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Defense Mechanism

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Updated May 26, 2009

Definition:

A defense mechanism is a strategy used to cover up or change unconscious desires and wishes that may be inappropriate or difficult to express.

In psychodynamic psychotherapy for PTSD, bringing about change in symptoms or behavior requires getting in touch with and "working through" those painful unconscious feelings. To do this, a therapist will assist the patient in recognizing the defense mechanisms being used, what they are being used for (to avoid painful feelings in the unconscious mind stemming from a traumatic experience) and connecting with and appropriately releasing those feelings and thoughts that were previously being avoided.

Examples:
Common defense mechanisms include disavowal and displacement.

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