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Denial vs. Repression — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Updated on September 22, 2023
Denial is the outright refusal to accept or acknowledge a certain reality, often as a psychological defense mechanism. Repression, on the other hand, involves subconsciously pushing distressing thoughts or memories out of awareness.
Denial vs. Repression — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Denial and Repression

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Key Differences

Denial is an active process of rejecting or disbelieving the reality of a situation or feeling. It functions as a conscious effort to manage emotional discomfort. Repression, in contrast, is less volitional and happens subconsciously to exclude distressing thoughts or memories from consciousness.
Fiza Rafique
Sep 22, 2023
In the context of psychological defense mechanisms, denial is often short-lived and pertains to immediate situations or feelings. Repression, conversely, can be long-term and often deals with deeply rooted memories or traumas.
Fiza Rafique
Sep 22, 2023
Denial usually involves a categorical rejection of external events or facts. Repression, however, generally involves inner thoughts, memories, or feelings that one finds too distressing to confront consciously.
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Sep 22, 2023
From a clinical standpoint, denial is generally easier to recognize and treat because it is a conscious action. Repression is often more complex to identify and address because it operates on a subconscious level.
Fiza Rafique
Sep 22, 2023
In terms of psychological theories, denial is widely discussed in various schools of thought, including psychoanalytic and cognitive theories. Repression is most commonly associated with Freudian psychoanalytic theory, which posits that repressed thoughts can manifest in various other forms like dreams or slips of the tongue.
Fiza Rafique
Sep 22, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Level of Awareness

Conscious
Subconscious
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Sep 22, 2023

Timeframe

Usually short-term
Often long-term
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Sep 22, 2023

Focus

External Events
Inner Thoughts
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Sep 22, 2023

Ease of Treatment

Easier
More Complex
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Theoretical Association

Various
Mostly Freudian
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Sep 22, 2023

Compare with Definitions

Denial

Rejection of reality.
His denial of the problem made it worse.
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Sep 22, 2023

Repression

Freudian psychological concept.
Repression is central to psychoanalysis.
Fiza Rafique
Sep 22, 2023

Denial

A conscious defense mechanism.
She was in denial about her addiction.
Fiza Rafique
Sep 22, 2023

Repression

Can manifest indirectly.
His repression led to unexplained anxiety.
Fiza Rafique
Sep 22, 2023

Denial

Disbelief in a situation.
His denial stemmed from shock.
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Sep 22, 2023

Repression

Subconscious exclusion.
His repression of memories was automatic.
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Sep 22, 2023

Denial

Refusal to accept facts.
Denial won't change the truth.
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Sep 22, 2023

Repression

Long-term defense mechanism.
She had years of repressed emotions.
Fiza Rafique
Sep 22, 2023

Denial

Emotional coping strategy.
Denial helped her temporarily avoid pain.
Fiza Rafique
Sep 22, 2023

Repression

The act of repressing or the state of being repressed.
Fiza Rafique
Sep 19, 2021

Denial

Denial, in ordinary English usage, is asserting that a statement or allegation is not true (which might be accurate or inaccurate). It may also mean the refusal of a request, but this article covers denial of true factual claims.
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Sep 19, 2021

Repression

(Psychology) The unconscious exclusion of painful impulses, desires, or fears from the conscious mind.
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Sep 19, 2021

Denial

A refusal to comply with or satisfy a request.
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Sep 19, 2021

Repression

The act of repressing; state of being repressed.
History shows that when governments fear the truth and increase repression, their days are limited.
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Sep 19, 2021

Denial

A refusal to grant the truth of a statement or allegation; a contradiction.
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Sep 19, 2021

Repression

The involuntary rejection from consciousness of painful or disagreeable ideas, memories, feelings, or impulses.
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Sep 19, 2021

Denial

(Law) The formal challenge by a defendant of the truth of an allegation made by the plaintiff.
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Sep 19, 2021

Repression

The act of repressing, or state of being repressed; as, the repression of evil and evil doers.
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Sep 19, 2021

Denial

A refusal to accept or believe something, such as a doctrine or belief.
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Sep 19, 2021

Repression

That which represses; check; restraint.
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Sep 19, 2021

Denial

(Psychology) An unconscious defense mechanism characterized by refusal to acknowledge painful realities, thoughts, or feelings.
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Sep 19, 2021

Repression

A state of forcible subjugation;
The long repression of Christian sects
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Sep 19, 2021

Denial

The act of disowning or disavowing; repudiation.
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Sep 19, 2021

Repression

(psychiatry) the classical defense mechanism that protects you from impulses or ideas that would cause anxiety by preventing them from becoming conscious
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Sep 19, 2021

Denial

Abstinence; self-denial.
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Sep 19, 2021

Repression

The act of repressing; control by holding down;
His goal was the repression of insolence
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Sep 19, 2021

Denial

An assertion of untruth.
The singer has issued a sweeping denial of all the rumors.
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Sep 19, 2021

Repression

Hidden from awareness.
The repression was so deep he was unaware.
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Sep 22, 2023

Denial

(logic) The negation in logic.
The denial of "There might be X" is the null, "False, there is no X."
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Sep 19, 2021

Denial

A refusal or failure to provide or grant something that is requested or desired.
The denial of medical treatment to those who cannot afford to pay is scandalous.
I cannot understand the bank's denial of my loan application.
Every time we asked for an interview we got a denial.
Fiza Rafique
Sep 19, 2021

Denial

Refusal to believe that a problem exists.
We couldn't break through his denial about being alcoholic.
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Sep 19, 2021

Denial

(psychology) A defense mechanism involving a refusal to accept the truth of a phenomenon or prospect.
He is in denial that he has a drinking problem.
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Sep 19, 2021

Denial

A disownment or disavowal
The denial of Jesus by Peter.
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Sep 19, 2021

Denial

The act of gainsaying, refusing, or disowning; negation; - the contrary of affirmation.
You ought to converse with so much sincerity that your bare affirmation or denial may be sufficient.
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Sep 19, 2021

Denial

A refusal to admit the truth of a statement, charge, imputation, etc.; assertion of the untruth of a thing stated or maintained; a contradiction.
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Sep 19, 2021

Denial

A refusal to grant; rejection of a request.
The commissioners, . . . to obtain from the king's subjects as much as they would willingly give, . . . had not to complain of many peremptory denials.
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Sep 19, 2021

Denial

A refusal to acknowledge; disclaimer of connection with; disavowal; - the contrary of confession; as, the denial of a fault charged on one; a denial of God.
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Sep 19, 2021

Denial

The act of refusing to comply (as with a request);
It resulted in a complete denial of his privileges
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Sep 19, 2021

Denial

The act of asserting that something alleged is not true
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Sep 19, 2021

Denial

(psychiatry) a defense mechanism that denies painful thoughts
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Sep 19, 2021

Denial

Renunciation of your own interests in favor of the interests of others
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Sep 19, 2021

Denial

A defendant's answer or plea denying the truth of the charges against him;
He gave evidence for the defense
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Sep 19, 2021

Common Curiosities

Is repression a defense mechanism?

Yes, it functions to keep distressing thoughts out of awareness.
Fiza Rafique
Sep 22, 2023

What is denial?

An active rejection or disbelief in a situation or fact.
Fiza Rafique
Sep 22, 2023

How do denial and repression differ?

Denial is conscious and usually short-term, while repression is subconscious and often long-term.
Fiza Rafique
Sep 22, 2023

Is denial a defense mechanism?

Yes, it serves to protect oneself from emotional discomfort.
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Sep 22, 2023

Is denial associated with any theories?

Yes, it is discussed in various psychological theories.
Fiza Rafique
Sep 22, 2023

Is repression Freudian?

Mostly, it's a central concept in Freudian psychoanalysis.
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Sep 22, 2023

Can repression focus on external events?

Less commonly, it usually involves inner thoughts or memories.
Fiza Rafique
Sep 22, 2023

How is denial recognized?

Through conscious statements or actions contradicting reality.
Fiza Rafique
Sep 22, 2023

What is repression?

A subconscious exclusion of distressing memories or thoughts.
Fiza Rafique
Sep 22, 2023

Is repression difficult to treat?

Often, because it operates subconsciously.
Fiza Rafique
Sep 22, 2023

How is repression recognized?

Often through symptoms like anxiety or during psychotherapy.
Fiza Rafique
Sep 22, 2023

Can repression have long-term effects?

Absolutely, it can lead to various psychological issues.
Fiza Rafique
Sep 22, 2023

Can denial focus on internal emotions?

Rarely, it usually pertains to external events or facts.
Fiza Rafique
Sep 22, 2023

Is denial easier to treat?

Generally, because it operates at a conscious level.
Fiza Rafique
Sep 22, 2023

Can denial have long-term effects?

Yes, if not addressed, it can lead to emotional stagnation.
Fiza Rafique
Sep 22, 2023

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at AskDifference.com, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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