What Is a Need?

Need is a fundamental need rooted in a physiological tension, deficiency, or imbalance. Many fields of study use the term need interchangeably, but psychologists usually differentiate between two terms. A need can be internal (such as hunger) or external (such as a marketing message or a search for alternative options). Whatever the source, every human will have at least one need. The need for control is the most common type of need and occurs in most aspects of human life.


According to the theory of social needs, a need is a condition or thing that an organism requires to survive. A need is distinct from a want. A need is necessary for an organism to function properly and is the opposite of a want. A need is essential for a safe and stable life. A desire, on the other hand, is an objective, self-serving desire that is unmet. If a need is satisfied, the individual will be happier and more content with his or her life.

A need is a basic need that is necessary to achieve a goal. The necessity to attain a goal is a teleological need. Some experts define need as a “need to compensate for dis-equilibrium” and claim that a need can be both instrumental and non-instrumental. Another definition of a need was proposed by Baldwin who suggests that a need is a “teleological” need, reflecting a gap between our current state and our desired status.

Some researchers use a teleological need to describe the basic need. This definition implies that a need is not merely an instrumental need. It is a need that reflects a gap between a person’s present condition and their desired state. An example is having a coronary artery bypass surgery, which improves longevity and quality of life. The need is a subjective experience, and the individual will have different experiences. However, this is the most popular form of need.

Need is a subjective state that is necessary to live a healthy life. It is different from a want. A need has a clear and adverse outcome. It may even result in death. Needs are important for the health and well-being of an organism. A want is a desire that is not needed in the body but may be an economic necessity. The difference between a need and a want is critical in understanding the connection between the two.

Need is a normative state that a person has. For instance, a person’s need for food can be expressed as a desire for shelter. The term is also often used in colloquial contexts. Some people use the word in the way that they express themselves, while others define it according to their culture. For example, a woman can feel a need for a job that she has never had before. The other type of need is a non-instrumental need.