Updated: 8/27/2020

Ego Defenses

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Topic
Overview
  • Unconscious processes that prevent undesirable feelings (such as anxiety or depression)
Immature Defenses (More Primitive)
  • Acting out
    • use actions to express unacceptable feelings and thoughts
      • tantrums
  • Dissociation
    • temporary drastic change in behavior
    • extreme forms can result in dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality disorder)
  • Denial
    • avoidance of awareness of some painful reality
      • initially refusing to believe a diagnosis of AIDS or cancer
  • Displacement  
    • taking feelings out on a neutral 3rd party
      • fight with wife → yell at dog
  • Fixation
    • "stuck" in an earlier developmental stage
      • Freud's "oral fixation"
  • Fantasy
    • substituting an imaginary, less disturbing view of the world when the actual reality is difficult or painful
  • Identification
    • imitating behavior (good or bad) of a more powerful person
      • abused child becomes abusive parent later in life
  • Isolation of affect
    • separation of emotion from events or ideas
      • describing murder in graphic detail without emotional response
  • Passive aggression
    • expression of angry feelings in a non-confrontational way
  • Projection
    • attributing unacceptable internal feelings to an external source 
      • Philandering husband claims his wife is cheating
  • Rationalization
    • making excuses to avoid the real reason for actions or to avoid self-blame
      • claiming that grades are not important anyway after failing a test
  • Reaction formation
    • replacing an unwanted idea or feeling with its opposite ("an equal and opposite reaction")
      • a patient with hypersexual thoughts becomes a nun
  • Regression
    • reversion to more childlike behavior
      • particularly seen in children under stress (illness, punishment, birth of new sibling, or fatigue)
      • e.g. toilet trained child wets the bed while he is hospitalized
  • Repression
    • involuntary withholding of bad thoughts from consciousness
  • Splitting
    • belief that people are either all good or all bad
      • resident is mean but the medical student is warm and caring
    • seen in borderline personality disorder
Mature Defenses (Less Primitive)
  • Altruism
    • alleviating guilt through charity and generosity
      • e.g. criminal donates to church
  • Humor
    • appreciating the humor in a situation to relieve stress
      • joke about your licensing exams
  • Sublimation 
    • replacing an unacceptable action with a more acceptable action
      • aggressive personality is redirected toward a successful military career
  • Suppression 
    • voluntary withholding of an idea or feeling from consciousness

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Questions (16)
Evidence (18)
VIDEOS & PODCASTS (1)
EXPERT COMMENTS (24)
Private Note