10 Facts on Psychological Defense Mechanisms

Sunday 11 September 2016 0 comments

10 Facts on Psychological Defense Mechanisms

Interesting Psychological Defense Mechanisms

10 Psychological Defense Mechanisms

Defense mechanisms are the brain’s way of keeping us safe from being fully aware of unpleasant thoughts and feelings. Sometimes, we can choose to use certain defense mechanisms like repression, denial and rationalization.  Below is a list of 10 of the most common defense mechanisms.

1. Displacement: The diversion of emotions, such as anger from the original source to a substitute target. For example, your friend says something hurtful, and instead of confronting your friend you later lash out at your sister.

2. Projection: The projection of one’s own feelings, thoughts, or motives onto someone else. For example, a person who is cheating is under the impression that their partner is cheating on them.

3. Rationalization: Developing false, though plausible excuses to justify irrational and/or unacceptable behavior. For example, stealing from a corporate chain store (such as Best Buy) and justifying the theft by saying “they make millions in profit, so it doesn’t matter”.

4. Reaction Formation: Behaving in a way opposite to how you feel. For example, when a person is romantically attracted to someone but adamantly claims that they dislike that someone.

5. Regression: Reverting to childlike patterns of behavior. For example, a student gets a bad grade on their test and screams and cries at their parents or teacher.

6. Repression/Denial: Pushing or burying thoughts and feelings that are distressing into the subconscious. For example, an addict will deny they have an addiction because they can function fine at work and at home. An example of repression would be a person who witnesses a crime being unable to remember the event.

7. Sublimation: The refocusing of unacceptable impulses, thoughts, and/or emotions into more acceptable ones. For example, a person who is experiencing aggressive impulses instead channels that energy into rigorous exercise.

8. Dissociation: The detachment from reality and from one’s self, and the finding of another representation of self to cope with extreme stress or conflict. A person who uses dissociation as a defense mechanism “disconnects” from reality and lives in their own world, in which they do not experience unbearable thoughts, feelings, or memories for a period of time.

9. Intellectualization: Overthinking and the misdirection of focus when confronted with unacceptable situations, behaviors, or impulses. For example, a person who has been told a close family member has died begins to focus on and overthinks the details of planning a funeral, etc., instead of expressing their grief.

10. Compensation: The counterbalancing of perceived flaws or weaknesses by instead emphasizing strengths. For example, a person says they can’t draw but they’re really good at dancing.

Note: Defense mechanisms 1 through 7 are also known as the 7 Major Freudian Defense Mechanisms.  Regression, Dissociation, Projection and Reaction Formation are primitive defense mechanisms; Displacement, Intellectualization and Rationalization are less primitive, more mature defense mechanisms; and Sublimation and Compensation are mature defense mechanisms. Though Repression and Denial have been grouped together in this list, Denial is a primitive defense mechanism and Repression is a less primitive, more mature defense mechanism.

Thank you for reading, please leave a comment letting me know your thoughts on this article.


Stangor, C. Introduction to Psychology (p. 340). Flat World Knowledge.

Grohol, J. (2013). 15 Common Defense Mechanisms. Psych Central. Retrieved from http://psychcentral.com/lib/15-common-defense-mechanisms/
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