• Entry
  • Reader's guide
  • Entries A-Z
  • Subject index

Defense mechanisms, an important construct in psychodynamic theory, are mental processes that operate outside of awareness so that the person does not realize that they influence his or her thinking. The function of the defense is to protect the person from consciously recognizing some event—either an external occurrence or an unacceptable internal thought or wish—which would cause anxiety or loss of self-esteem if recognized. The use of defense mechanisms is part of normal development. However, when defenses are used excessively or are age inappropriate, they may contribute to psychopathology.

As an example, when Johnny says, “Rick doesn’t like me,” whereas reality does not support this statement, it may well be that Johnny does not like Rick, but he attributes this negative feeling to Rick. This process ...

    • Loading...
    locked icon

    Sign in to access this content

    Get a 30 day FREE TRIAL

    • Watch videos from a variety of sources bringing classroom topics to life
    • Read modern, diverse business cases
    • Explore hundreds of books and reference titles