Shortened words\phrases or abbreviations may be used so often that they become independent words, often termed truncation or clipping. Sometimes the original word is even forgotten. This also happens with acronyms (perhaps more recent trend?).
When did "phone" become accepted as its own word? is a great discussion of how\when phone became the word of choice, and has some other examples.
The History of English website scrapes the surface a little bit more by compiling a list of words that have come about via this method (some may surprise):
gym, lab, bus, van, vet, fridge, bra, wig, curio, pram, taxi, rifle, canter, phone, burger, mob, goodbye, hello, daisy, shepherd, load, fortnight, laser, radar, quasar, scuba
Unfortunately for an English learner, it is indeed just another complexity to deal with. Just one of the complications caused by a language being living!