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Harv Rev Psychiatry. 2004 Sep-Oct;12(5):263-78.

Empirical studies of defense style: relationships with psychopathology and change.

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Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Montreal, Canada.


The Defense Style Questionnaire (DSQ) is a widely used self-report measure of empirically derived groupings of defense mechanisms ranked on an adaptive hierarchy. A review of published studies indicates strong evidence that adaptiveness of defense style correlates with mental health and that some diagnoses are correlated with specific defense patterns-for example, borderline personality disorder with greater use of both maladaptive and image-distorting defenses and less use of adaptive defenses. For other diagnoses, the pattern of defenses is less clear but often reinforces theoretical formulations. Defense styles become more adaptive with improvement in symptoms, but intermediate defenses tend to be stable (traitlike) over time. Defenses are sometimes predictive of the quality of the therapeutic alliance. Although one might speculate that assessment of defenses can be useful in planning treatment, there are no studies supporting this hypothesis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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