Common Defense Mechanisms Used for Anxiety

According to Freud, the super situation is the ego that wants to avoid anxiety. At that time, defense mechanisms come as a savior to save the ego from these unwanted feelings. A defense mechanism is a sudden reaction developed by the ego as a safeguard to protect the mind from anxiety. In his psychoanalytic theory, Freud discussed that defense mechanisms save our minds from thoughts we do not want to cope with or deal with.

What is Defense Mechanism?

The defense mechanism protects the conscious mind from unwanted thoughts. According to Freud ego, which deals with resolution and maintaining a balance between id and superego, faces difficulty and conflicting thoughts. Providing a shield to the ego defense mechanisms saves it from id and superego.

Different Kinds of Anxiety

Freud had identified mainly three types of anxiety against whom defense mechanisms reacted.

  • Reality Anxiety − A person may have panic or phobia about some real object he faces daily. In this case, he may have a strong feeling to avoid that particular object. This type of anxiety is easily identifiable.

  • Moral Anxiety − We social creatures are bound to have moral principles. A person may also be threatened by violating these principles, which can be a source of anxiety.

  • Neurotic Anxiety − The anxiety the person develops about losing control of oneself. In this type of anxiety, the person feels anxious about being dominated by it. The fear is that it may result in unwanted behavior.

We use defense mechanisms in most cases consciously, but sometimes it blurs the reality unconsciously to save the ego from destruction. Forgetting about unpleasant work can be the best example of a defense mechanism. Defense mechanisms are, of course, healthy to live a balanced life. However, excessive use of it can create problems, and because of it, the person may be considered an escapist who always tries to avoid dealing with problems.

According to Freud, defense mechanisms provide a healthier way to drain anxiety and cope with reality. Anna Freud, daughter of Sigmund Freud, has widely classified ten types of defense mechanisms used by the ego.

Ten Types of Defense Mechanisms

These are −

  • Repression and Suppression − If a person has a memory of abuse in childhood, repression may appear as a defense mechanism. Repression works to keep some memories away from the mind consciously. However, these memories are not erased and leave a mark on our reactions. Contrarily, sometimes we force some information away from our conscious mind. However, it may continuously present in the unconscious mind and provoke anxiety. Such kinds of defense mechanisms are classified as Suppression.

  • Displacemen − In this defense mechanism, a person pours out all the frustrations and anxieties on other objects or persons who are less threatening. In some cases, anxiety or impulses cannot be shown in the proper situation. In such conditions, displacement works to drain out the frustrations through a safer gateway. For example, a person cannot argue with his boss and shows anger later, perhaps on family members or friends.

  • Sublimation − If the person cannot drain his anger on other objects, defense mechanisms convert it into more acceptable forms. Freud considers it a mature behavior that is not an escape but accepted socially. For example, a person can drive out his anger through kickboxing.

  • Denial − Denial is one of the most common and well−known defense mechanisms. In this case, the person does not want to face unwanted situations and avoids them by denying or refusing. However, denial cannot permanently protect the ego from coping with the situation and only saves it from sudden anxiety or problems. Furthermore, requires a large amount of energy investment. Denial can also happen if the person decreases the importance of any situation but not denying it directly. Addiction is a well-known example of denial.

  • Intellectualization − Intellectualization is another well−accepted defense mechanism. In this case, the person analyses it intellectually despite getting anxious about a sudden situation. Thinking critically helps reduce panic, and stressful innocence cannot dominate the mind anymore.

  • Regression − According to Anna Freud, in the regression stage, people stop repeating fixed techniques and try to revert the patterns to eliminate anxiety. According to her, in this stage, people act out of the stage of psychosexual development where their actions are fixed. Their behavior in regression depends on the stage in which they are fixed.

  • Projection − Projection as a defense mechanism works to invert certain feelings on others. It suppresses unwanted desires or impulses but does it cleverly so that ego cannot identify them. For instance, if a person has a feeling of dislike for another, he may project that the other person does not like him. In this way, it avoids reality and reduces anxiety.

  • Reaction Formation − Reaction Formation projects the opposite feeling instead of what the person feels about a particular situation. Freud says that it is an erasing reality to avoid unpleasant behavior. For example, if a person does not like somebody, he may appear extremely friendly.

  • Rationalization − Rationalization is subverting a negative behavior by explaining logically and rationally. A reflection of self−esteem can also be found in this type of defense mechanism.

  • Miscellaneous Defense Mechanisms − There are some other types of defense mechanisms to reduce anxiety. They can be classified as affiliation, avoidance, passive aggression, fantasy, compensation, undoing, etc.

Increase of Defense Mechanism During Covid 19

Covid−19 has impacted the mental and physical health of people all over the world. Along it comes depression, repulsion, and anxiety. With the increase, people tend to avoid reality by using defense mechanisms consciously or unconsciously, and it helps them survive in these unwanted situations.


Defense mechanisms are sometimes considered negative reactions, and it does not erase the anxiety and is a partial getaway for temporary stress relief. In other words, it is based on momentary importance. However, balance use of defense mechanisms helps to create an equilibrium in life to blur anxiety−related disorders.