cycle of addiction

The cycle of dependence is complicated and very complex. There are a plethora of reasons why someone may become addicted. It may start off as innocuous. Maybe it is the person’s first drink when coming of age. You may also be addicted immediately when trying an illicit drug. The psychological dependence is the behavior development of the addiction. The definition of addiction is, “A disease that chronically affects the brain.” This is a curable disease. Alcohol detox is a common way to start on your journey to recovery. 


There are two triggers that start the cycle of addiction and psychological dependence. They are:

  • Pain triggers
  • Social triggers

Pain Triggers

Pain is one of the triggers in the cycle of addiction and a cause in psychological dependence. These people are trying to find comfort from an injury. This can include a person trying to find comfort from depression and other mental health-related issues.

Social Triggers

Trying to have a good time is another trigger in the cycle of addiction. This person likes adventure and wants to feel good.

Dependency or addiction does have psychological effects. Psychological dependence can start slow or develop over time, then finally turn into an addiction. There are different phases of addiction.

Phases of Addiction and Psychological Dependency

The different phases of addiction and the phases of psychological dependence are:

  • Initial use
  • Abuse
  • Tolerance
  • Reliance
  • Addiction
  • Relapse

Initial Use of a Substance

The initial use can start the road to psychological dependency. Different people have different reasons for starting a substance. Some of the factors on becoming psychologically dependent on drugs or alcohol are:

  • A history of family drug usage is one way an individual is introduced to drugs and alcohol. Growing up in that environment can make a person have a strong tendency towards substance abuse. If the family does drugs, it is a more acceptable environment.
  • A disorder of mental illness is another factor.  
  • A tumultuous lifestyle is another reason someone might get into an addictive lifestyle. Having instability in your life may make drugs more enticing.
  • Peer pressure is an example of trying and becoming addicted to drugs. If someone you look up to is doing drugs or alcohol, the substance becomes more enticing
  • Loneliness can lead to drugs and abusive substances
  • Some people use drugs as a way out of depression. Drugs can be a crutch for someone who is dealing with depression.

Abuse of a Substance

Regarding this cycle, abuse is the exploitation and misuse of the substance or alcohol. This basically means you are using the substance in a harmful way. The psychological dependence or abuse of alcohol can mean drinking alcohol more than on a social basis. Abuse of prescription medication is misusing the medication and taking more than prescribed by a doctor. Instead of using the drugs for medicinal purposes, rather, they are using it to get the exhilaration experience from the substance. With very addictive substances, exploitation or abuse can occur the very first time someone uses this drug. You can become addicted from first use. The social acceptance of substances such as alcohol and tobacco make it easier to become addicted. These substances are accepted. When someone is taking a drug to self diagnose an issue, this can be a step towards psychological dependence.

Substance Tolerance

Tolerance is when your brain reaction condones the acceptance of the drugs and, in turn, needs a larger dose of the drug, alcohol, or substance. These effects can lead to a diminished chemical production of the brain. This leads to psychological dependence on the substance.

Substance Reliance

Reliance on a substance is when a person depends on that substance or alcohol to get through daily life. Taking certain illicit drugs for a prominent time-frame will leave a person without bliss or joy.

The dependency on certain medicinal drugs does not necessarily mean addiction. With certain prescribed drugs, it is important to have them for your body to function properly. However, you are not addicted to the drug, and your body relies on the drug so the body can function properly.  

Substance Addiction

Addiction has very distinct characteristics and is a mental health disorder. There are many treatment options for someone who abuses drugs and alcohol. Some of the characteristics of addiction are:

  • The feeling of inability to cease the taking of the abusive substance
  • Regularly ingesting more of the drug or alcohol than first desired
  • When doing the drug or alcohol becomes more important than other aspects of life
  • Experiencing separation anxiety from taking the substance. The symptoms of the withdrawal can be anywhere from minor symptoms to major symptoms. They can range from headaches to seizures.
  • Poor health effects, however, continuing to take the drugs despite how they feel.
  • The strong desire to have the substance
  • Giving up activities that used to give you joy
  • Allocating precious time to finding the substance or using the substance. This would also include the time from recovery from withdrawal symptoms
  • The need for more and more of the substance
  • The inability to do basic obligations
  • Putting oneself into risky or perilous situations
  • The failure to distinguish the substance abuse
  • Refusing to give the substance up even though there are damaging physical and social aspects. These can be a health problem or even a loss of contact with family members or close friends due to substance abuse.

The treatment of alcohol use disorder or AUD is dependent on how severe the withdrawal manifestations are. There are times individuals have no need for medical treatment. However, there are times when medication is necessary. Most physicians use Benzodiazepines when withdrawal symptoms are problematic. The important aspect is to find a treatment that is right for you or a loved one.

People with harsher withdrawal symptoms, in many instances, may require a hospital stay. Often times with alcohol use disorders, a person’s nutrition is depleted. This may require supplements to get the nutrients needed into their bodies. In addition to supplements, a good diet is necessary. Good nutrition will help the body and mind heal.  

Substance Relapse

The cycle of addiction must be broken. It is not good for your body to quit and start again, quit and start again, and have a yo-yo effect. This goes for all addictions, whether it is food, drugs, alcohol, or tobacco. Whatever the triggers are, they must be removed. There is not a one plan fits all to help everyone in the same manner. Not every treatment plan is for everyone. The important thing is to find the correct plan that fits the individual’s needs. By researching and talking to a professional, these two things will help you in the process of finding the right treatment for you.

Addiction Recovery  

A person may require several attempts to recover in the recovery process. The important thing is to find a treatment plan that fits you or a loved one’s needs. This will help on the road to sobriety. This is so the cycle of psychological dependency can be broken. The key is to find the right recovery program for you. 

Psychological Dependency

Psychological dependence is the behavioral aspect of dependency. The causal effect of addiction is psychological dependence. This is different from physical dependence. Physical dependence is not a contributory factor to addiction; it accompanies it. The symptoms manifest in a physical way. Some behaviors associated with psychological dependence are:

  • A heightened passion for the substance
  • Having anxiety
  • Having depression
  • Irritability
  • Appetite instability
  • Insomnia 
  • Concerns about not being able to stop the substance
  • A strong desire for the substance all of the time
  • Loss of concentration
  • Loss of memory
  • Having poor judgment

Gender Role in Psychological Dependence

Gender plays a role in the addiction process. Studies have found females with substance addiction can have hormone-related issues and other female related issues. It is thought that females can use a lesser amount of the substance before they become addicted. In studies, it has also been shown; females succumb to cravings easier than males. Females are more likely to relapse after treatment. In addition to psychological dependence, females experience more physical effects, including issues with blood vessels and issues with the heart. Also, there are different changes in the brain in females who suffer from substance abuse versus males who suffer from substance abuse. Females are more anxious, and they have a deeper tendency toward depression.

If you or a loved one is in need of a detox or recovery program, contact us at Coastal Detox at 866-802-6848. Come join us in our warm and comfortable environment.


Content Reviewed by Jacklyn Steward

Jacklyn StewardJacklyn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and an EMDR trained trauma therapy specialist with over 6 years of experience in the field of addiction. She has a Masters Degree in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling from Nova Southeastern University.