to more pronounced withdrawal symptoms, not to mention potentially leading to financial issues. And once the addiction progresses enough, you may find asking yourself does Aetna cover rehab? Another aspect of the psychological need to take a larger dose is the fact that it may interfere with your body as well.

For example, you may think that the substance is all that you need and spend your food budget on it. Which may cause you to suffer from malnutrition after some time, which is a physical effect. When it comes to the difference between physical & psychological addiction, the need to take larger doses over time is almost always a sign of psychological addiction.

Not being capable to stop using drugs

Another aspect of psychological addiction is not being capable to stop using drugs. What usually happens is that your mind tells you that you simply cannot function properly without drugs. While this usually starts as a psychological problem, it may lead to physical dependency over time. But if you are not suffering any adverse effects of physical dependency, not being capable to stop using drugs is a definite sign of psychological addiction.

person taking drugs
Not being capable to stop using drugs is a clear sign of psychological addiction.

Abusing substances despite health problems

Most substances will create health issues over time, some of which may not even be connected with addiction. For example, overindulgence in alcohol can damage your liver. But if you continue abusing substances despite health concerns, it usually means that you have a psychological addiction. Once taking the substance becomes your primary concern and you choose to ignore health issues, it may be the time to ask yourself does Tricare cover rehab, for example. Having a way to pay for your treatment is usually one of the largest problems you may need to overcome, aside from deciding that rehab is in your best interest, of course.

Utilizing substances to deal with problems

When you think that using a particular substance is the only way to deal with problems that life throws at you, you are most likely suffering from psychological addiction. Relying on a substance is a very precarious road, one that inevitably leads to bad results. That is why you may want to identify any such behavior early on and seek professional treatment.

Social symptoms of addiction

Addiction, whether physical or psychological can cause a number of adverse social symptoms. You may start to forfeit activities that you enjoyed prior to using the substance, or you may begin to discard your hobbies one at a time. Addiction can also lead to solitude, denial, legal issues, and financial difficulties. In other words, as the addiction progresses, you may find yourself with fewer and fewer resources, all of which were directed at obtaining the substance. Addicts start to lose friends over time, start creating stashes and partake in excessive consumption of their chosen substance.

person without friends, symbolizing the difference between physical & psychological addiction
Addiction can make you isolated from others.

Social implications of either physical or psychological dependency may “hit harder” than any physical or psychological withdrawal symptom. To make matters worse, seeking treatment also becomes much harder. In worst cases, addiction can lead to suicidal thoughts and acting upon those thoughts. That is why it is critically important to recognize any addictive behavior in time and start looking into treatment options.

Treating physical & psychological addiction

Seeking treatment is the best option for people suffering from either a physical or psychological addiction. There are numerous treatment options available, such as inpatient rehab Florida programs. However, these programs can get quite expensive and you may need some help from your insurance plan. That is why it is very important to ask yourself whether your insurance provider will cover your rehab.

Depending on your situation, you may have additional options. For example, you might want to check whether is rehab covered under FMLA or whether you qualify for any state-issued programs. Once you sort out the financial aspect, you will want to choose the program that has the potential to help you the most.

Some of the programs that have shown great results in treating addiction include detoxification programs, CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy), Contingency Management programs, and 12-step programs. Most of these programs will also utilize some medications to help with the withdrawal symptoms. But to know which program is best for you, you will first need to understand the difference between physical & psychological addiction. Luckily, after reading this article, you have all the information necessary to figure that out.

If you require any additional information on either psychological or physical addiction or wish to know more about some of the best rehab programs Florida has to offer, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Bright Futures Treatment Center. Our helpful staff will gladly answer any questions you may have.


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