Case-control study of defense styles and state-trait anxiety among college students with general anxiety disorder

Document Type : Research Paper


MS.c. in clinical psychology


The relation between defense mechanisms and anxiety has been shown in scientific texts. Considering epidemiology of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), this study investigated the correlation between defense styles and trait-state anxiety among university students afflicted
with GAD.
Materials and Methods: The participants included 30 university students afflicted with GAD and 30 normal ones with the age range of 19 to 27 years old (15 male and 15 female in each group). The subjects, selected via convenient sampling method, were matched with each other in terms of demographical variables. All subjects met the inclusion criteria by answering to structured clinical interview (SCID-CV) and general health questionnaire (GHQ-28). Information questionnaire groups completed defense style questionnaire (DSQ-40) and Spielberger state-trait anxiety inventory (STAI). To analyze data, descriptive statistics, independent t-test, Pearson’s correlation coefficient, and analysis of variance were employed.
Results: An indication of a significant difference in utilization of mature defense mechanism was observed by normal versus GAD students (P<0.032). The normal students used the defense mechanisms of humor (P<0.048), denial (P<0.034), suppression (P<0.035), dissociation (P<0.040), and rationalization (P<0.0005) more significantly; the GAD students used projection (P<0.002) and somatization (P<0.001) more significantly. There were significant negative correlations between the scores of general health level as well as state-trait anxiety with mature defense mechanisms. The results showed a poor support for the correlation between immature defense mechanisms and state-trait anxiety; no correlation was observed between neurotic defense style and state-trait anxiety.
Conclusion: People with a good level of general health and a low score on state-trait anxiety tend to use mature defense mechanisms more significantly. Furthermore, using humor and projection defense mechanisms by normal students support the findings of this study.