A need is a physiological or psychological requirement that must be fulfilled for the survival of an organism. Examples of need include food, water, and shelter. It can also include emotional, social, and intellectual requirements such as a sense of belonging and esteem. A need can be either immediate or long-term. Those with immediate needs require assistance immediately, while those with long-term needs may require ongoing support and encouragement to meet those needs.
The concept of need was originally developed by psychologist Abraham Maslow in 1943. His theory of the hierarchy of needs states that basic physiological and safety needs must be met before other psychological or emotional needs can be satisfied. He noted that most people spend most of their time and resources attempting to satisfy these lower-order needs.
In addition to the lower-order needs, some individuals may have what are referred to as higher order needs. These include feelings of connection and love. Those with these needs are often more satisfied by the higher levels of Maslow’s hierarchy, which includes feelings of self-esteem and fulfillment.
Another way to think about the difference between need and want is in terms of cost. Generally speaking, needs are expenses that are necessary to survive (food, shelter), while wants are expenses that could be lived without (luxury clothing). Thus, it is important to clearly distinguish between the two when planning a budget. Typically, it is more practical to focus on meeting one’s needs before spending money on something that may be less of a necessity.
A person in need is someone who lacks something vital for their survival, well-being or fulfillment: “As a result of the deprivation caused by this lack of food and water, he became a hypochondriac.” “Most astronauts experience motion sickness at some point during their space travel—a condition known as astronausea.”
The word need can be found in the English language in the form of a verb or an adjective. The verb need is used as an auxiliary in negative and interrogative sentences, and as an adverb with the meaning of to be required or imperative: “You need to go,” “I have no need to apologize,” and so on. The adjective need is used to describe the quality or state of being required: “an innate need for adventure” and “a need for power.”
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