The Psychological Addiction Cycle - Dual Diagnosis Rehab Can Help

The Psychological Addiction Cycle – Dual Diagnosis Rehab Can Help

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Addiction is an incredibly complex disease. It’s not just a matter of going to a party one night and waking up the next day an addict – it’s a powerful psychological cycle that develops over time. Research has shown that addiction isn’t solely caused by one choice, a person’s history, or even genetics (although genetics can put a person more at risk). It’s a mixture of all three and more that leads a person down the path of addiction. Treatment of such a multi-layered affliction should consider them all – starting with understanding the psychological addiction cycle – and include dual diagnosis rehab

Defining Addiction

The American Psychological Association defines addiction1 as a chronic brain disorder that affects an individual’s sense of pleasure, motivation, and memory. Addiction can cause changes in the prefrontal cortex of the brain and a person’s limbic system. These alterations lead to increased cravings for drugs or alcohol and the positive feelings they induce – regardless of how harmful it could be to acquire them. In this article, we’ll be focusing on the psychological symptoms of addiction rather than the physical ones, which usually revolve around issues with tolerance and withdrawal.

Symptoms of the Addiction Cycle

Some psychological symptoms of the addiction cycle include:

  • Cravings
  • Anxiety when a person tries to halt their addiction
  • Depression when not using or attempting to quit
  • Irritability and restlessness when not using
  • Mood swings as a result of not using
  • Changes in appetite associated with not using
  • Sleep issues
  • Obsession with the drug of choice
  • Denying any addiction
  • Cognitive problems, including concentration, memory, and others

As you can see, the psychological aspects of addiction – also referred to as psychological dependence – generally describe a person’s mental and emotional states as a product of either using or quitting their habit.

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What Are The Stages of the Psychological Addiction Cycle?

As with most psychological patterns, the cycle of addiction can be predictably tracked and mapped out. In the case of addiction (to alcohol, sex, drugs, overeating, overspending, etc.), the length of each phase may differ from person to person. Still, they will become increasingly difficult to overcome. The general cycle used to describe addiction goes as such:

Initial Use

This stage is aptly named the first interaction a patient has with their drug of choice. It can be as simple as having a drink at their birthday party or getting a prescription for opioid painkillers. While a person isn’t likely to develop an addiction after one use (it’s a disease that takes time), some factors may make addiction more likely, such as if the person experiences:

  • Depression
  • Social issues
  • Family history of substance abuse
  • Social issues

It’s this initial contact that begins the cycle of addiction for those that continue using.

Continued Use/Abuse

Continued use and abuse constitute more frequent use of drugs or alcohol by the patient. 2 Sometimes it can be unintentional – it’s a prescription for pain or activity during social situations – other times, it can result from intense cravings or a desire to mask uncomfortable emotions. Pinpointing the exact point of when use becomes abuse can be challenging, so it’s often defined as simply the point when a drug or alcohol elicits a euphoric feeling vs. its intended use of pain management, social activity, or otherwise.


This stage comes as a result of a patient’s increased usage. Tolerance occurs when the brain has become accustomed to the drugs being put in a person’s body, so the patient no longer will experience the same level of high. Thus the person will seek to increase their dose, seeking that high again. This tolerance causes physical changes in the brain, which leads the patient into the next stage of the addiction cycle.


The aforementioned physiological changes made in the brain by drug tolerance leads to addiction and dependence, stages which exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Cravings for the substance
  • Spending extra time seeking out the substance and using
  • Decrease in previous social activities
  • Inability to maintain daily responsibilities
  • Relationship and family problems

Addiction can be the point of no return: it’s when a person’s dependency begins to affect all aspects of their life–and when any attempt at quitting can lead to withdrawal symptoms.


Withdrawal is straightforward: when a person chooses to quit abusing a substance, its lack of presence in their system will lead to withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Tremors

And more. However, specific withdrawal symptoms can depend on the person and the drug type. Additionally, withdrawal is a challenging stage to overcome without the help of professional rehabilitation and detoxing.


Relapse can immediately follow withdrawal. Typically, it’s the result of withdrawal becoming too overwhelming, and the person returns to seeking out their substance of choice. This action of relapse can be incredibly wounding for an individual. Using again can cause feelings of shame, guilt, destructive thoughts, compulsive behavior, and more. If your loved one relapses, they will need your support. Unfortunately, relapse is a part of many people’s addiction cycle. But that doesn’t mean recovery is hopeless.

These stages have also been outlined in eight comprehensive parts, which proceed as thus:

  • Frustration/Pain
  • Fantasizing
  • Obsessing
  • Using/Drinking
  • Loss of Control
  • Dissatisfaction
  • Promising to Quit
  • Stop use
  • Time Passes

Thankfully, even in extreme cases, there’s still hope for lasting recovery with professional treatment and detoxification.

The Value of Dual Diagnosis Rehab to Break the Addiction Cycle

Dual diagnosis rehab works to treat underlying mental or emotional problems in tandem with addiction recovery. Often these underlying issues influence and interact with addictive behavior, and left unresolved, could lead a person to relapse. The value of dual diagnosis rehab is in treating the core problems rather than focusing only on the symptom of addictive behavior. 

Contact Ocean Hills Recovery, Dual Diagnosis Rehab, to Help Break Your Addiction Cycle 

Seeking help is the one tried and true method to breaking an addiction. Our professional staff at Ocean Hills Recovery utilize various therapies, including dual diagnosis rehab, to treat patients at every step of their recovery. Contact Ocean Hills Recovery today and get the help you or your loved one deserves.


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