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Defense mechanisms in psychology are patterns of behavior to protect the ego from the feelings of anxiety or guilt. Defense mechanisms, such as denial and repression, are major concerns in addiction treatment, as they can interfere in the process of rehabilitation or lead to unsuspected adverse effects. The present paper examines two defense mechanisms and provides suggestions to mitigate their consequences.
Denial is a behavior that blocks awareness of external events due to the inability to process the information. This defense mechanism can be explicitly observed when people lose one of their relatives or close friends. In the field of addiction, the mechanism poses a significant problem, as many patients refuse to admit that they have a problem with substances or behavior (Pickard 278). Addicts reject the idea of them having issues with their behavior or health because it would require them to cope with it. However, patients may be unable to do so, as they often feel emotionally powerless to act in response to the problem. Therefore, this defense mechanism represents a considerable difficulty in the field of addiction treatment.
Overcoming denial is often the first step that therapists have to go through utilizing various strategies and interventions. The occurrence of the behavior can be often attributed to clients not choosing voluntarily to seek treatment (Pickard 285-286).
Addictions serve a purpose in people’s lives, and it may appear challenging for psychiatrists to make a person believe that his or her purpose causes problems. According to Pickard, one of the possible ways to mitigate the consequences of this defense mechanism is through visualization of implications (293). Addicts are prone to self-deception; therefore, a constant reminder through posters, photographs, or slogans can in some cases improve the situation greatly (Pickard 293). In short, even though denial can interfere with addictions treatment, there are efficient strategies to mitigate its effects.
The repression defense mechanism is also a problem that can be encountered while treating addicts. This phenomenon is characterized by unconscious thought suppression to keep disturbing or threatening ideas from becoming conscious (Moss et al. 65-66).
A single-parent child suppressing their thoughts about not having a father or a mother is a vivid example of repression. In addiction treatment, this phenomenon may pose critical problems, as patients, even not rejecting the fact that their behavior can cause them harm, may refuse to put enough effort into contemplating the thought (Moss et al. 66). This may result in counseling becoming ineffective, making a therapist put additional effort to overcome its effects.
Repression may appear in any part of the treatment process due to the complexity of the matter. Most often, such behavior can be observed in the early stages of treatment, sometimes following the denial period (Moss et al. 67). The strategy introduced for denial can also have a positive effect on the treatment process, as reminders will make it difficult for clients to suppress thoughts about the negative consequences of their behavior.
Defense mechanisms are crucial features of psychology, and their effects are natural and healthy. However, when they get out of proportion, they may cause considerable issues with a person’s health or behavior. In the addiction field, these mechanisms often interfere with the treatment process, making it difficult to perform therapy as planned. Even though the effects of defense mechanisms in addicts may be hazardous, there are efficient strategies to mitigate their consequences.
Moss, Antony C., et al. “To Suppress, Or Not to Suppress? That Is Repression: Controlling Intrusive Thoughts in Addictive Behaviour”. Addictive Behaviors, vol. 44, 2015, pp. 65-70. Web.
Pickard, Hanna. “Denial in Addiction”. Mind & Language, vol. 31, no. 3, 2016, pp. 277-299. Web.