Not all types of anxiety are created equal. Nor do these anxieties stem from the same sources. Freud identified three types of anxiety:
- Neurotic anxiety is the unconscious worry that we will lose control of the id’s urges, resulting in punishment for inappropriate behavior.
- Reality anxiety is fear of real-world events. The cause of this anxiety is usually easily identified. For example, a person might fear receiving a dog bite when they are near a menacing dog. The most common way of reducing this anxiety is to avoid the threatening object.
- Moral anxiety involves a fear of violating our own moral principles.3
Although we may knowingly use these mechanisms, in many cases these defenses work unconsciously to distort reality. For example, if you are faced with a particularly unpleasant task, your mind may choose to forget your responsibility in order to avoid the dreaded assignment. In addition to forgetting, other defense mechanisms include rationalization, denial, repression, projection, rejection, and reaction formation.