A defensive reaction consisting of retreat from threatening situations and, in its pathological form, retreat from reality as a whole.There are many types and degrees of withdrawal. The most primitive is probably the tendency to withdraw the hand or foot from a painful physical stimulus. Physical withdrawal and flight constitute one of the basic responses to stress and frustration, paralleling the tendency to attack and to find substitute satisfactions or compromises. These reactions are shared with animals, but the human being also develops psychological forms of withdrawal of many kinds. He may refuse to become “involved.” He may become apathetic or resigned. He may lower his level of aspiration, or simplify his life to avoid problems. He may react to defeat or failure by curtailing his efforts or by inhibiting his impulses and desires as much as possible.Withdrawal is an attempt to escape dangerous and frustrating situations through retreat or surrender. It is usually carried out at considerable psychological expense, since the individual is likely to become more fearful and frustrated than ever. In addition, he may become prey to feelings of guilt for having given up, or be consumed with hostility toward others as a reaction to frustration.Withdrawal is often classed among the defense mechanisms, and as such is considered a basically normal type of reaction. However, it may take exaggerated and morbid form. One type of pathological reaction is withdrawal or “flight” into illness, the tendency to take to one’s bed and develop hypochondriacal complaints. Another and more malignant type is the schizophrenic’s tendency to withdraw from the whole of reality. This reaction generally begins with a loss of interest in people and events accompanied by detachment, apathy, uncommunicativeness, and disinterest in school or work, (PLATE 8) If this tendency is not arrested it may progress to a full retreat into an autistic world of fantasy and, in some cases, to infantile behavior, a vegetative state, or even stupor or coma.

Cite this page: N., Sam M.S., "WITHDRAWAL," in PsychologyDictionary.org, November 28, 2018, https://psychologydictionary.org/withdrawal/ (accessed August 10, 2022).


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