Post RN BScN, MSPH
DEFENSE MECHANISM OR MENTAL
At the end of this lesson you will be able to:
o Define defense mechanisms
o State the different defense mechanisms.
o Methods of attempting to protect the self and
cope with basic drives or emotionally painful
thoughts, feelings, or events.
o Defense mechanisms are used to reduce anxiety
or resolved conflict by modifying or changing our
o All Defense Mechanisms are Unconscious
(except Suppression), distinct, Dynamic &
Irreversible, Adaptive & Maladaptive
Highly adaptive (mature)
o Displacement, Intellectualization, Isolation of
Affect, Rationalization, Reaction Formation
o Acting out, Denial (deletion from consciousness),
Projection & Splitting
Purposes of defense
1. Resolve a mental conflict
2. Reduce anxiety or fear
3. Protect one's self esteem
4. Protect one's sense of security
Types of Defense Mechanisms
Regression Undoing or restitution
Suppression Reaction formation
Introjection Fantasy /Daydreaming:
Compensation also called
Projection Acting out
o Defense mechanism by which unacceptable thoughts,
feelings, and impulses are automatically pushed into
the unconscious, out of awareness
o Excluding emotionally painful or anxiety-provoking
thoughts and feelings from conscious awareness
Example: Sexually abused as a child blocks the
experience from her consciousness and is confused
about inability to respond sexually.
Woman has no memory of the bag-snatch she suffered
Woman has no memory before age 7, when she was
removed from abusive parents.
Using childlike ways for expressing emotions.
o Crying, name calling, throwing things,
o Five-year-old asks for a bottle when new baby
brother is being fed.
o Willingly or voluntarily putting unacceptable
thoughts or feelings out of one’s mind with the
ability to recall the thoughts or feelings at will.
o Example: Voluntary forgetfulness or “I rather not
talk about it, right now!”
o Example: A nurse working in the ward and there
is a sick child at home but she keeps it out of
mind until she finishes her duty time
The unconscious separation of painful feelings and
emotions from an unacceptable idea, situation, or
Example: A woman raped found wandering a
o A conscious or unconscious attempt to model
oneself after a respected person such as a parent
o Example: without being aware that he is copying
o Attributing to oneself the good qualities of
another. Incorporate feelings & emotions, values
& beliefs, traits and personality.
o Example: a little boy tells his younger sister to let
him hold her hand as his mother used to hold her
hand while crossing the road.
o Redirecting bad or unacceptable
behavior/emotions into positive behavior.
o Example: We sublimate the desire to fight into the
ritualistic activities of formal competition.
o Wife who is angry enough to hot husband goes
around scrubbing and cleaning the whole house.
o also called substitution: It involves trying to make
up for feelings of inadequacy or frustration in one
area by excelling or overusing in another.
o Example: An adolescent takes up jogging
because he failed to make the swimming team.
o “I am not good at football so I will try the swim
o Example: An unattractive girl became a very good
o Unconsciously used to justify ideas, actions
and/or feelings with good acceptable reasons or
explanation. Irrational/illogical excuses to escape
o Example: Student fails an exam, blames it on the
o Blame other people or things for failure
o Example: “It’s my psychiatric teacher’s fault I
failed the test”
o Person rejects unwanted characteristics of self
and assigns them to others.
Example: man who was late for work blames wife
for not setting the alarm clock.
o The transfer of negative emotions from one
person or thing to an unrelated person or thing.
o Mechanism that serves to transfer feelings such
as frustration, aggression or anxiety from one
idea, person or object to another
o Example: Shouting at a subordinate after being
shouted at by the boss.
Undoing or restitution
o Doing something to counteract or make up for a
misbehavior or wrongdoing
o Example: Sending flowers after embarrassing her
o expressing emotions that are the exact opposite
of what ones feel. Mask anger/hate with
kindness. Teasing/bothering someone you like.
o Example: Man who dislikes his mother in low is
very polite towards her.
o Using only logical explanations without feelings or
an affective component
o Example: person who does not want close to the
women emotionally give intellectual explanation
for lack of involvement of getting close to a
o failure to accept reality.
o This is not happening. It can’t happen to me.”
o This is the unconscious refusal to face thoughts,
feeling, wishes, needs or reality factors that are
o Example: a student who is determinedly late for a
scheduled class because that student is actually very
fearful of the topic, so he/she expresses the fear by
being absent from the class, or
o A person who has just been admitted to a mental
hospital states “I am really not sick, I am just in here
o Escaping from an unpleasant situation by using
o Living in a fantasy world
o This refers to imagined events or mental images
to express unconscious ideas, conflict, gratify
unconscious wishes, or prepare for anticipated
o Defense mechanisms are used to reduce
o Defense mechanisms not a very effective way to
deal with stress.
Defense mechanisms are Highly adaptive
(mature),Less adaptive, Primitive (immature)
involuntary coping mechanisms.
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