Psychological Defense Mechanisms May Be Holding You Back from Treatment

Woman tilting face up

When entering a new stage of life – any stage or phase – it’s challenging. You may not know what you’re doing. You don’t know what to expect. All that you know is that you’re trying your best. This is what really matters. But many times, we hold ourselves back. We tell ourselves reasons of why we don’t deserve good things, reasons of how we’re not going to succeed and ways that we will fail. It’s natural to feel afraid, embarrassed, worried, upset and more when it comes to recovery. Whether you’re trying to recover from an addiction or mental illness, the hard work is all the same. However, you may have been telling yourself reasons why you don’t need recovery, how it won’t work or why you won’t succeed – all of which are psychological defense mechanisms.

A 2015 study published in the journal Clinical Neuropsychiatry sought to explore defense mechanisms in participants with substance use disorders (SUDs). Fifty eight individuals with an SUD and 73 members of the community were involved in the study; all of them were evaluated for emotion regulation. Results from the study showed an interesting cycle that was occurring amongst participants with SUDs:

  1. Individuals with SUDs were limited in their access to tools they could use to help regulate their emotions if they were experiencing emotions that were unpleasant, such as anger, depression, guilt, and more.
  2. The link between having an SUD and experiencing negative emotions were using mature defense mechanisms such as using humor to lessen the intensity of the emotion or taking the energy from a bad experience and using it to propel them into a healthier, more positive situation.
  3. The more difficult it was for participants with SUDs to access these types of mature defense mechanisms, the more they responded with more primitive defense mechanisms, such as engaging in denial (refusing to accept reality), regression (retreating to an earlier development stage socially, emotionally, or behaviorally), projection (putting thoughts or feelings onto others), dissociation (disconnecting with reality), and more.

If you’ve been engaging in any primitive defense mechanisms such as described in number three, you may be lacking the resources that you need to handle unsettling emotions in a healthier, more effective way. Speak with someone from a reputable treatment center to learn more about programs that could work best for you, depending on your needs.

Simple Recovery is a world-renowned, California state-licensed substance abuse recovery center. We offer dual diagnosis treatment, so if you are experiencing both substance abuse and symptoms of a mental disorder, call us today at 888-743-0490 so that we can work with you to restore your happiness, health, and well-being. You do not have to continue living this way; there are many people here ready to help you.