The difference between physical and psychological cravings

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One of the hardest part of managing alcohol abuse is the cravings. Boy, did I suffer with  both physical and psychological cravings.

Physical cravings happened when I was trying not to drink,  but I actually had a physical dependence on alcohol because I was drinking so much.


So how to know if you have a physical dependence on alcohol ?

Generally a medical assessment is  needed  to find out  if you have a physical dependence on alcohol
So the four questions below, developed by the World Health Organisations are for help only and should not be used as a medical diagnosis, as you’ll need to see a doctor to be sure.


Questions on physical dependence

  • How often during the last year have you found that you were not able to stop drinking once you had started?
  • How often during the last year have you failed to do what was normally expected of you because of drinking?
  • How often during the last year have you needed a first drink in the morning to get yourself going after a heavy drinking session?
  • How often during the last year have you had a feeling of guilt or remorse after drinking?

The more you answer daily, weekly or monthly to the above questions the more likely it is you have a physical dependence that requires medical treatment.

Other questions which may indicate a physical dependence are

  • When did you last have an alcohol free day?
  • How much alcohol do you drink per drinking session?

Now if like me you’re physically dependent, then you’ll need a detox because our bodies really suffer due to alcohol withdrawal symptoms if  we  suddenly stop drinking.


So what are alcohol withdrawal symptoms ?

These may occur when some one who drinking heavily starts to reduce their alcohol intake. There may be a wide range of symptoms from tremors, sweating , anxiety, naseau, vomiting, agitation, pins and needles, hallucinations, headaches, disorientation, and seizures.  I got most of these apart from the seizures because I tried to go it alone.

The good news is all of these symptoms can be managed by medication from a qualified health care professional. You can find details of  some organisations providing these services here. Simply select detoxification in the drop down search menu. Also some GP’s and hospitals also provide detox services.


What is a detox (detoxifcation)?

A detoxification is a medical treatment required to reduce alcohol withdrawal symptoms because you have a physical or psychological dependence on alcohol. Medical treatment ensures you do not suffer serious health effects such as withdrawal symptoms or even seizures. Detox should only be performed by qualified medical specialists who will prescribe medication to reduce the side effects of alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Health care professionals may call a detox “Medically assisted alcohol withdrawal”

Generally physically symptoms affect our bodies and  last a shorter amount of time than psychological symptoms. Psychological symptoms tend to affects our minds and emotions much more.  So for the rest of this course we’ll look at psychological symptoms starting with triggers in the next lesson.

Back to: Manage your alcohol cravings (Crave surf) > Manage my triggers and cravings

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