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Back to Basics: The Hierarchy of Needs

If you've ever taken a psychology class at any level then you are undoubtedly familiar with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Abraham Maslow was a 20th century psychologist who theorized that psychological well-being is built upon meeting certain physiological, social, and psychological needs. He identified and arranged these needs into a pyramid, with the most basic needs at the bottom and the ultimate goal, self actualization, at the top. He theorized that, in most situations, the bottom needs must be met in order to achieve the higher levels of psychological well-being. No single theory is going to explain the human condition but this topic is important because I all too often seen people struggling with anxiety, depression, and complicated emotional landscapes and their basic needs are not yet met.

Meeting Basic Needs

The bottom of the pyramid is physiological needs- breathing, food, water, shelter, and sleep and the next level is safety. At first glance you may think your basic needs are met. After all, you have food and shelter and are free from threats of violence on a day to day basis but consider the following:

  • How much sleep are you getting? Is it quality sleep?

  • Are you truly nourishing yourself regularly or do you tend to scarf down food when your growling stomach finally gets your attention?

  • Is your job stable?

  • Are you able to comfortably pay your bills?

  • Do you have health concerns?

  • Are you able to access affordable healthcare?

  • Do you have a history of trauma that you have not worked through?

  • Are you dealing with chronic stress?

  • Through news and social media are you regularly exposed to stories and images of suffering and fear?

If you answered yes to some of these questions then your most basic needs may not be fully met and that could be having an impact on your ability to work on higher level issues like depression, anxiety, healthy relationships, and self-esteem. It's essential that you work towards caring for yourself on the most basic levels. True self care is not bubble baths or vacations- it's choosing every day to prioritize your most basic needs.

If you are struggling, let's connect.


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Hi. I'm Katie

Licensed Clinical Social Worker providing teletherapy to adults in Florida. 

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