What Consitutes a Psychological Addiction?

What Constitutes a Psychological Addiction?

Psychological addiction manifests itself very slowly, over a period of time. Consistent and frequent exposure to a specific stimulus prompts psychological addiction to take hold. Learn more about what constitutes psychological addiction and what to do if this is happening to a loved one.


Psychological Addiction

Behaviors which produce observable psychological withdrawal symptoms (dependence) can include:

  • Eating food high in sugar or fat
  • Physical exercise
  • Sex
  • Shopping


Psychological addiction has been overlooked in some ways only recently noted in an updated DSM-V. Some behaviors are more observable than others and deserve a second look when it comes to understanding the nature of addiction.



A psychological (emotional) addiction is defined as a compulsion or perceived need to use. In more severe cases of psychological addiction, the thoughts can consume an individual day and night. Without help, psychological dependency can transform a drug used somewhat infrequently into one which is the central focus of a person’s life.


Brain Science

Individuals who suffered chronic pain may be able to alter the amount of pain felt by slightly altering the thought process. Physical and psychological addiction are identical in that similar brain regions are activated. Participants in a recent study who suffered from chronic pain could alter the amount of pain felt by slightly altering the thought process in the brain, suggesting psychological pain may be able to overtake physical pain.



Treatment for psychological addiction typically follows a period of supervised detox from physical addiction (lasting anywhere from a few days to a week). After a slow weaning process off the substance, a person may experience negative physical symptoms (withdrawal) prior to the process of treatment for psychological addiction commences. Inpatient treatment programs are recommended in order to learn how best to handle inevitable temptation to relapse. Relapse prevention plans and coping strategies are essential to living a long, healthy, sober life.


Once treatment is completed, it is essential a person develops a support network to manage addiction recovery. Psychological wellness is the key to sobriety which can be bolstered by attendance at 12-step programs, development of friendships and a network of support for people in recovery. Recovery is a lifelong process that is not completed at the end of treatment. Individuals who complete treatment need to consider all the elements of sober living which can help make recovery successful including group, individual and family therapeutic support, meetings, finding hobbies and alternative methods to having fun which do not include recreational drug or alcohol use. The latter may seem challenging, but with the help of friends and family, it is possible to thrive in recovery.


Call The Villa today to discuss ways we can help you or your loved one thrive in recovery from addiction. Sober living is not just about meetings, it is about a supportive network of people who understand addiction. We can help you get there.