What Is a Defensive Personality?

A defensive personality is associated with a person who uses defense mechanisms, such as denial, rationalization, projection, repression, and reaction formations to avoid unpleasant tasks or interactions. An individual with a defensive personality is often unable to actively listen to others while chronically preparing a defense strategy.

Denial is one of the primary characteristics of a defensive personality. Denial occurs when a person refuses to recognize or admit that something has occurred. Defensive personalities typically use denial to cope with pain and anxiety or avoid situations completely.

An individual with a defensive personality may also be controlled by repressed thoughts that affect actions and behaviors. Repression keeps information away from a person's conscious awareness; however, the repressed memory still affects decisions and actions. For example, a person who has suffered abuse in childhood may experience challenges with trust and forming relationships.

Displacement is also a common characteristic of a defensive personality. Displacement involves taking out frustrations on those who are not involved and less threatening. For example, a person with a defensive personality who has had a challenging day at work may not stand up to an employer but rather take out frustrations on an innocent family member when returning home.