Psychological Defense Mechanisms and Psychopathology

Psychological Defense Mechanisms and Psychopathology
Defense mechanisms are in place in animals to protect them from threats in the environment. However, in humans, too much attention to perceived threat stimuli can result in mental disorders such as anxiety disorders and depressive illness. Perceived threats are processed through areas of the brain designed for fast action, which can result in overreaction. Defense mechanisms can be triggered so quickly that they take precedence over conscious thinking. Defense behaviors can be active-energized, such as fight or flight, or passive inhibited, such as passive avoidance.
One example of this is social phobia, which is related to avoidance. If a person perceives a social situation or some element of it as threatening, he or she may avoid social situations altogether and hence misses the opportunity to derive the benefits that can result from positive social interaction, such as making new friends or meeting potential romantic partners.
Another way to deal with perceived threats is the attackfirst strategy, in which a person feels threatened and deals with the situation by attacking the person (or animal)first. In humans this can lead to bullying, the purpose of which is to express a sufficient amount of aggression so that potential challengers will not choose to make a challenge. Another way that this could be handled is through the forming of social alliances, which a person would not be able to do if he or she had trouble as mentioned in the preceding paragraph. The origins of social threat originate from the attempts of people to meet biosocial needs, i.e. seeking sexual partners, forming alliances, and acquisition of resources.

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