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What Is The Difference Between Suppression And Repression? (Answered)

What Is The Difference Between Suppression And Repression? (Answered)

The scientific study of the human mind and its processes, particularly those that influence conduct in a particular situation, is known as psychology.

Similarly, every human has a defense system that enables us to lessen the detrimental effects of the stressful stimuli we come across.

Most people interchangeably utilize the psychological defense mechanisms of repression and suppression because they are unaware of how they differ from one another.

Suppression, another form of defense, is frequently mixed up with repression. In contrast to repression, which involves unintentionally stifling undesirable thoughts or urges, suppression is fully voluntary. Repression is the purposeful attempt to ignore or avoid thinking about unpleasant or unwelcome thoughts.

Keep reading to know more about how repression and suppression work, alongside its impact, and relevant examples to understand these terms better.

What Is A Defense Mechanism?

There are more or less 8 billion people living in this universe; each individual deals with a different set of emotions, feelings, thoughts, events, actions, etc., and copes with unpleasant ones in varying manners. This is where defense mechanisms come into play.

In simple words, a defense mechanism comprises mental processes that assist the mind in reaching compromising solutions to disputes that it is unable to resolve and/or internal conflicts it is incapable of pacifying.

There are numerous forms of defense mechanisms, a few of the primitive defense mechanisms are listed and briefly explained below.

DenialJustifying behaviors by providing acceptable reasonsEven after she saw her daughter’s dead body, the nurse denied the news of her death.
RationalizationShe has cheated on her husband thrice because she suspects that he has an extramarital affair.A nominee who did not get awarded claims that he did not want to be recognized in the first place.
ProjectionDeliberately blocking inappropriate impulses; may be present in someone who has invasive thoughts about a traumatic event.Justifying behaviors by providing acceptable reasons
DisplacementProjecting unacceptable urges or actions onto a less intimidating targetShe is angry at her father but does not express it and instead physically abuses her younger sister.
RegressionAn individual adopts prior levels of psycho-social development.He gets into an argument with a colleague at work and starts crying uncontrollably.
SuppressionSub-consciously blocking inappropriate impulses; may happen to someone who has no recollection of a traumatic eventShe wanted to talk back but suppressed the urge to remain respectful to her boss.
RepressionDeliberately blocking inappropriate impulses but may be present in someone who has invasive thoughts about a traumatic eventShe is not able to recall abuse in her childhood but is unable to trust people as a result of the unaddressed trauma.
The different forms of defense mechanisms, along with some examples.

Talking about suppression and repression, both of these defense mechanisms have umpteen similarities but can prominently be differentiated. Let’s dive deeper into both.

What Is Suppression?

Suppression is completely voluntary. It is when one willingly pushes unwanted thoughts, feelings, emotions, urges, etc. out of alert awareness so that they’re not present in one’s thought process anymore.

In layman’s language, it would mean that the thought disappears out of nowhere but this isn’t as easy as it sounds.

A series of experiments were conducted where people were asked not to think about a white bear, even though thinking about a white bear happens extremely rarely, it happened more often since they were told not to. This showed that suppression is a very difficult task.

Impacts Of Suppression

Anxiety is a common symptom of untreated suppression.

Suppression has physiological impacts on the body and can psychologically and physically be detrimental. 

When suppression is short-term, it doesn’t cause much damage but continual suppression can lead to anxiety, depression, and other illnesses.

Repeated suppression can escalate sympathetic nervous system activity which can have unhealthy consequences.

It also leads to passive aggressiveness in an individual and in terms of physical impacts, can induce stress-associated cardiovascular activity. Additionally, it has been discovered that active suppression actually makes unwelcome thoughts more likely to occur.

Example Of Suppression

There might be numerous incidents when an individual deliberately tries to stop thinking about something because he or she is afraid he or she might end up doing it.

Suppression can take various forms, such as holding down your rage in response to a coworker’s offensive remark.

To prevent responding and eliminate the concept from your mind, you could utilize techniques like deep breathing or counting to 10, avoiding thinking about chocolate cake while on a slimming diet, suppressing feelings of jealousy so as not to create a fuss, or suppressing the urge to express romantic feelings because of a fear of rejection, etc.

The aforementioned scenarios and so many more are examples of suppression.

What Is Repression?

Repression is natural and involuntary. It is when one naturally inhibits unwanted and unpleasant impulses, feelings, etc.

It happens when a certain feeling is too painful for an individual, he or she pushes it elsewhere in his or her brain unconsciously and forgets about its existence.

In order to know about the impacts of suppression and repression, continue reading.

Impacts Of Repression

Stomach pain
Repression can be severe when remained untreated and can result in a loss of appetite through rapid cramps.

If repression is prolonged, it can lead to severe anxiety, discontentment, unhappiness, hyper-vigilance, and irritability.

Physical impacts can involve bodily pain upon seeing whatever caused the trauma, neck aches from the repressed memory or memories as well as constipation from unconscious resisting or holding in.

Physical manifestations can also include the following:

  • Muscular spasms and discomfort
  • Nauseousness and stomach issues
  • Changes in appetite
  • Issues with sleep and exhaustion

To better understand both of the defense mechanisms, let’s review some examples.

Examples Of Repression

The following examples can vividly explain what repression is. When a parent abuses a child, the child suppresses the memories and grows up fully oblivious of what happened.

This person may still struggle to develop relationships as a result of the repressed memories of abuse.

An adult who was once bitten by a spider during childhood could develop a severe phobia of spiders as an adult without ever remembering the incident. He or she might not be aware of the origins of the phobia because the memory of the spider bite is repressed.

Difference Between Suppression And Repression

Both of these concepts are quite similar but the following differences will help them become crystal clear and will draw a line between both.

We can get rid of unwelcome ideas or feelings by repressing them. In contrast to suppression, repression involves burying feelings or thoughts so deeply that the person loses awareness of or is unable to recall them.

Consciously held-back emotions are those that are suppressed. It can occasionally be a successful tactic that enables people to deal with emotion at a more suitable time.

Unconsciously avoided emotions are those that are repressed. Before a person has a chance to process them, they frequently vanish from the conscious consciousness.

Emotional repression may be more common in people who were raised in homes where their emotions were shamed or punished.

Suppression vs. Repression

How To Deal With Suppression?

Writing your thought onto a piece of paper can help reduce overthinking, and bring you at peace for a while.

Some ways via which suppression can be dealt with are as follows:

  • Write about your emotions: According to research, expressing your emotions through writing can help you deal with them more swiftly and effectively.
  • Adopt acceptance: Accepting feelings may facilitate a quicker reduction in unpleasant emotional reactions. Acceptance might be essential for reducing anxiety or panic.
  • Consider cognitive reappraisal: In studies on emotion control, reappraisal is frequently compared to suppression as the most efficient tactic. Simply put, reappraisal entails examining your situation in a way that lowers or raises your emotions. Thinking about the situation’s possible benefits or how appreciative you are that it isn’t worse will help you achieve this.
  • Think about non-cognitive strategies: Psychology frequently focuses on the cognitive strategies we might employ to alter our experiences, or how to alter our thinking. However, some argue that behavioral tactics might be just as, if not more, successful. Exercise vigorously, for instance, if you’re having trouble dealing with certain bad ideas or feelings.

The mind appears to be more easily distracted when your body and brain are forced to divert resources elsewhere (in order to complete the workout). Spending time with friends or engaging in a pleasurable pastime are examples of non-cognitive techniques.

Negative emotions can frequently be reversed by increasing happy feelings, which aids in the self-resolution of these emotions. Additionally, various relaxation methods could be beneficial.

How To Deal With Repression?

It is important to be emotionally expressive. On an individual level, you can follow the following tactics:

  • What do you feel like right now? If you initially find it difficult to express your emotions verbally, try doing it in a journal or piece of art using words or colors. Even a song that suits your mood can be found.
  • Employ “I” statements. Use expressions like “I feel confused” to practice expressing your emotions. I am anxious. I’m afraid.
  • Concentrate on the good. Positive emotions may initially appear simpler to identify and accept, and that’s fine. Small stages help in the process of becoming more at ease with all of your emotions.
  • Get rid of your bias. No matter what emotion you’re experiencing, try not to criticize or convince yourself that you shouldn’t feel that way. Instead, look for a cause for the feeling.
  • Make it a habit to share emotions with your loved ones and encourage them to reciprocate.

Examples Of Physicological Action

In Relationships

Relationships should be built with patience and trust.

How we form our closest relationships also depends on psychology and our understanding of human behavior.

Researchers have found that having healthy relationships can have a significant impact on both your physical and emotional health, just like eating well and quitting smoking can.

In reality, studies have shown that, compared to other children, those who grow up in stable homes with supportive families are happier as they age.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill claim that oxytocin’s impact on the brain causes spouses to view their relationships through “rose-colored glasses” and with a more upbeat perspective.

In the Workplace

Workplace relationships should always be based on good deeds and happy thoughts.

Navigating the process of asking for a raise is one of the most difficult job situations.

It’s critical to be organized in order to maximize your chances of success and boost your confidence. Recency bias and other psychological concepts can be useful in this.

Recency bias is the tendency for people to remember events that had place more recently over those that took place in the distant past.

Make a list of your accomplishments, compliments, and significant achievements over a lengthy period of time and specify them in detail. As a result, the manager will be reminded that you deserve more, which will help to counteract any potential recency bias.


  • As humans, we are constantly exposed to both good and negative stimuli. As a result, the severity of the unfavorable stimuli we encounter can directly impact our mental health.
  • We have certain defense systems in place to prevent this; repression and suppression are two examples. But there is also a distinction between repression and suppression.
  • While suppression refers to forcibly or consciously suppressing certain desires or upsetting memories etc. in a person, repression refers to the unconscious subduing of ideas, memories, etc.

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