What Is a Physical Need?

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According to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a physical need is something critical to the survival to the survival of the human body. Maslow lists the basic physical needs as water, air, food, warmth, sex, sleep and the disposal of bodily waste.

In addition to physical needs, there are four levels of needs in the hierachy of needs: safety, social, esteem, and self-awareness. Until the basic physical needs of the human body are met, Maslow emphasizes that all other needs become moot.

Although parts of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs have been criticized by experts, there is little disagreement that there are basic physical needs of the human body for survival. Without water, air, warmth, food and the disposal of bodily waste, a person dies. Though sex is not necessary for individual survival, it is crucial to the survival of a species.

Physical need should not be confused with physical dependency, which is a psychological term used in reference to addiction and the body becoming so accustomed to the consumption of a substance that it physiologically becomes dependent on it in order to function properly. Although a physical dependency may present as a physical need, it is merely the result of an addiction and not an actually requirement for survival.