People react to situations and events and how they adapt to these circumstances is exhibited to their behavior. While adaptive behavior is used to adjust to situation, the opposite of this is maladaptive behavior. The latter interferes with a person’s activities and life or his or her ability to adapt on different settings.
Maladaptive behavior can range from minor to severe behaviors that can either be tolerable and safe or be harmful to an individual and the people around him or her. This behavioral type is often impairing in nature that intervention is called for in most situations. Moreover, it is commonly associated with autism spectrum disorders which can lead to self-injurious behaviors.
There are five main types of maladaptive behavior connected to people with autism spectrum disorder, namely: ritualistic, self-injurious, tantrum, aggressive and stereotypical.
- Ritualistic behavior is a person’s attempt to balance or control an action or practice that is in itself already controllable but becomes compulsions such as washing of hands repeatedly or checking the if all the doors and windows are locked before going to bed but several times.
- Self-injurious behavior is a movement or action that can result to self-harm. These usually occur when the person is upset, anxious and angry. Some of these actions include head banging, hand scratching and self-biting.
- Tantrum behavior can be a result of two or more maladaptive behavior that stems from anxiety, anger and frustration. These behaviors are screaming, crying, throwing things and injuring oneself.
- Aggressive behavior is an action that shows acts of violence that can be are result of anxiety, frustration and anger. These include biting, throwing things, slapping, hitting, shouting and pushing.
- Stereotypical behavior is an action of a person that is done repeatedly because the senses of the person are stimulated and internal pleasure is felt. This is also due to the release of endorphins that can result to pleasure. These movements can be sniffing, rocking, pacing, hand flapping and scratching.
Maladaptive behavior is also exhibited by adults who find ways to cope with problems and bad situations in life. At first, these coping strategies might seem useful at first, like drinking to forget personal problems but in the end, the situation gets worse. Here are some maladaptive behavior examples:
1. Substance Abuse
This is the use or dependence of legal and illegal drugs or medication that when practised for a long period of time can be chronic and turn to drug addiction. People who use drugs or medications excessively often turn to this to ease pain, anxiety and get temporary relief from problems and bad experiences. Other people also use drugs out of peer pressure and curiosity. However, this can lead to changes in the function of the brain and how drug-users behave.
2. Attention-seeking Behavior
This is the type of maladaptive behavior in which an individual seeks attention or want to be the center of attention by making excessive actions that can draw attention to them. These behaviors can be seen in different situations like when an individual wants to be always seen a rescuer of sorts so they will be in the limelight. Manipulation and even admitting to crimes or wrongdoings one did not really commit just so the spotlight is on him or her are also examples of maladaptive behaviors. Munchausen syndrome and Munchausen Proxy are also ways used by a person to get attention from other people.
3. Sex Addiction
Although gaining physical pleasures and intimacy are normal behaviors of human beings, too much desire to have sexual relations is also an example of maladaptive behavior. People who are sexual addicts have enormous desires to engage in sexual intercourse and activities that can result to severe stress on loved ones, family and friends. These people rely on sex to escape, relieve pain and even manage stress. If these actions lead to harming other people and oneself to the point of losing jobs, missing school and engaging in unprotected sex with numerous individuals, these are considered maladaptive behaviors.
4. Anger Conversion
It is normal to get upset or get angry but when a person converts his or her anger to violence such as hurting someone else, committing arson and inflicting physical harm to oneself or other people, this becomes an inappropriate and maladaptive behavior.
5. Addiction to Exercise
There are people who are addicted to exercise that they are in the gym or working out for hours daily that normal people with adaptive behaviors do not engage in. Excessive exercise can be considered a compulsive maladaptive behavior especially if the person manifests certain signs like being restless or anxious if not being able to exercise. This can also be engaging in physical activities that can be detrimental to health and can cause pain and injury.
Spending too much time at work can be a positive behavior since it gets work done and it shows how hard-working an employee or entrepreneur is. However, it can also lead to maladaptive behavior when it becomes an addiction. At first, it can be an unconscious way to cope with psychological issues but it can become progressive and eventually impair the functions of the individual when it comes to non-working environments and the work environment itself. Overtime, a workaholic individual will be in conflict with family members, be burned-out at work and be health-impaired.
7. Internet Addiction
Nowadays, most kids and teenagers spend more than eight hours a day on the internet doing several things, from playing video games to opening their media accounts. Although there is such a thing as normal internet usage, there is also compulsive use of the internet. This becomes a maladaptive behavior when a person manifests reactions that are extreme such as depression when not being able to go use the internet, anger, forgetting to eat, denying excessive spending online and preferring to be online instead of being with family and friends, among others.
Behavioral problems or maladaptive behaviors can happen from childhood to adulthood. If not treated or managed, it can be harmful not only to society and the people but also to the person manifesting maladaptive behaviors. There are ways to control behavior such as treatment plans and behavior therapy. What is important is for the person to be given help and support by professionals, society and family members.