Reality Testing: The ego’s capacity to distinguish what is occurring in one’s own mind from what is occurring in the external world. It is perhaps the single most important ego function because it is necessary for negotiating with the outside world. One must be able to perceive and understand stimuli accurately. Reality testing is often subject to temporary, mild distortion or deterioration under stressful conditions. Such impairment can result in temporary delusions and hallucination and is generally selective, clustering along specific, psychodynamic lines. Chronic deficiencies suggest either psychotic or organic interference.
Impulse Control: The ability to manage aggressive and/or libidinal wishes without immediate discharge through behavior or symptoms. Problems with impulse control are common; for example: road rage; sexual promiscuity; excessive drug and alcohol use; and binge eating.
Affect Regulation: The ability to modulate feelings without being overwhelmed.
Judgment: The capacity to act responsibly. This process includes identifying possible courses of action, anticipating and evaluating likely consequences, and making decisions as to what is appropriate in certain circumstances.
Object Relations: The capacity for mutually satisfying relationship. The individual can perceive himself and others as whole objects with three dimensional qualities.
Thought Processes: The ability to have logical, coherent, and abstract thoughts. In stressful situations, thought processes can become disorganized. The presence of chronic or severe problems in conceptual thinking is frequently associated with schizophrenia and manic episodes.
Defensive Functioning: A defense is an unconscious attempt to protect the individual from some powerful identity-threatening feeling. Initial defenses develop in infancy and involve the boundary between the self and the outer world; they are considered primitive defenses and include projection, denial, and splitting. As the child grows up, more sophisticated defenses that deal with internal boundaries such as those between ego and super ego or the id develop; these defenses include repression, regression, displacement, and reaction formation. All adults have, and use, primitive defenses, but most people also have more mature ways of coping with reality and anxiety.
Synthesis: The synthetic function is the ego’s capacity to organize and unify other functions within the personality. It enables the individual to think, feel, and act in a coherent manner. It includes the capacity to integrate potentially contradictory experiences, ideas, and feelings; for example, a child loves his or her mother yet also has angry feelings toward her at times. The ability to synthesize these feelings is a pivotal developmental achievement.