woman sitting on wall deals with psychological dependenceThe psychological dependence on drugs or alcohol is the primary reason why people have such a hard time staying sober. Many people believe going to a detox facility and kicking the physical habit is enough to stay sober. However, physical dependency is only a small part of the recovery process, meant to prepare a foundation for recovery. Alcohol and drug treatment programs help you overcome your mental dependency to your substance of choice through intensive therapy.

First, it’s important to understand how psychological dependence to a substance develops and how severe it can be. Having a knowledge of what’s happening in your brain and why you continue to use will help you accept your illness. Once you accept this fact, the willingness to take suggestions gets much easier and you can begin to recover. Through different types of addiction therapy, you can learn how to live an incredible life without any type of dependence.

How does a Psychological Dependence Develop?

In order to survive, pretty much every species of animal has a pleasure-reward system brain for survival. This is something that helps us survive because it remembers where to find food when we’re hungry or water when thirsty. Every time we repeat this action, the brain stores the memory and the habit gets stronger and stronger. This cycle is called the “habit loop,” and it breaks down into three different moments:

  • Trigger
  • Behavior
  • Reward

Using food as an example, the trigger is hunger, the behavior is eating and the reward is that the hunger goes away. The same thing happens when someone begins using drugs or alcohol. The difference is that there’s a significantly larger flow of dopamine. Eventually, the brain realizes that drugs can curb a negative emotion. Once this happens, anytime an individual with an addiction experiences something negative, the brain tells them to take a drink or a hit.

Why Early Recovery is Difficult

Every time you use alcohol or drugs to avert negative emotions or to get a good feeling, the habit gets stronger. This habit eventually turns into an addiction, defined by continually doing something despite the ongoing negative consequences. Due to your psychological dependence, the brain keeps telling you that this is the only way to feel well. The longer you spend in this cycle, the harder it can be for your brain to break this habit.

Since many people develop strong addictions over time, inpatient treatment is often necessary. The structure and support in an inpatient setting give patients the accountability they need to break this psychological dependency. Sadly, many people relapse when they try an outpatient or IOP first. Because dependency causes such a strong compulsion to use, having drugs or alcohol available makes it nearly impossible to stay clean without a strong sense of accountability and structure.

Working with Co-Occurring Disorders

Dual diagnosis treatment is necessary to treat co-occurring disorders. A co-occurring disorder simply means that an individual has a mental illness as well as an addiction.

For some people, the trigger to begin using drugs or alcohol was a symptom of mental illness like anxiety, depression, ADHD or PTSD. For others, the addiction created the mental illness. Either way, the best thing for someone with a co-occurring condition is to attend a facility that treats both simultaneously.

1st Step Behavioral Health specializes in helping our clients acquire the tools it takes to break psychological dependence. Through various types of therapies, you’ll be able to begin replacing old behaviors with new ones. As time goes on, you’ll see the cravings subside as you develop a new outlook on life. Call us today at 866-319-6126 to find this new outlook.

About the Author: Brittany Polansky

Brittany PolanskyBrittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is a Primary Clinician at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.