Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Four women sharing umbrella in the rainMaslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory that was proposed by psychologist Abraham Maslow in a 1943 paper titled A Theory of Human Motivation. The theory describes, in five stages, what he believed to be necessary for human subsistence and satisfaction.

The Five Stages

Maslow’s hierarchy is intended to track growth and development in human beings, beginning with infants, who aim to have only their most basic needs met. Typically, people reach different stages of the hierarchy throughout life, and at different times they might experience a deficit in a certain stage. When this occurs, a person will often temporarily abandon pursuit of a higher stage in order to have the more fundamental needs met. However, not all adult humans reach the top of the hierarchy, and poverty, illness, and other factors can interfere with a person’s development in Maslow’s hierarchy.

People who have not had their needs met in one area might also have their needs from another stage sufficiently met. For example, a person in poor health who has little financial security may be part of a community, have an intimate partner, and maintain close relationships with family and friends. Thus, the person’s safety needs are not adequately met, but community and belonging needs are. One might also have every fundamental need met but suddenly experience a threat to safety and shelter. In order to maintain this essential of survival, that person may then leave off pursuit of esteem or belonging needs until the threat to safety passes.

Maslow’s hierarchy originally contained five stages:

  1. Physiological needs: These are the needs necessary to maintain life: oxygen, food, and water. These basic needs are required by all animals and are the primary focus of infants.

    Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs developed from "A Theory of Human Motivation"

    Click to enlarge.

  2. Safety needs: When an individual’s physiological needs are met, the focus typically shifts to safety needs, which may include health, freedom from war, and financial security.
  3. Community and belonging: If safety and physiological needs are met, a person will focus on the need for a community and love. These needs are typically met by friends, family, and romantic partners.
  4. Esteem: Esteem is necessary for self-actualization, and a person may work to achieve esteem once needs for love and a sense of belonging are met. Self-confidence and acceptance from others are important components of this need.
  5. Self-actualization: Self-actualization is the ability to meet one’s true potential, and the necessary components of self-actualization vary from person to person. A scientist may be self-actualized when able to complete research in a chosen field. A father might be self-actualized when able to competently care for his children.

Between esteem and self-actualization, Maslow later added cognitive and aesthetic needs, which refer to what he considered the needs of academics and artists, respectively.

Viktor Frankl, a prominent 20th century psychologist and the founder of logotherapy, later added self-transcendence as a final stage in Maslow’s hierarchy, bringing the total number of stages to eight. This level concerns an individual’s ability to experience spirituality and relate to the larger universe.

Maslow’s Hierarchy and Mental Well-Being

Maslow argued that the failure to have needs met at various stages of the hierarchy could lead to illness, particularly psychiatric illness or mental health issues. Individuals whose physiological needs are not met may die or become extremely ill. When safety needs are not met, posttraumatic stress may occur. Individuals who do not feel love or belonging may experience depression or anxiety. Lack of esteem or the inability to self-actualize may also contribute to depression and anxiety.


  1. Huitt, W. (2007). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved from
  2. Martin, D., & Joomis, K. (2007). Building teachers: A constructivist approach to introducing education. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.
  3. Maslow’s Hierarchy. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Last Updated: 12-14-2015

  • Leave a Comment
  • Instantly Ageless

    December 28th, 2015 at 2:24 PM

    I truly enjoy looking through on this internet site, it has got superb blog posts. “A short saying oft contains much wisdom.” by Sophocles.

  • Roz

    March 16th, 2016 at 4:21 PM

    Enjoyed reading this article – I’m 6 months into my counselling course and this caught my eye as we’ve been taught about it. I can see what stages I relate to and can’t see anything to disagree on.

  • Augustine W

    June 8th, 2016 at 10:59 AM

    This site has really helped me in my learng.

  • Nacksom O

    March 29th, 2017 at 12:08 AM

    This site is good for educating young generation in their psychological needs and their situation they live in. I am happy that I have learn a lot in this reading this article.

  • Deanne A

    December 27th, 2018 at 1:31 PM

    I’d like to know more. I’m under the care of a psychiatrist, as well as a pschotherapist.

  • Rosemary

    October 8th, 2017 at 2:34 AM

    This was an eye opener for me especially now that I’m a very fresh Psychological counseling student. I’m impressed!

  • Gary A.

    October 17th, 2017 at 9:55 AM

    The problem I’ve always had with this theory is that most of us are just ordinary people who struggle to get beyond the third level because we just do ordinary things that need to be done in a community – like a trade or a service job. Then we tend to measure ourselves against extraordinary people who have realized “prestige”, “accomplishment”, “recognition” and “full potential”. We measure ourselves this way because our educators taught us to do so. They taught both ordinary and extraordinary people that happiness, mental well being and self worth increase as we climb Mt. Maslow. The long term unintended consequence of this may have led to suicide rates that began to increase year after year ever since Maslow’s hierarchy was introduced into the education system. Mt. Maslow, in my opinion is a “me centric” view of life that causes depression and disappointment if you happen to be just an ordinary person.
    I teach a different “pyramid” with only three levels (I call it Arnold’s hierarchy of human purpose) . Level 1. I can support myself. Level 2. I can support my family. And finally, Level 3. I am generous with my community. Making generosity the summit of Mt. Arnold makes it something everyone can reach – even us ordinary folks.

  • Sarah

    March 16th, 2018 at 2:34 PM

    I completely agree Gary. The “top” of the pyramid will be just as unsatisfying as other levels (with exception to Phsyiological and Safety needs). Many would argue belonging and sense of community is essential as well, yet people all around us dont have that especially mothers with young kids IF she works. I know 2-3 young family working moms that hang with friends and participate in kids school and lives to a satisfying point.

    How did this happen? Mom’s having to go to work. Capitalism and increasing income gap between uppers and mid-to-mid low class. Who demands never changed or adjusted for the work load. I believe most mom will say they’re happy and put on the show, but they are miserable. Their husbands enjoy the ride and gets Playhouse, while the wife does the real work, the grunt work and then her emotional needs are not met her husband because most men don’t even know pets in need for a woman. In return, the woman’s body is less available than pre-momma days. This turns into a cycle of him seeking sexual release via porn & masturbation which causes him to be less inclined to meet her household demands and emotional needs b/c he doesn’t need her body (as much).

    Finally, here’s my thought as I read this: does the mother in my aforementioned analogy even have Safety satisfied? Does this pyramid account for a person’s definition of safety changing over time? The mother has an added safety need she obviously couldn’t have before age 10 or so, etc–protection assistance for her children from a man–preferrably the father–given she’s hetero.

    The older I get and the more things I realize that my husband is incapable to carry a similar load as I do, the more I believe communes are essential where men get to shop around for sex with women in the group and there’s many women to support each other.

  • Sarah

    April 15th, 2018 at 10:45 AM

    Sorry for the typos.

  • Tracy J

    August 30th, 2018 at 9:40 PM

    Hi Gary,

    I think you’re missing an important point when you discuss reaching the higher points on Maslow’s pyramid. The ability to “move up” from lower, more basic, levels of the structure does not imply success gained only from something like a prestigious job or being highly educated in the traditional sense (eg, an advanced degree). I mention this because you specified that “most of us are just ordinary people who struggle to get beyond the third level because we just do ordinary things that need to be done in a community – like a trade or a service job.”

    The author here gave an example of a way to reach self-actualization that is a very personal undertaking: “A father might be self-actualized when able to competently care for his children.” In this sense, one can have more basic needs met, such as adequate shelter and safety, so they are then capable of making that jump to a task that wouldn’t be possible if a person were still struggling to just survive.

    Everyone is on their own path. You can be perfectly “ordinary” and reach the highest level of this pyramid based on whatever is most important for you. It does not require a specific level of education or type of job. It doesn’t even have to mean that you’re outwardly successful at all. Using another example: if you are an artist, but never sell any of your work, the top of the pyramid is still attainable if you have accomplished whatever it is that you want. Maybe art is a passion and it’s clear that you have progressed in your ability; sales wouldn’t be important in that case. The realization that you had spent the time to master something important would be the attainment of a goal.

    If you search only for external validation to measure success, you will never be happy; it won’t be enough in the end. Even the most successful people in this world have to look in the mirror and deal with themselves at the end of the day. Take Maslow’s thoughts and apply them to your own life…not others.

    One way people do end up with mental health issues is by placing the blueprint for a different person’s life over their own and expecting it to match. We all have our own steps to take and moves to make. Ordinary is something many people strive for, so if you have it…remember that many people don’t!


  • Sandy s.

    December 21st, 2018 at 10:17 PM

    To Gary A,
    I didn’t quite know what to make of his article myself, and
    I Love your response and agree.

  • Guy

    January 8th, 2020 at 8:54 AM

    Malsow wasn’t implying that we have to climb levels. In fact he didn’t even present it in a pyramid as is shown.
    He even went as far to imply that all of these are in a state of flux and occurring simultaneously. Even the ultimate achievement of self-actualization is a spectrum and dependent on the factors mentioned.
    I see it as absolutely for normal people. Accepting who we are and accepting that we have basic human needs is only a very small part. Taking the time to live a life that supports these things at a basic level supports us to be a more solid individual.

  • Ndivhu

    September 29th, 2018 at 11:09 AM

    Thanks you.

  • Mireya F.

    March 11th, 2019 at 8:18 PM

    After reading this I’m going to say I disagree with Maslow’s theory because first of all it is not organized and is only based on his observations on people who were already self actualized. There is no scientific research that backs up his information, it was mainly based on his opinion. He did not take into consideration people of different cultures or those in the lower class which would provide inaccurate results. This is because not all the same needs apply to all of society, everyone needs different things depending on where they are at in their life. In addition, in his theory he claimed that in order to move on to the next level , you would have to fulfill the one below it. This is definitely not true because although there are people that live in poverty, they are still able to have intimate relationships with other people. Also I feel that in order to feel safe and secure it is important to have that relationship with friends and family so I don’t think the chart is as organized as it should be.

  • Guy

    January 8th, 2020 at 10:10 AM

    Maslow spent his life studying this and his theory developed right up to the end. From what I understand there were no levels like climbing a ladder. It all exists at the same time and varies through our lives as does our level of self.

  • Ignatz

    April 12th, 2020 at 1:35 PM

    One of the great deficits in psychotherapy in the US is that it fails to address basic needs, whether you ascribe to Maslow’s or Arnold’s hierarchy, or any other system which accepts that psychological health is contingent upon functioning social contact and safety nets, and freedom of economic stress. It seems that psychotherapy in the US strayed very far from it’s humanistic roots, increasingly becoming just another cog in the machine of medicine for profit. We need to develop much more systemic approaches to psychotherapy that directly help to remedy problems caused by basic socially determined issues presently ignored by the psychotherapy industry.

  • Hari

    November 6th, 2020 at 1:26 AM

    What do you think will happen if a person does not achieve one of the needs mentioned above?

  • JOHN

    April 4th, 2021 at 11:19 PM

    Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy Of Needs” requires having INFORMATION and I̲n̲t̲r̲a̲personal and/ or I̲n̲t̲e̲r̲personal COMMUNICATIONS̲ TECHNOMA (bio-analogl̲, analogl̲ or digital) to secure that info, and for its elements to be realized; therefore, INFORMATION & COMMUNICATIONS̲ TECHNOMA is the PRIMARY NEED; and hence, THE PARAMOUNT UNIVERSAL RIGHT.
    ATTENTION GOODTHERAPY.ORG: In Posting my comment you thereby accept the Human Digital Rights (and hence, Human Rights!) expressed within the U.S. Constitution, within all other national Constitutional enactments that/ which uphold them and the Articles of the Universal declaration of Human Rights/ UDHR.

  • Guy

    April 6th, 2021 at 1:22 AM

    Hi John – If I understand correctly, you are implying the ability of interpersonal communication is a basic need. As a species we are generally born with this and in fact is what is used to achieve the needs suggested by Maslow. Or are you saying we require basic socialization skills as a need?

  • Glen

    January 7th, 2022 at 1:52 PM

    Sarah mentions the possibility of living in a society where men get to “shop around,” and have sex with as many women as they want, while women support each other of the side. Polyamorous relationships do not work; they are strictly about sex and lacking in love-many people in polyamorous relationships admit this. Sarah seems to assume all men only love a women for her body; I disagree. If we want men to be more loving, they need to be taught how to meet their psychological needs (I don’t believe sex is a necessary need). Teach them B-Cognition and B-Love that Maslow talks about in,”Towards a Psychology of Being.” Maslow says anyone can feel B-Love, even people who are not Self-Actualized. As a society, we need men/people practicing mindfulness meditation; it makes sexual impulses less demanding and allows us to have the Ego-Strength to satisfy our emotional needs. Mindfulness is very powerful tool that helps us control our impulses. Teach people also Love-Metta meditation and B-Love and they can love someone regardless of if they need them. Almost anyone can learn these things.

  • Tracy

    January 7th, 2022 at 5:43 PM

    Hi Mireya,
    It has been nearly 4 years since I commented on this post. I get occasional notifications when others add their own take. I will say this: there is a tremendous amount of scientific research directly in relation to this topic. The theory itself is quite old and could do with some updates, however, it is not at all antiquated. Social scientists and “hard” scientists alike still study it. Google Scholar will provide you with all the papers you’d want to read and more.

  • Mhareeya

    April 27th, 2022 at 6:49 AM

    Don’t compare yourself to others. You have to look at it and measure with your own self… This is a personal journey of your life as an individual person as well as a social being with your relationships with others and in the community.

  • Victoria

    May 24th, 2022 at 1:07 PM

    hahahah TRACY 4 yrs later…..
    Can you give me a quick example of someone putting the blueprint of someone else’s life over their own. I like your writing and thoughts. This one little point isn’t clear in my brain…….🧠

  • Serah

    May 28th, 2022 at 5:01 AM

    This is good learning. We need to understand our needs and how they interrelate.

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