All About Defence Mechanisms

    "When I Was Younger, I Started Using Humor As A Defense Mechanism." a dialogue said by Chandler from the most famous sit-com show named F.R.I.E.N.D.S. This dialogue in the show made us laugh but in reality, it is heartbreaking.

"Defence mechanisms are behaviours that people use to distance themselves from unpleasant events, actions, or thoughts." These psychological strategies may assist people in separating themselves from threats or unwanted feelings such as guilt or shame. The concept of defence mechanism derives from Freud's psychoanalytic theory, a psychological view of personality that sees personality as the interaction of three components: id, ego, and superego.

Defence mechanisms, according to Freudian theory, involve a distortion of reality in some way to help us cope with a particular situation. People use defence mechanisms to deal with emotional and mental threats, and stressful situations, avoid pain, and take mental breaks to adjust to life changes.

Sigmund Freud (1894, 1896) identified several ego defences that he references throughout his writings. His daughter Anna Freud (1936) expanded on these ideas and added ten of her own. Many psychoanalysts have added new types of ego defences to the list.


  1. Denial: When you refuse to accept reality or facts, you are in denial. If a situation becomes too much for a person to handle, he or she may respond by refusing to perceive it or denying that it exists. In other words, you avoid unpleasant emotions or events.For example, an alcoholic may refuse to acknowledge that alcohol is harmful to one's health

  2. Repression: Repression is an unconscious defence mechanism used by the ego to prevent disturbing or threatening thoughts from becoming conscious.For example, a child who was abused by a parent may have no recollection of the events but has difficulty forming relationships.

  3. Projection:The process of displacing one's feelings onto another person, animal, or object is known as projection. The term is most commonly used to describe defensive projection, which is the act of attributing one's unacceptable urges to another person.For example, if a wife is attracted to a male coworker but is unable to admit her feelings when her husband mentions a female coworker, the wife becomes jealous and accuses the husband of being attracted to the other woman.

  4. Displacement: A defence mechanism in which a person redirects an emotional reaction from the rightful recipient to another person or object. Displacement occurs when the Id desires to do something that the Superego forbids. The Ego, therefore, seeks another way to release the psychic energy of the Id. As a result, energy is transferred from a repressed object-cathexis to a more acceptable object. For instance, if a manager yells at an employee, the employee does not yell back, but he may yell at his spouse later that night.

  5. Regression:Regression is a defence mechanism in which a person copes with stressful or anxiety-provoking relationships or situations by regressing to a previous developmental stage. Some people who are threatened or anxious may "escape" to an earlier stage of development unconsciously. This type of defence mechanism is likely to be most visible in young children. They may act like their younger self again if they have experienced trauma or loss. They may even start peeing in their bed or sucking their thumb.For example, someone going through a difficult breakup who isn't usually fixated on the oral stage may suddenly discover that eating brings them comfort.

  6. Rationalization: Rationalization is a defence mechanism that consists of explaining an unacceptable behaviour or feeling rationally or logically while avoiding the true reasons for the behaviour.A person who is turned down for a date, for example, may rationalise the situation by claiming that they were not attracted to the other person in the first place.

  7. Reaction Formation: Reaction formation is a defence mechanism in which a person unconsciously replaces an unwanted or anxiety-inducing impulse with its polar opposite often in an exaggerated or showy manner.

According to Freud, they are using reaction formation as a defence mechanism to conceal their true feelings by acting oppositely.For example, consider a young boy who bullies a young girl because he is subconsciously attracted to her.


  1. Start observing your behaviour
  2. Realise when is this defensive behaviour occurs in what kind of situation
  3. Think when in a triggering situation
  4. Control stressful situation
  5. Come up with an opposite reaction mechanism


Remember that defence mechanisms can be both beneficial and detrimental. Defence mechanisms aren't inherently bad, they could help people deal with difficult situations or channel their energy productively. They become problematic when used in excess or for an extended period. Depending on the circumstances and frequency with which the mechanism is used, it may have either healthy or unhealthy consequences. Throughout their lives, healthy people typically employ a variety of defence mechanisms.


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