Deutsch: Überleben / Español: Supervivencia / Português: Sobrevivência / Français: Survie / Italiano: Sopravvivenza

Survival in the psychology context refers to the behavioral, cognitive, and emotional strategies that organisms employ to cope with life-threatening situations or to navigate environments that pose significant challenges to physical or psychological well-being. This concept extends beyond mere physical survival to include how individuals manage stress, trauma, and threats to their identity or social standing.


Psychological survival often involves adaptive mechanisms that enable individuals to endure adverse conditions. These mechanisms can be innate, such as the fight-or-flight response, or learned, such as coping strategies developed through experience. The study of survival in psychology examines how these mechanisms operate and what factors influence resilience and vulnerability in the face of challenges.

Application Areas

Survival mechanisms are a key area of study in several psychological disciplines:

  • Clinical Psychology: Examines how people survive traumatic events and develop resilience or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Evolutionary Psychology: Studies survival behaviors from an evolutionary perspective, looking at how certain reactions and behaviors have been selected to enhance survival and reproductive success.
  • Health Psychology: Focuses on how psychological factors influence physical health and adaptation to chronic illness or disability.

Well-Known Examples

Psychological survival mechanisms include:

  • Resilience: The ability to bounce back from negative experiences and adapt to stress and adversity.
  • Defense Mechanisms: Unconscious psychological strategies (like denial and repression) that protect individuals from anxiety and the perception of internal/external dangers.
  • Coping Strategies: Conscious efforts to solve personal and interpersonal problems in order to minimize or tolerate stress and conflict.

Treatment and Risks

Understanding survival mechanisms is crucial for developing effective interventions in therapy and counseling, especially for individuals who have experienced trauma or are dealing with significant life stressors. However, some survival strategies, particularly maladaptive defense mechanisms, can lead to further psychological issues if not addressed properly.

Similar Terms

Related concepts include:

  • Adaptation: Refers to the process by which individuals adjust to new conditions or environments.
  • Coping: The cognitive and behavioral efforts made to manage specific external and/or internal demands that are appraised as taxing or exceeding one's resources.


Articles with 'Survival' in the title

  • Survival of the Fittest: Survival of the Fittest refers to a key concept in the theory of evolution, survival of the fittest can be understood as the idea that those organisms best adapted to their environment will be more successful than those who are not


In psychology, survival encompasses the range of behaviors, thoughts, and emotions that individuals use to handle and overcome threats to their physical, social, and psychological integrity. It involves both innate reactions and learned behaviors that contribute to an individual’s ability to withstand adversity and maintain mental health in challenging conditions.


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