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Regression (defence mechanism)

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Regression is a defense mechanism in psychoanalysis,in which a person adopts an immature way of feeling , acting or thinking, in order to reduce their anxiety. In this sense the emphasis is on the defensive function of the response to protect the internal ego state.


Regression is defined in the APA Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms as "a return to earlier, especially to infantile, patterns of thoughts or behavior, or stage of functioning."

The term was first outlined by Freud in The Interpretation of Dreams in 1900.

Later work distinguished:

  • Libidinal regression which is a return to an earlier Psychosexual stages of development, particularly if there was a fixation at that stage.
  • Ego regression which is when an adult acts in a childlike manner under stress. This is in line with the more general definition of regression

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