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Defense Mechanisms

Emotions and their Effect on Behaviors

Site: AB Course Sharing Hub
Course: General Psychology 20 - Cindi Sawchuck
Book: Defense Mechanisms
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Date: Monday, 24 February 2020, 2:15 AM

What are Defense Mechanisms

Sigmund Freud was the first psychologist to categorize and describe defense mechanisms.  They may defined as behaviors that a person uses in response to frustration or conflict.  They are protective measures to shelter the person’s threatened self-esteem.  Defense mechanisms keep people from getting over anxious.  They are unconscious responses; we are usually not aware of using them and do not deliberately choose to use them for protection.

Defense mechanisms work by reducing anxiety using methods that deny, falsify or distort reality.  They are indirect and sometimes self-defeating ways of coping with problems, even when used with good intentions.

The most popular types of defense mechanisms :

  • repression, suppression, reaction formation
  • compensation, overcompensation, sublimation
  • projection, introjection, identification
  • procrastination
  • displaced aggression
  • rationalization
  • regression

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Reaction Formation

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Compensation, Over Compensation and Sublimation

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Projection, Introjection & Identification


Displaced Aggression



Aspects of Defense Mechanisms

Negaitve Aspects

All defense mechanisms are self-deceptive in nature and are used by people who feel threatened.  All people use some or all forms of defense mechanisms; however, continual, indiscriminant use of them can be unhealthy, because a person is treating the symptoms and not the problem. defense mechanisms reduce the guilt and anxiety, but do not remove the factors producing the threat.

When a defense mechanism becomes the dominant mode of problem solving, an individual wastes time and energy.  They direct little effort into constructive work which could be useful in solving the problem.

Positive Aspects

When used in moderation, defense mechanisms can help people adjust to tough situations.  They can absorb the shock of unpleasant reality until the person is ready to face the facts.  They provide temporary protection from problems that are overwhelming.  They allow people to develop proper problem-solving techniques to deal with a situation, without intense pressures.

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