Defense mechanisms are psychological strategies that are unconsciously used to protect a person from anxiety arising from unacceptable thoughts or feelings.
In Freudian psychology, defense mechanisms were understood to be strategies by which individuals cope with reality and the anxiety that may accompany various types of challenges to the ego or self. When anxiety occurs, the mind first responds by an increase in problem-solving thinking, seeking rational ways of escaping the situation. If this is not fruitful, a range of defense mechanisms may be triggered.
All defense mechanisms seem to share two common properties – they often appear unconsciously, and they tend to distort, transform, or otherwise falsify reality. In distorting reality, there is a change in perception which allows for a lessening of anxiety, with a corresponding reduction in felt tension.
Freud's Defense Mechanisms include:
Denial: claiming/believing that what is true to be actually false. See also denial.
Displacement: redirecting emotions to a substitute target.
Intellectualization: taking an objective viewpoint.
Projection: attributing uncomfortable feelings to others.
Rationalization: creating false but credible justifications.
Reaction Formation: overreacting in the opposite way to the fear.
Regression: going back to acting as a child.
Repression: pushing uncomfortable thoughts into the subconscious.
Sublimation: redirecting 'wrong' urges into socially acceptable actions.