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5 Common Defense Mechanisms for Self Preservation

If you or a loved one are seeking treatment for alcohol or substance abuse, please call our partner facility today:
The PAC Program
(866) 516-8266


Human nature, by default, wants to protect a person from any harm and shield an individual from painful realities. In recovery, defense mechanisms are used to hide the true self and try to prevent others from breaking down barriers to get close. Defenses help people hide from facing the real motivations behind behavior. Learning to identify defense mechanisms is one of the first steps to working towards healing in recovery from addiction.

If you or someone you care about needs help, call our Arizona rehabilitation center today to discuss your options.

Common Defense Mechanisms

  • Withdrawing
    To avoid confrontation, an individual may withdraw and remain quiet to avoid engagement with others. Isolation can be detrimental to recovery as it propels a person further inward rather than seeking contact outward. It can have devastating consequences over the long term when it comes to seeking help if the person is avoidant and scared of seeking support from the outside world
  • Manipulation
    When an individual seeks to use others for personal gain, this is manipulation. It may be subtle or more obvious but the problem remains that a person who manipulates others will push away loved ones who want to help by seeking to control an environment or other people for personal advantage.
  • Silliness
    An individual may laugh or joke to cover up true feelings and hard situations. Depending on the person’s personality, this may be focused on sarcasm, wit, humor or outright joking around. The main goal is to distract people from what is really going on inside a person’s mind, heart and life. When everyone is distracted, it is easier to ignore the true reality of addiction and how it is ravaging a person’s life and the lives of family and friends.
  • Rationalizing
    A person who rationalizes is going to explain away feelings or behaviors as perfectly reasonable when, in fact, those behaviors may be harming that person or others. Addictive behaviors are often rationalized away by saying it is not so bad, it isn’t hurting anyone else or is ‘just a drink’ here or there. The reality may, in fact, be very different and possibly only obvious to others and not the individual themselves.
  • Denial
    Refusal to accept the obvious truth can keep people inside addiction for quite a long time. It is difficult to break down the barriers of denial but it is possible to find hope through the support of loved ones who see what is going on and continue to find ways of helping the individual get better.

A reality check is the best way to see if defense mechanisms are getting in the way of seeking help for addiction. Look at what feelings or thoughts are being avoided. Seek to put down defenses and take responsibility for personal thoughts and behaviors. Be willing to become vulnerable in order to stay emotionally healthy in recovery now and for long-term recovery.

Getting Emotionally Healthy Again

The PAC Program provides supportive services for adults throughout Arizona. If your loved one is struggling with addiction or trauma, call us to find out how we can help you get him or her back on their feet.