defense mechanisms


Summary: Unconscious process used by an individual or a group of individuals in order to cope with impulses, feelings or ideas which are not acceptable at their conscious level; various types include reaction formation, projection and self reversal.

Top Publications

  1. Perry J, Bond M. Change in defense mechanisms during long-term dynamic psychotherapy and five-year outcome. Am J Psychiatry. 2012;169:916-25 pubmed publisher
    Research suggests that defense mechanisms may underlie other aspects of functioning and psychiatric symptoms...
  2. Hyphantis T, Taunay T, Macedo D, Soeiro de Souza M, Bisol L, Fountoulakis K, et al. Affective temperaments and ego defense mechanisms associated with somatic symptom severity in a large sample. J Affect Disord. 2013;150:481-9 pubmed publisher
    ..temperaments may represent heritable subclinical manifestations of mood disorders, and the concept of ego defense mechanisms has also provided a model for the comprehension of psychopathology...
  3. Agich G. Defense mechanisms in ethics consultation. HEC Forum. 2011;23:269-79 pubmed publisher
    ..can play an important interpretive role in clinical ethics consultation and why attention to the role of defense mechanisms can be helpful...
  4. Johansen P, Krebs T, Svartberg M, Stiles T, Holen A. Change in defense mechanisms during short-term dynamic and cognitive therapy in patients with cluster C personality disorders. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2011;199:712-5 pubmed publisher
    ..Video recordings of a pretreatment interview and therapy session 36 were evaluated using the Defense Mechanisms Rating Scales. Symptom distress was measured using the revised version of Symptom Checklist-90...
  5. Bond M, Perry J. Long-term changes in defense styles with psychodynamic psychotherapy for depressive, anxiety, and personality disorders. Am J Psychiatry. 2004;161:1665-71 pubmed
    ..Defense styles became more adaptive and symptoms improved over time in patients who started with scores in the clinical range. Change in defense style predicts symptomatic change, but causation has not been established. ..
  6. Blaya C, Kipper L, Heldt E, Isolan L, Ceitlin L, Bond M, et al. [Brazilian-Portuguese version of the Defense Style Questionnaire (DSQ-40) for defense mechanisms measure: a preliminary study]. Rev Bras Psiquiatr. 2004;26:255-8 pubmed
    ..The adaptation of DSQ-40 by different individuals and the group of experts enabled the necessary adjustment to the Brazilian socio-cultural reality. ..
  7. Sandstrom M, Cramer P. Defense mechanisms and psychological adjustment in childhood. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2003;191:487-95 pubmed
    ..b>Defense mechanisms were measured using a valid and reliable storytelling task, and psychological adjustment was assessed ..
  8. Kessels L, Ruiter R, Jansma B. Increased attention but more efficient disengagement: neuroscientific evidence for defensive processing of threatening health information. Health Psychol. 2010;29:346-54 pubmed publisher
    ..The findings provide the first neuroscientific support for the hypothesis that threatening health information causes more efficient disengagement among those for whom the health threat is self-relevant. ..
  9. Wolf E, Mori D. Avoidant coping as a predictor of mortality in veterans with end-stage renal disease. Health Psychol. 2009;28:330-7 pubmed publisher
    ..Active coping did not predict mortality. Results demonstrate the importance of assessing coping style in this population; clinical implications of these findings and possible mechanisms of this effect are discussed. ..

More Information


  1. Drapeau M, de Roten Y, Perry J, Despland J. A study of stability and change in defense mechanisms during a brief psychodynamic investigation. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2003;191:496-502 pubmed
    ..Future studies will need to use designs that allow estimation of state changes while taking sufficient measurements to estimate potential changes in trait levels of defenses. ..
  2. Gana K, K Delant P. The effects of temperament, character, and defense mechanisms on grief severity among the elderly. J Affect Disord. 2011;128:128-34 pubmed publisher
    ..Also, according to Cloninger's character cube (Cloninger, 2004), high SD and ST scores, and low CO scores are indicative of a fanatical character. ..
  3. Brown S, Locker E. Defensive responses to an emotive anti-alcohol message. Psychol Health. 2009;24:517-28 pubmed publisher
    ..These findings suggest that emotive images might trigger defensive avoidance responses that reduce risk estimates in some audience sub-populations. ..
  4. Zanarini M, Weingeroff J, Frankenburg F. Defense mechanisms associated with borderline personality disorder. J Pers Disord. 2009;23:113-21 pubmed publisher
    ..They also had significantly higher scores than axis II comparison subjects on eight of the 19 defense mechanisms studied...
  5. Blaya C, Dornelles M, Blaya R, Kipper L, Heldt E, Isolan L, et al. Do defense mechanisms vary according to the psychiatric disorder?. Rev Bras Psiquiatr. 2006;28:179-83 pubmed
    The aim of this study was to evaluate the defense mechanisms used by depressive and anxious patients without comorbidities compared to those used by controls and to determine whether these patterns differ between diagnoses...
  6. Pompili M, Rinaldi G, Lester D, Girardi P, Ruberto A, Tatarelli R. Hopelessness and suicide risk emerge in psychiatric nurses suffering from burnout and using specific defense mechanisms. Arch Psychiatr Nurs. 2006;20:135-43 pubmed
    ..medicine/rehabilitation, and critical care/surgery wards to explore the correlations of level of burnout and defense mechanisms with hopelessness...
  7. Soultanian C, Dardennes R, Mouchabac S, Guelfi J. [Standardized and clinical evaluation of defense mechanisms: a critical review of 6 quantitative tools]. Can J Psychiatry. 2005;50:792-801 pubmed
    The defense mechanisms (DM) concept goes back to the foundation of psychoanalysis and is one of its theoretical cornerstones...
  8. Hovanesian S, Isakov I, Cervellione K. Defense mechanisms and suicide risk in major depression. Arch Suicide Res. 2009;13:74-86 pubmed publisher
    ..The need to identify predictors that can be targets of therapy is of great importance. Coping styles and defense mechanisms have now been linked to suicide in numerous reports...
  9. Biernbaum M, Ruscio M. Differences between matched heterosexual and non-heterosexual college students on defense mechanisms and psychopathological symptoms. J Homosex. 2004;48:125-41 pubmed
    Differences between heterosexual and non-heterosexual college students on measures of defense mechanisms and psychopathological symptoms were examined...
  10. Northoff G, Bermpohl F, Schoeneich F, Boeker H. How does our brain constitute defense mechanisms? First-person neuroscience and psychoanalysis. Psychother Psychosom. 2007;76:141-53 pubmed
    ..between neuroscience and psychoanalysis, the neuronal processes underlying psychoanalytic constructs such as defense mechanisms remain unclear...
  11. Regan A, Howard R, Oyebode J. Emotional exhaustion and defense mechanisms in intensive therapy unit nurses. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2009;197:330-6 pubmed publisher
    ..According to psychoanalytic theory, unconscious defense mechanisms may protect nurses from conscious awareness of work-related anxiety...
  12. Chabrol H, Leichsenring F. Borderline personality organization and psychopathic traits in nonclinical adolescents: relationships of identity diffusion, primitive defense mechanisms and reality testing with callousness and impulsivity traits. Bull Menninger Clin. 2006;70:160-70 pubmed
    ..Significant correlations were found between the BPI scales of identity diffusion, primitive defense mechanisms, impaired reality testing, and psychopathic traits of callousness and impulsivity, suggesting that BPO may ..
  13. Zeigler Hill V. Discrepancies between implicit and explicit self-esteem: implications for narcissism and self-esteem instability. J Pers. 2006;74:119-44 pubmed
    ..Second, participants with high explicit self-esteem and high implicit self-esteem displayed the most stable self-esteem. Findings are discussed in terms of secure and fragile high self-esteem. ..
  14. Kipper L, Blaya C, Teruchkin B, Heldt E, Isolan L, Mezzomo K, et al. Evaluation of defense mechanisms in adult patients with panic disorder: before and after treatment. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2005;193:619-24 pubmed
    Patients with acute panic disorder (PD) use a more maladaptive pattern of defense mechanisms. This study investigated the use of defense mechanisms by patients with acute symptomatic PD and those in complete remission...
  15. Kipper L, Blaya C, Teruchkin B, Heldt E, Isolan L, Mezzomo K, et al. Brazilian patients with panic disorder: the use of defense mechanisms and their association with severity. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2004;192:58-64 pubmed
    This study aims to evaluate the defense mechanisms most frequently used by Brazilian patients with panic disorder when compared with a control group...
  16. Dorahy M, Clearwater K. Shame and guilt in men exposed to childhood sexual abuse: a qualitative investigation. J Child Sex Abus. 2012;21:155-75 pubmed publisher
    ..Results are discussed with reference to the existing literature and the emerging "self-as-shame" construct, which appeared to encapsulate participants' view of themselves. ..
  17. Mendelsohn R. Parallel process and projective identification in psychoanalytic supervision. Psychoanal Rev. 2012;99:297-314 pubmed publisher
    ..I further suggest that while every parallel process does not lead to an enactment via projective identification, enactments can only occur via the parallel process instigated by projective identification. ..
  18. Tesovnik T, Cizelj I, Zorc M, Čitar M, Bozic J, Glavan G, et al. Immune related gene expression in worker honey bee (Apis mellifera carnica) pupae exposed to neonicotinoid thiamethoxam and Varroa mites (Varroa destructor). PLoS ONE. 2017;12:e0187079 pubmed publisher
    ..Larval ingestion of certain pesticides could have effects on honey bee immune defense mechanisms, development and metabolic pathways...
  19. Reach G. [Non-adherence to therapy in type 2 diabetes]. Presse Med. 2013;42:886-92 pubmed publisher
    ..It represents a general problem, concerning any chronic disease and which reflects new medical paradigms. The ambition to want "to improve adherence" requires a discussion from an ethical point of view. ..
  20. Renninger S. Clinical application of meta-concepts that are essential to client change. Psychotherapy (Chic). 2013;50:302-6 pubmed publisher
    ..Each concept is described. Clinical and research support is provided. Therapist and client dialogue is used to illustrate each concept. ..
  21. Weiss K, Curcio Alexander J. Sex, lies, and statistics: inferences from the child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome. J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 2013;41:412-20 pubmed
    ..We review the parameters of expert testimony and its admissibility in this area, concluding that statistics about CSAAS should not be used to draw inferences about the victim's credibility or the defendant's guilt. ..
  22. Dohrenbusch R. [Psychological aspects of "reasonable efforts" for the prediction of mental disorder-related disability]. Versicherungsmedizin. 2013;65:185-90 pubmed
  23. Probst T, Jiang L. Mitigating Physiological Responses to Layoff Threat: An Experimental Test of the Efficacy of Two Coping Interventions. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2016;13: pubmed publisher
    ..Results suggest organizations conducting layoffs might focus first on dealing with the emotional aftermath of downsizing before focusing on problem-solving tasks, such as resume writing and other traditional outplacement activities. ..
  24. Kumnig M, Schratz S, Geier N, Smrekar U, König P, Schneeberger S, et al. [The influence of relationship dynamics on the psychosocial outcome of genetically related and unrelated living kidney donor-recipient pairs]. Z Psychosom Med Psychother. 2012;58:84-91 pubmed
    ..In addition to general clinical parameters, especially motivational and relationship dynamics should be evaluated in the pre- and postoperative clinical psychological assessment of potential donors and recipients of LKD. ..
  25. Anderson K, Mounts N. Searching for the self: an identity control theory approach to triggers of occupational exploration. J Genet Psychol. 2012;173:90-111 pubmed
    ..Low certainty predicted exploration of additional occupational areas, whereas high importance predicted exploration of self, environment, and additional occupational areas. ..
  26. Putwain D, Symes W. Teachers' use of fear appeals in the mathematics classroom: worrying or motivating students?. Br J Educ Psychol. 2011;81:456-74 pubmed publisher
    ..CONCLUSION. Fear appeals appear to have competing positive and negative outcomes, resulting in both anxiety and a fear of failure, and a mastery-approach goal. ..
  27. Porcerelli J, Cogan R, Markova T, Miller K, Mickens L. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition Defensive Functioning Scale: a validity study. Compr Psychiatry. 2011;52:225-30 pubmed publisher
    ..and ten women from a university-based urban primary care clinic completed a research interview from which defense mechanisms were assessed. The quality of object relations was also assessed from interview data...
  28. Lancefield K, Raudino A, Downs J, Laurens K. Trajectories of childhood internalizing and externalizing psychopathology and psychotic-like experiences in adolescence: A prospective population-based cohort study. Dev Psychopathol. 2016;28:527-36 pubmed publisher
    ..While for many individuals symptoms and illness remit during development without intervention, this study provides important insights regarding potential targets and timing for delivery of early intervention and prevention programs. ..
  29. Fossataro C, Sambo C, Garbarini F, Iannetti G. Interpersonal interactions and empathy modulate perception of threat and defensive responses. Sci Rep. 2016;6:19353 pubmed publisher
    ..These results indicate that interpersonal interactions shape perception of threat and defensive responses. These effects are particularly evident in individuals with greater tendency to having empathic concern to other people. ..
  30. Costa R, Brody S. Anxious and avoidant attachment, vibrator use, anal sex, and impaired vaginal orgasm. J Sex Med. 2011;8:2493-500 pubmed publisher
  31. Nasim R, Nadan Y. Couples therapy with childhood sexual abuse survivors (CSA) and their partners: establishing a context for witnessing. Fam Process. 2013;52:368-77 pubmed publisher
  32. Tsai M, Callaghan G, Kohlenberg R. The use of awareness, courage, therapeutic love, and behavioral interpretation in Functional Analytic Psychotherapy. Psychotherapy (Chic). 2013;50:366-370 pubmed publisher
  33. Lavoie J. Eye of the beholder: perceived stress, coping style, and coping effectiveness among discharged psychiatric patients. Arch Psychiatr Nurs. 2013;27:185-90 pubmed publisher
    ..Contrary to hypotheses, avoidance coping styles was unrelated to outcomes. ..
  34. Kunst M. Mental health problems and satisfaction with amount of state compensation for intentional violent crime victimization in the Netherlands. Community Ment Health J. 2012;48:527-34 pubmed publisher
    ..Results remained unchanged after adjusting for potential confounding. Findings were discussed in light of study limitations and directions for future research. ..
  35. Stalder D. Investigation of the two-factor model for the English version of the need for closure scale. Psychol Rep. 2012;110:598-606 pubmed
    ..Roets and Van Hiel's proposed modification to make the Need for Closure Scale a single-factor scale was also discussed. ..
  36. Perry J, Presniak M, Olson T. Defense mechanisms in schizotypal, borderline, antisocial, and narcissistic personality disorders. Psychiatry. 2013;76:32-52 pubmed publisher
    Numerous authors have theorized that defense mechanisms play a role in personality disorders...
  37. Verreault M, Sabourin S, Lussier Y, Normandin L, Clarkin J. Assessment of personality organization in couple relationships: factorial structure of the inventory of personality organization and incremental validity over neuroticism. J Pers Assess. 2013;95:85-95 pubmed publisher
    ..Furthermore, high self-reported utilization of primitive defenses predicted low couple satisfaction. ..
  38. Presniak M, Olson T, Porcerelli J, Dauphin V. Changes in defensive functioning in a case of avoidant personality disorder. Psychotherapy (Chic). 2010;47:134-9 pubmed publisher
    ..Defense mechanism use was assessed by 3 coders using the Defense Mechanisms Rating Scales...
  39. Fleury G, Fortin Langelier B, Ben Cheikh I. The Cardiac Rhythm of the Unconscious in a Case of Panic Disorder. Am J Psychother. 2016;70:277-300 pubmed
    ..Findings are discussed integrating developmental neurobiology and clinical psychodynamics. ..
  40. Baumgartner E, Laghi F. Affective responses to movie posters: differences between adolescents and young adults. Int J Psychol. 2012;47:154-60 pubmed publisher
  41. Gyekye S. Occupational safety management: the role of causal attribution. Int J Psychol. 2010;45:405-16 pubmed publisher
    ..The paper touches on the need for unbiased causal analyses, belief in the preventability of accidents, and the imperative role of management in occupational safety management. ..
  42. McLaren S. The Interrelations Between Internalized Homophobia, Depressive Symptoms, and Suicidal Ideation Among Australian Gay Men, Lesbians, and Bisexual Women. J Homosex. 2016;63:156-68 pubmed publisher
    ..The findings imply that clinicians should focus on reducing internalized homophobia and depressive symptoms among gay men and lesbians, and depressive symptoms among bisexual women, to reduce suicidal ideation. ..
  43. Rogers R. Conceptualizing death in a worldview consistent, meaningful way and its effects on worldview defense. Death Stud. 2011;35:107-23 pubmed
    ..The implications of conceptualizing death meaningfully are discussed. ..
  44. Schanche E, Stiles T, McCullough L, Svartberg M, Nielsen G. The relationship between activating affects, inhibitory affects, and self-compassion in patients with Cluster C personality disorders. Psychotherapy (Chic). 2011;48:293-303 pubmed publisher
  45. Papp B, Láng A. [Teachers' knowledge about suicide and its connection to burn-out and avoidant coping]. Psychiatr Hung. 2013;28:229-38 pubmed
  46. Gorelik G, Shackelford T. Human sexual conflict from molecules to culture. Evol Psychol. 2011;9:564-87 pubmed
    ..By extending the biological concept of sexual conflict into social and cultural domains, scholars may successfully bridge many of the interdisciplinary gaps that separate the sciences from the humanities. ..
  47. Kranz D. Young men's coping with androgenetic alopecia: acceptance counts when hair gets thinner. Body Image. 2011;8:343-8 pubmed publisher
    ..Taken together, this study underlines the adaptive role of acceptance when confronted with irreversible changes such as androgenetic alopecia. ..
  48. Melinder A, Baugerud G, Ovenstad K, Goodman G. Children's memories of removal: a test of attachment theory. J Trauma Stress. 2013;26:125-33 pubmed publisher
    ..16, and fewer hits to direct questions, R(2) = .27). The findings indicate that attachment theory provides important guidance for understanding children's autobiographical memory for traumatic events. ..
  49. Ferguson N, Kamble S. The role of revenge, denial, and terrorism distress in restoring just world beliefs: the impact of the 2008 Mumbai attacks on British and Indian students. J Soc Psychol. 2012;152:687-96 pubmed
    ..These results indicate the important role just world beliefs play in responding to the threat created by mass casualty terrorist attacks. The implications for just world theory are also discussed. ..
  50. Santamaría M, Martinez M, Cambra I, Grbic V, Diaz I. Understanding plant defence responses against herbivore attacks: an essential first step towards the development of sustainable resistance against pests. Transgenic Res. 2013;22:697-708 pubmed publisher
    ..A cornerstone of this understanding is the use of transgenic tools to unravel the complex networks that control these interactions. ..
  51. Brody S, Carson C. Brief report: self-harm is associated with immature defense mechanisms but not substance use in a nonclinical Scottish adolescent sample. J Adolesc. 2012;35:765-7 pubmed publisher
    ..Style Questionnaire; DSQ-40) revealed that a history of DSH was associated with more use of immature defense mechanisms by not with substance use or recent alcohol use...
  52. White E, Warren C. Body checking and avoidance in ethnically diverse female college students. Body Image. 2013;10:583-90 pubmed publisher
    ..These associations suggest that body checking and avoidance are not benign behaviors in diverse nonclinical women. ..
  53. Iverson K, Litwack S, Pineles S, Suvak M, Vaughn R, Resick P. Predictors of intimate partner violence revictimization: the relative impact of distinct PTSD symptoms, dissociation, and coping strategies. J Trauma Stress. 2013;26:102-10 pubmed publisher
    ..30 decrease in the likelihood of Time 2 physical IPV with one SD increase in engagement coping). The current findings suggest that coping strategies are important and potentially malleable predictors of physical IPV revictimization. ..