Homeostatic Imbalance: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 What Is Homeostasis?
  • 1:08 Homeostatic Imbalance…
  • 2:05 Primary and Secondary Drives
  • 3:28 Homeostatic Imbalance…
  • 4:39 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David White
Homeostatic imbalance can be a sign of serious disease or disorder and finding a solution can be complicated or impossible. Through this lesson, you will learn how to define homeostatic imbalance and explore some examples of how it presents itself in the real world.

What is Homeostasis?

How many times has this happened: you've just gotten home from a long day of work or school, you sit down on the couch to relax and just as you get comfortable, you notice that you're starving or you need to go to the bathroom? You might try to resist the urge because you're tired and don't want to get up, but eventually the need becomes far too strong and you have to act.

That feeling of being relaxed and having no needs at the moment is known as homeostasis, which is a kind of balance in the body and mind where everything is working properly. The strong feelings of hunger or needing to go to the bathroom are disruptions of your homeostatic state; your body is trying to tell you that in order to continue working properly and feel balanced, you will need to satisfy those needs.

Homeostasis is a term that is used in many different fields to refer to a balanced equilibrium. In a physiological context, for example, this means that your body's organs and systems are all working properly and the body's needs are being met. In psychology, it works a little differently because people's brains and personalities can be wildly different from one another.

Homeostatic Imbalance in Health

A body that is in a homeostatic state is one in which everything is healthy and working properly. This means that the person is in good health, there are no illnesses, and all of their internal systems are working as they should. In this case, when disruptions occur such as hunger, fatigue, being too cold or warm, or the need to use the bathroom, the body will attempt to regulate itself unconsciously or send a signal that you need to do something, like eating or putting on a sweater. The body's needs are easily satisfied and the person returns to a homeostatic state.

When interruptions to the homeostatic state become long-term or can't be easily corrected, this leads to what is known as homeostatic imbalance. There are a wide variety of things that can cause homeostatic imbalance, but the most easily identifiable is disease. For example, long-term illnesses like cancer or HIV disrupt the body's ability to function properly and it is unlikely that it will be returned to a homeostatic state.

Homeostatic imbalance - homeostasis cannot be restored because something is preventing the system from adapting or correcting.

Primary and Secondary Drives

In a psychological context, homeostatic imbalance works much the same as it does in the body. The most significant difference, of course, is that the brain can be much more complicated than the body. While bodies tend to be largely similar in terms of their functional needs, like water, food, and sleep, people's psychological needs can be vastly different.

In biology and psychology, disruptions to homeostasis are referred to as drive states, which is the experience of disruption to equilibrium. Biology usually deals with primary drive states, and psychology deals in secondary drive states. The difference is the degree to which we need certain things in order to function.

A primary drive is an innate need that is required for healthy functioning and to stay alive, like hunger for example. A secondary drive is a need for things that we don't require to live, but that we want in order to satisfy a desire, such as love. Love is not something that we need in order to stay alive, but we desire it to varying degrees because we have learned to want it.

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