Document Type



Biological and Biomedical Sciences


Background: Ego defense mechanisms (or factors), defined by Freud as unconscious resources used by the ego to reduce conflict between the id and superego, are a reflection of how an individual deals with conflict and stress. This study assesses the prevalence of various ego defense mechanisms employed by medical students of Karachi, which is a group with higher stress levels than the general population. Methods: A questionnaire based cross-sectional study was conducted on 682 students from five major medical colleges of Karachi over 4 weeks in November 2006. Ego defense mechanisms were assessed using the Defense Style Questionnaire (DSQ-40) individually and as grouped under Mature, Immature, and Neurotic factors. Results: Lower mean scores of Immature defense mechanisms (4.78) were identified than those for Neurotic (5.62) and Mature (5.60) mechanisms among medical students of Karachi. Immature mechanisms were more commonly employed by males whereas females employed more Neurotic mechanisms than males. Neurotic and Immature defenses were significantly more prevalent in first and second year students. Mature mechanisms were significantly higher in students enrolled in Government colleges than Private institutions (p < 0.05). Conclusions: Immature defense mechanisms were less commonly employed than Neurotic and Mature mechanisms among medical students of Karachi. The greater employment of Neurotic defenses may reflect greater stress levels than the general population. Employment of these mechanisms was associated with female gender, enrollment in a private medical college, and students enrolled in the first 2 years of medical school.

Publication (Name of Journal)

BMC Psychiatry