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Clinical:Taxonomies: Defence mechanisms

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Defence mechanisms (British spelling; Defense mechanisms in American English) are a set of unconscious ways to protect one's personality from unpleasant thoughts and realities which may otherwise cause anxiety. The notion of defence mechanism is an integral part of the psychoanalytic theory. Although often described as detrimental and negative ways that an individual deals with overwhelming stressors; these mechanisms can also be applied positively when dealing with conflicts. Used sparingly, they help people face difficult life situations. However, a defence mechanism can also lead to a neurosis if it causes a person to adopt ineffectual or inappropriate coping strategies.

ExamplesEdit

Examples of defence mechanisms include: the examples given here are generally negative applications of the mechanism; although, these mechanism can often be used in healthy fashion to deal with stressors.

  • Acting out. Dealing with emotional stressors by actions rather than reflections or feelings. For example, a person facing a small problem responds quickly with intense passion when the situation would not have required it.
  • Altruism. Dealing with emotional stressors by dedication to meeting the needs of others. For example, a person putting away her own problems starts to volunteer.
  • [[Anticipation {defence}|Anticipation]]. Dealing with emotional stressors by experiencing emotional reactions in advance of, or anticipating consequences of, possible future events and considering realistic, alternative responses or solutions. For example, after a difficult job interview an unemployed candidate expects that he might not be selected by the employer.
  • Avoidance. Dealing with emotional stressors by refusing to encounter situations, objects, or activities because of the fear of failures or difficulties. Often seen in phobias. For example, a worker refuses to confront an employer fearing his or her reactions.
  • Compensation. Dealing with emotional stressors by overemphasizing other activities or situations. For example, a physically unattractive adolescent starts weightlifting.
  • Denial. Dealing with emotional stressors by failing to recognize obvious implications or consequences of a thought, act, or situation. For example, a disabled person plans to return to former activities although it is evident it is virtually impossible.
  • Displacement. Dealing with emotional stressors by redirecting emotion from a 'dangerous' object to a 'safe' object. For example, a worker is angered by his superior but suppresses his anger; later, on return to his home, he punishes one of his children for misbehaviour that would usually be tolerated or ignored.
  • Humour. Dealing with emotional stressors by emphasizing the amusing or ironic aspects of the conflict or stressors. For example, a patient is laughing off the fact that physicians are unable to diagnose him with a specific disease.
  • Idealization. Dealing with emotional stressors by overestimating the desirable qualities and underestimating the limitations of a desired object. For example, a lover speaks in glowing terms of the beauty of an average-looking woman he has recently dated.
  • Intellectualization. Dealing with emotional stressors by excessive use of abstract thinking or complex explanations to control or minimize disturbing feelings. For example, a husband is constructing elaborate logical explanations for his wife's recent paranoid ideas.
  • Introjection. Dealing with emotional stressors by internalizing the values or characteristics of another person; usually someone who is significant to the individual in some way. For example, adopting the ideals of a charismatic leader in order to deal with feelings of one's own inadequacy.
  • Isolation. Dealing with emotional stressors by splitting-off of the emotional components from a difficult thought. The mechanism of isolation is commonly over utilized by people with obsessive compulsive personalities. For example, a medical student dissects a cadaver without being disturbed by thoughts of death.
  • Passive Aggression. Dealing with emotional stressors by indirectly and unassertively expressing aggression toward others. Main article: Passive-aggressive behavior.
  • Psychological Preemption. Preemption is a defense mechanism in which one wants something that the person doesn't feel hope of receiving at the present time and thus preemptively rejects what is wanted.
  • Projection. The opposite of introjection. Attributing one's own emotions or desires to an external object or person. For example, saying others hate you when it is you who hates the others.
  • Rationalization. Dealing with emotional stressors by inventing a socially acceptable or logical reason to justify an already taken unconscious emotional action. For example, becoming drunk and then after-the-fact saying that it was needed to 'take the edge off'."
  • Reaction formation. Dealing with emotional stressors by converting an uncomfortable feeling into its opposite. For example, a married woman who is disturbed by feeling attracted to another man treats him rudely.
  • Regression. Dealing with emotional stressors by returning to a less mature, anxiety reducing behaviour. For example, a high school girl who has had a very traumatic day at school curls up in a blanket and rocks herself to sleep.
  • Repression. Moving thoughts unacceptable to the ego into the unconscious, where they cannot be easily accessed.
  • Somatization. Dealing with emotional stressors by physical symptoms involving parts of the body innervated by the sympathetic and parasympathetic system. For example, a highly competitive and aggressive person, whose life situation requires that such behaviour be restricted, develops hypertension.
  • Splitting. When someone who can't cope with ambivalent feelings about others compartmentalizes those people as all good or all bad. For example, an actor believes that Scientologists are kind, noble, intelligent, and a source of inspiration. Meanwhile, he believes psychiatrists are evil, emotionless, and bent on turning people into zombies.
  • Sublimation. Dealing with emotional stressors by using the energy in other, usually constructive activities. For example, playing sports to relieve stress or anger.
  • Suppression. Dealing with emotional stressors by deferred dealing with the stressor. For example, a worker finds that he is letting thoughts about a date that evening interfere with his duties; he decides not to think about plans for the evening until he leaves work.
  • Undoing. Dealing with emotional stressors by negating a previous act or communication. For example, after having made a derogatory statement to his wife, a husband brings her a gift. Seen in obsessive compulsive disorder.

ReferencesEdit

Vaillant, G. E. Adaptation to Life, Little, Brown and Co., Boston, 1977.

External linksEdit

See alsoEdit

fr:Mécanisme de défense he:מנגנוני הגנה hu:Elhárító mechanizmusko:방어기제 nl:Afweermechanismeth:กลไกการป้องกันตนเอง

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