Encyclopedia of Critical Psychology

2014 Edition
| Editors: Thomas Teo

Defense Mechanisms

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-5583-7_70


While the idea of defensive behavior, as in “defensive-aggressive,” stems from animal and comparative psychology, the term “defense mechanism” was coined by Sigmund Freud. Defenses are set in motion by anxiety. Depending on theoretical emphasis, they are regarded more as a sign of neurotic or psychotic anxiety and/or playing a part in normal development. The idea of defense mechanism reflects the conflictual, part-hidden, non-unitary, and dynamic basis of subjectivity that is the hallmark of all versions of psychoanalysis, emphases which make it a vital conceptual resource for critical psychology.


Sigmund Freud defined “defense mechanism” as “a general designation for all the techniques which the ego makes use of in conflicts which may lead to neurosis” (Freud, 1926[1925], p. 153). Anna Freud (1937) listed nine defenses, some of which have fallen out of use: regression, repression, reaction-formation, isolation, undoing, projection, introjection, turning...

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyThe Open UniversityMilton KeynesUK