Imagine feeling constantly on edge or haunted by distressing memories. This is a glimpse into the life of someone with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a mental health condition triggered by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event either singularly or over a period of time. It can lead to severe anxiety, flashbacks, nightmares, and emotional numbness, severely impacting daily life. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is characterized by intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to a traumatic experience or time-frame. Symptoms include intrusive memories, avoidance of reminders of the trauma, negative changes in thinking and mood, and heightened reactions. These symptoms must last for more than a month and significantly impair one's ability to function daily.

Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is a psychological theory that describes how human beings are motivated by fulfilling different levels of needs. These range from basic physiological necessities to more complex psychological desires. According to Maslow, meeting these needs is essential for overall well-being and personal growth.

The Link Between Human Needs and PTSD

When our basic human needs go unmet, it can set the stage for either developing PTSD or make the symptoms of existing PTSD even worse. For instance, if a person’s need for safety or belonging is compromised during or after a traumatic event, it can leave lasting scars. On the flip side, nurturing these needs can significantly aid in recovery and build resilience.

Unmet Essential Needs and PTSD Development

Not having our essential needs met can make us more vulnerable to developing PTSD. If someone experiences prolonged periods without safety, love, or acceptance, their emotional state can become fragile. Traumatic events then act as catalysts, further destabilizing their mental health.

Addressing Needs for Recovery

Meeting our human needs consistently is a powerful way to combat PTSD. Ensuring that all levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy are addressed can help stabilize emotions, improve mental health, and provide a sense of security and purpose.

Physical Needs: Exercise, Nutrition, and Sleep

Our physical health forms the foundation of our well-being. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and sufficient sleep are paramount.


Physical activity releases endorphins, which improve mood and relieve stress. Activities like walking, yoga, or swimming can be particularly beneficial for those with PTSD.


Eating a balanced diet supports brain function and overall health. Nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can nourish the body and mind.


Quality sleep is crucial for mental health. Establishing a regular sleep routine and creating a restful environment can help improve sleep patterns, thus aiding in the recovery process.

Safety Needs: Creating a Safe Environment

Feeling safe is fundamental to our well-being. For trauma survivors, this need is even more critical.

Physical Safety

Ensure your living environment is secure and comfortable. This could mean locking doors, installing security systems, or even rearranging furniture to create a safe space.

Emotional Safety

Surround yourself with supportive and understanding individuals. Having a network of people who respect your boundaries and offer emotional support can significantly enhance your sense of safety.

Social Needs: Building Support Systems and Healthy Relationships

Human connection is a powerful healer. Building strong, supportive relationships can provide comfort and reduce feelings of isolation.

Support Systems

Join support groups or communities where you can share experiences and receive empathy and advice. Knowing you’re not alone in your struggles can be incredibly reassuring.

Healthy Relationships

Cultivate relationships that are based on mutual respect and understanding. Spend time with friends and family who uplift you and contribute positively to your life.

Esteem Needs: Building Confidence and Self-Worth

Feeling valued and confident is essential for mental health. Strengthening self-esteem can counteract the negative self-perceptions often associated with PTSD.

Personal Achievements

Set small, achievable goals and celebrate your successes. This can boost your confidence and demonstrate your capability to overcome challenges.


Practice kindness towards yourself. Understand that healing is a process, and it’s okay to have setbacks. Self-compassion can foster a kinder, more forgiving self-view.

Cognitive Needs: Engaging in Learning and Mental Stimulation

Keeping your mind active and engaged can distract from traumatic memories and promote mental well-being.


Engage in activities that stimulate your mind, such as reading, puzzles, or learning a new skill. This can provide a healthy distraction and a sense of accomplishment.

Mental Stimulation

Participate in discussions, attend workshops, or take up hobbies that challenge your intellect. Keeping your mind busy and engaged can significantly improve your mental health.

Spiritual Needs: Finding Meaning and Purpose

Having a sense of purpose can provide direction and motivation, which are crucial for recovery.


Engage in activities that give you a sense of purpose, such as volunteering, pursuing passions, or setting new personal goals. Feeling purposeful can instill hope and motivation.


Explore spiritual or philosophical beliefs that resonate with you. Whether through meditation, prayer, or reflection, finding meaning can provide comfort and a sense of connection.

Meeting our human needs is a powerful strategy for alleviating PTSD symptoms and fostering a balanced, fulfilling life. By addressing physical, safety, social, esteem, cognitive, and spiritual needs, trauma survivors can find pathways to healing and resilience.

Encouragement is vital. If you or someone you know is struggling with PTSD, seek support and engage in activities that meet your needs holistically as often as possible.

Together, we can create a supportive environment where everyone has the opportunity to heal and thrive.

-Grady Pope Human Needs Coach

Feel Good? Feel Bad? - Human Needs Journal & Planner