Defence Mechanism

Defence mechanism and mental mechanisms are terms used to describe the unconscious attempt to obtain relief from emotional conflict or anxiety. Coping mechanisms include both conscious and unconscious ways of adjusting to environmental stress. Such mechanisms are supposedly in action by age ten and are used as follows:

  • 👉To resolve a mental conflict
  • 👉 To reduce anxiety or fear
  • 👉To protect one's self esteem
  • 👉 To protect one's sense of security.

✔️Repression: -

This is an involuntary rejection of ideas. unconscious thoughts, feelings and memories that are painful (automatic forgetting): for example, the inability to remember the reason for an argument or recall feelings of fear following an automobile accident.

✔️Suppression: -

This is the voluntary act of pushing unacceptable feelings out of one’s consciousness. This mechanism is generally used to protect one's self-esteem.

A deliberate intentional exclusion from the conscious mind is referred to as voluntary forgetting “I had rather not talk about it right now “Let us talk about my accident later” etc.

✔️Rationalization: -

This is the most common ego defence mechanism. It is used to justify ideas, actions or feelings by providing good, acceptable reasons and explanations. It is used to maintain self-respect, prevent guilt feelings, and obtain social approval or acceptance: for example, a teenage girl who was not asked to the junior prom might tell her friend someone really wanted to date her but felt sorry for Sue and took her to the prom instead.

✔️Identification (the imitator): -

This is an unconscious adoption of some of the characteristics of another person.

✔️Displacement: -

This is a mechanism that serves to transfer feelings such as frustration, hostility, or anxiety from one idea, person, or object to another: for example, a person might disagree at his boss but instead picks a fight with his wife or his children when he is back at home.


This is the act of ‘making up ‘for a real or imagined inability or deficiency with a specific behaviour to maintain self -respect or self- esteem: for example, a short girl may become the manager of the girls basketball team because she is not tall enough to qualify for the team, or an unattractive man may select expensive, stylish cloths to draw attention to himself or an unattractive woman may dress like a fashion plate to attract attention.

✔️Projection: -

This is often termed as the ‘escaping goat’ defence mechanism. The person rejects unwanted characteristics of her or himself and assigns them to others. He/she may blame others for faults, feelings, or shortcomings that are unacceptable to self. Examples would be: a man who is late for work states, “my wife forget to get the alarm last night so I overslept” or after spilling a glass of milk while playing cards with a friend, a 10-year- old tells his mother, “my brother made me spill the milk. He told me to hurry up and play.”

✔️Regression: -

This involves returning to past level of behaviour to reduce anxiety, allow one to feel more comfortable and permit dependency: for example, a 5 year old boy who previously was toilet trained and who becomes incontinent when his mother gives birth for a new baby in order to get attention like a newly born baby.


 This is the transferring of a mental conflict in to a physical symptom to release tension or anxiety. Examples would be an elderly woman who experiences sudden blindness after witnessing a robbery or a middle-aged who man develops paralysis of his lower extremities after he learns that his wife has terminal cancer.

✔️Undoing or restitution: -

This is the negation of a previous consciously intolerable action or experience to reduce or alleviate feelings of guilt. An example would be a young man sends flowers to his fiancée after he embraced her friend at a cocktail party.


This is the unconscious refusal to face thoughts, feeling, wishes, needs or reality factors that are intolerable: for example, a student who is persistently 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 a person who has just been admitted to a mental hospital states “I am really not sick, I am just in here to get a rest”


This is defined as the replacement of consciously unacceptable emotions, drives, attitudes, or needs by those that are more acceptable or it is the act of finding another goal when one is blocked: for example, a student nurse in a baccalaureate program who decides she is unable to master the clinical competencies and elects to become a laboratory technician is using the mechanism of substitution.