Psychological needs are the mental needs that motivate a person to achieve goals and perform certain activities. They are distinct from physical needs, which have more to do with meeting requirements to survive and remain healthy.
Renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow address major categories of psychological needs as part of his hierarchy of needs, first presented in a paper he wrote in 1943. Psychological needs categories include safety and security, self-esteem and self-actualization.
Safety and security are the lowest level of psychological needs. These include the desire to feel physically and emotionally safe and to have security in jobs and relationships. A person living in a dangerous neighborhood without an alarm system may sleep with one eye open based on fear. This fear may drive a desire, and subsequent actions, to move to a safer area or to get more home security.
A person's need to feel important, valued and competent fit into the self-esteem needs category. Many people are motivated personally and professionally by a desire for acceptance and achievement. At work, an achievement-driven person is motivated by access to knowledge and opportunities for recognition and rewards.
Self-actualization is a person's lifelong pursuit to achieve all that is personally possible, relationally and professionally. Despite bumps along the way, this compelling psychological need directs the long-term decisions and actions of many people.