Life tends to be full of challenges. It is the ability of people to face these obstacles that determines how successful they come. Despite the discomfort associated with these challenges they actually provide a useful purpose – they give the individual the chance to grow and learn new things. If there were no challenges in life there would be no need to develop as humans. Rather than being a bad thing these challenges in life can be of great service to humanity.
There are many people who just do not feel confident in meeting the challenges that come their way in life. They resist and this leads to further discomfort. The individual then attempts to escape this pain by adapting maladaptive behaviors. One way that they might do this is by turning to alcohol or drugs. In the beginning these substances give the individual the impression that they are escaping their problems, but this is only a temporary reprieve. They are actually making things much worse, and they risk falling into addiction. In many cases substance abuse may boil down to a failure to deal with life.
One way of defining maladaptive behavior would be to say that it is a type of behavior that inhibit a person’s ability to adjust to a particular situation. The individual falls into these behaviors in an attempt to escape discomforts in life. Instead of helping the situation these maladaptive behaviors make things much worse. In the case of behaviors such as addiction it is a case of the cure being worse than the disease. Maladaptive coping strategies will often ease the symptoms but they lead to deterioration in the overall problem.
Maladaptive behavior theory suggests a number of possible reasons for why people choose to act in ways that are ultimately damaging. These reasons include:
* The individual chooses the maladaptive behavior because of faulty logic. This means that their behavior appears reasonable to them.
* These maladaptive behaviors can appear to be working in the beginning. The shy person who turns to substance abuse often finds that alcohol or drugs makes them more sociable and confident in the beginning.
* The individual is copying other people. For example, those people who have seen their parents deal with life’s problems by turning to alcohol or drugs will do the same.
* The individual is prepared to accept deterioration in their life for the brief reprieve that these maladaptive behaviors can sometimes bring. This type of decision is often made when people use alcohol or drugs as a type of self medication.
Examples of maladaptive behavior can include:
* Substance abuse
* Attention seeking behaviors is where people use excessive or inappropriate behaviors in order to gain attention.
* Power seeking behavior can involve attempting to undermine authority figures and rebelling against the rules.
* Converting to anger refers to how the individual can use anger as a means to vent their frustrations. This may mean that they engage in extremely inappropriate behaviors such as physical violence against other people.
* In an attempt to cope the individual may try withdrawing from the world. This means that they isolate themselves and refuse to engage fully with the world.
* The individual may try avoidance in order to not have to deal with the unpleasant situation. This can lead to phobias which can severely damage the individual’s ability to deal with life.
* Workaholism is where the individual becomes obsessed with their work and devotes increasing amounts of time to their job. This is another means of avoiding having to deal with unpleasant aspects of life.
* Revenge behaviors is where the individual tries to punish other people who they feel are responsible for causing problems.
* Exercise addiction.
* Internet addiction.
* Gambling addiction.
* Sex addiction.
There are good reasons why people should avoid using maladaptive behaviors including:
* Behaviors such as substance abuse can lead to a great deal of misery. This means that the individual ends up in a far worse position than they were before they decided to use the maladaptive behavior.
* The individual will not be getting to the root of their problem, and this means that it will be the source of future misery.
* These behaviors tend to be damaging not only to the individual engaging in them but also to their family, friends, and society as a whole.
* People can miss out on many of the worthwhile things in life because they have chosen these unwise behaviors.
Substance abuse is a common type of maladaptive behavior. Those individuals who find life hard to deal with can be tempted to turn to alcohol or drugs as a means to cope. Some of these people may have an undiagnosed mental health condition such as depression or anxiety disorder, but initially they find that substance abuse eases their symptoms – this is referred to as self medication. As time passes the damage caused by the substance abuse begins to outweigh any benefits the individual may be getting from these chemicals. The individual often does not recognize this but instead hangs onto the belief that alcohol or drugs are their friend. By the time they escape their denial they will already be addicted to these substances.
Even after people manage to escape their addiction they can still suffer as a result of maladaptive behaviors. This often happens when people get stuck in recovery. The fact that they are not longer making progress means that the individual begins to experience discomfort. They react to this by choosing maladaptive behaviors such as exercise addiction or workaholism. The individual is able to ignore the fact that they have become stuck, but by not facing their real problems they are setting themselves up for real trouble. This return to maladaptive behavior means that the individual is at a high risk of relapse back to addiction. Even if they manage to stay sober they will struggle to get the most out of their recovery.
There are things that people can do in order to avoid falling into the trap of maladaptive behaviors such as:
* The individual needs to make a decision to deal with life on life’s terms. This means that in the future they will be willing to face any discomfort that comes their way and overcome the obstacle.
* If people develop effective coping strategies it will make it easier for them to deal with life. Each coping strategy is like adding a tool to their toolbox – once they have enough tools they will be able to cope with anything that comes their way.
* It is important that people are open to advice and criticism from other people. It is easy for the individual to fall into maladaptive behaviors without realizing it but other people will be able to raise the alarm.
* Those individuals who develop emotional sobriety are highly unlikely to fall into the trap of maladaptive behaviors. This is because emotional sobriety means that people are mature enough to deal with life without the need to avoid things.
* Techniques such as mindfulness meditation are highly effective because it increases the individual’s self awareness. This means that they are able to more easily spot when they are drifting into maladaptive behaviors.
* Journaling is another technique that people can use to help them spot any wrong paths they might have taken. It means that the individual is able to assess their progress over time to see if they are heading in the right direction.
* A therapist is trained to help the individual identify their maladaptive behaviors. This professional will also be able to offer guidance for how to get back on track.
* There are many different fellowships available that aim to help people deal with maladaptive behaviors collectively. There can be power in numbers and those fellowships that are based on the 12 step program provide a program to help people avoid falling into maladaptive behaviors in the future.
* It is best to view the challenges that come in life as a chance to grow rather than a personal attack. It is only by overcoming obstacles that humans develop their potential – unfortunately there is not much personal growth when things are going well.