Abraham Maslow

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What work did Maslow complete in relation to PTSD?

Maslow’s self-actualization theory and related hierarchy of needs have been applied to PTSD, or Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Maslow’s pioneering work in psychology can contribute to the diagnosis and treatment of PTSD.

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Abraham Maslow was a psychologist who is credited with developing a humanistic approach to the field of psychology. Since he first elaborated the hierarchy of needs in the 1940s, his ideas have become highly influential but also have been re-evaluated. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, was identified by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980. The negative changes in feelings in behavior that follow experiencing a traumatic event, or long-term experience, may be addressed using his ideas.

The hierarchy of needs is a sequence of levels through which people progress. The most fundamental needs are, according to Maslow, physiological needs. For basic survival, all humans need water, food, clothing, shelter, and health.

The next level is safety. Maslow grouped together physical, emotional, and financial security. These needs should be fulfilled in coordination. Physical and emotional security are combined in safety from violence, against both person and property; the latter connects with financial security. Love and belonging are grouped together in the next stage. Maslow identified interactions with community, family, friends, and close associates as essential for a sense of belonging.

Maslow identified the subsequent levels as higher needs, beginning with esteem. This pertains to the confidence and self-knowledge that a person requires to secure the lower needs and to move forward in personal development. That last level that one attained was self-actualization. In this stage, one fulfilled their potential as a person. Among the components were education, skill development, empathy, and formulating broader goals.

Maslow’s ideas about self-actualization can be applied to PTSD in numerous ways. Trauma may involve a singular event that interrupts the normal progress of self-actualization at any stage and the traumatized person’s ability to resume that development. Recognizing the interconnectedness of elements of Maslow’s levels is also supportive of recovery. Especially relevant are the relationship between the fundamental needs, such as physiological health and physical and emotional safety. Because trauma damages or destroys those basics, it also damages emotional connections and esteem. Identifying the ruptures in any level may be useful in rebuilding the ability to form such connections and continue to self- actualization.

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