Because of anxiety provoking demands created by the id, superego, and reality, the ego has developed a number of defense mechanisms to cope with anxiety. Although we may knowingly use these mechanisms, in many cases these defenses work unconsciously to distort reality.
While all defense mechanisms can be unhealthy, they can also be adaptive and allow us to function normally. The greatest problems arise when defense mechanisms are overused in order to avoid dealing with problems. In psychoanalytic therapy, the goal may be to help the client uncover these unconscious defense mechanisms and find better, more healthy ways of coping with anxiety and distress.
Researchers have described a wide variety of different defense mechanisms. Sigmund Freud's daughter, Anna Freud described ten different defense mechanisms used by the ego.
Follow the links below to read more about each type of defense mechanism as well as other defense mechanisms described by psychologists.