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Psychiatric Defence mechanisms - An Overview

Author: sea_corel, Posted on Friday, February 17 @ 16:06:46 IST by RxPG  

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Psychiatry

Let's look at these different types of defense mechanisms

Level 1 Defense Mechanisms - Almost always pathological; for the user these three defenses permit someone to rearrange external reality (and therefore not have to cope with reality); for the beholder, the users of these mechanisms frequently appear crazy or insane. These are the "psychotic" defenses, common in overt psychosis, in dreams, and throughout childhood.

Denial - a refusal to accept external reality because it is too threatening. There are examples of denial being adaptive (for example, it might be adaptive for a person who is dying to have some denial)

Distortion - a gross reshaping of external reality to meet internal needs

Delusional Projection - frank delusions about external reality, usually of a persecutory nature

Level 2 Defense Mechanisms are seen frequently in adults and are common in adolescents. For the user these mechanism alter distress and anxiety caused by reality or other people; while for the beholder, people who use such defenses are seen as socially undesirable, immature, difficult and out of touch. They are considered "immature" defenses and almost always lead to serious problems in a person's ability to cope with the world. These defenses are seen in severe depression, personality disorders, and adolescence. They include:

Fantasy - tendency to retreat into fantasy in order to resolve inner and outer conflicts

Projection - attributing one's own unacknowledged feelings to others; includes severe prejudice, severe jealousy, hypervigilance to external danger, and "injustice collecting". (remember that projection is a primitive form of paranoia, so it is common in today's world)

Hypochondriasis - the transformation of negative feelings towards others into negative feelings toward self, pain, illness and anxiety

Passive Agressive Behavior - aggression towards others expressed indirectly or passively

Acting Out Behavior - direct expression of an unconscious wish or impulse to avoid being conscious of the emotion that accompanies it


Level 3 Defense Mechanisms are often considered "neurotic" but are fairly common in adults. They can have short-term advantages in coping, but they often cause long-term problems in relationships, work, and enjoyment of life for people who primarily use them as their basic style of coping with the world. They include:

Intellectualization - separation of emotion from ideas; thinking about wishes in formal, affectively bland terms and not acting on them

Repression - seemingly inexplicable naivete, memory lapse, or lack of awareness of physical status; the emotion is conscious, but the idea behind it is absent

Reaction Formation - behavior that is completely the opposite of what one really wants or feels (e.g, taking care of someone when what one really wants is to be taken care of; studying to be a pilot to cover-up being afraid to fly). Note - this can work in the short term as an effective strategy to cope, but will eventually break down.

Displacement - separation of emotion from its real object and redirection of the intense emotion toward someone or something that is less offensive or threatening in order to avoid dealing directly with what is frightening or threatening

Dissociation - temporary and drastic modification of one's personal identity or character to avoid emotional distress

Rationalization :is the process of constructing a logical justification for a decision that was originally arrived at through a different mental process.


Level 4 Defense Mechanisms are common among most "healthy" adults and are considered the most "mature". Many of them have their origins in the "immature" level, but have been honed by the individual to optimize his/her success in life and relationships. Use of these defenses gives the user pleasure and feelings of mastery. For the user, these defenses help them to integrate many conflicting emotions and thoughts and still be effective; and for the beholder their use by someone is viewed as a virtue. They include:

Sublimation - transformation of negative emotions or instincts into positive actions, behavior, or emotion

Altruism - constructive service to others that brings pleasure and personal satisfaction

Suppression - the conscious decision to delay paying attention to an emotion or need in order to cope with the present reality; able to later access the emotion and accept it.

Anticipation - realistic planning for future discomfort

Humor - overt expression of ideas and feelings (especially those that are unpleasant to focus on or too terrible to talk about) that gives pleasure to others; (humor lets you call a spade a spade, while "wit" is actually a form of displacement.



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