The Difference Between Physical and Mental Dependencies

Every addiction is different. Depending on the person and the type of substance, people will experience different withdrawal symptoms and different challenges in their recovery process. Generally, drugs are either physically or mentally addictive.

Physical Dependency

Physical dependencies make physical changes to the way our bodies operate. Generally, physical dependencies are caused by drugs like heroin, methamphetamine, alcohol, nicotine, and even something as simple as caffeine. When someone stops using one of these substances, they will experience physical pain and discomfort.

Depending on the type of drug and the severity of the abuse, symptoms of physical withdrawal can include headaches, tremors, dizziness, aching muscles, and insomnia. Take caffeine as an example. When someone has a cup of coffee every morning, their body becomes dependent on the caffeine. If they skip their morning cup, they will most likely become tired and get a headache. Of course, with caffeine, the withdrawal symptoms are much less severe than a drug like heroin. The only way to overcome physical withdrawals is through detox. With all physical dependencies, the withdrawal symptoms will diminish over time.

Mental Dependency

Not every drug has physically addictive ingredients, but any drug use can lead to a mental dependency. A mental dependency is simply a desire to a have a drug. Although the user may not experience any physical withdrawal symptoms, they may think they need the drug to feel happy or fulfilled. Marijuana is one of the most common mentally addictive substances. Although marijuana has no physically addictive properties, many marijuana smokers feel they need to smoke to concentrate, feel happy, or function in their social lives.

Mental Cravings

Once any mental or physical withdrawals symptoms have subsided, former addicts will experience mental cravings for a long period of time. Mental cravings usually occur when someone is in a situation that they associate with drug use. For example, if you used to drink with a certain group of friends, you may have a mental craving for alcohol when you are with them. Beating mental cravings requires will-power and long-term recovery.

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Recovery: Our Process

At Adult & Teen Challenge, we have been guiding students through addiction recovery for over 60 years. We offer a Christ-centered approach, helping our students discover and triumph over the underlying causes of their addiction and find the love and grace of Jesus Christ.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, contact us today.