Maladaptive Behavior Case Study

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1389 Words
Date:  2021-03-09

Maladaptive behavior is a type of behavior that constrains a person ability to adjust to a specific situation. People exhibit this behavior, mostly when they want to reduce anxiety, but it ends up making them unproductive and dysfunctional. Individuals fall into maladaptive behavior in an attempt to avoid challenges of life (David A. Clark, 2012). In the long-run these acts make things worse in life and may even lead to cases such as addiction. There are several types of maladaptive behavior. These include stereotypical behavior that manifests as repetitive movement utterance or posture. There is ritualistic behavior that occurs when a person tries to regulate something concrete because he or she cannot identify the problem. Lastly there is self-injuries behavior, which includes behavior that causes injuries to an individual and opposition behavior among others (David A. Clark, 2012). Maladaptive behaviors are mostly adapted from experiences like frequent panic attacks or anxiety disorder. Some common maladaptive behaviors that are associated with panic disorder include avoidance of feared situations. This is is dysfunctional because it provides short-term relief from anxiety (Alexander Chapman, 2011). The behavior does not alleviate the actual problem and in fact, it serves to reinforce underlying concerns. In many cases, panic disorder triggers a wide range of avoidant behaviors, which result in agoraphobia that is a complication of PD. Avoidance behavior often multiplies once agoraphobia takes roots.

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In a case, there was a young man named Simon, who had a phobia for bridges. This condition started when he was so young. Simon never liked travelling, especially to places where he was required to cross bridges. One day, Simon was driving across one of the bridges in his home town. Without warning, he started to experience a dreaded sense of doom. His heart began to race wildly while his hands started shaking as he tried to grip the steering wheel. It seemed difficult to get air into his lungs, and he felt dizzy. There was no place to pull over, and he felt completely at the mercy of that horrific thing that was happening. He started feeling as if he may collapse or even die from some strange or unknown illness. He began to calm down as he descended the bridge. He was beginning to regain composure, but he was still visibly shaken. He began focusing on what could have happened if he had lost his consciousness or if he was unable to control the car when he was driving over the bridge. He started asking himself many questions. What if he had driven off the bridge? What if he had to stop the car instantly and people start yelling at him and blowing their horns? What if he had or caused an accident? With this the logical answer, Simon would have opted to do is to avoid traveling over that bridge or any other bridge.

From this story, it is evident that alleviating anxiety creates dysfunctionality and non-productivity in the long-run. Simon could develop adaptive behavior by facing his fears and putting himself into anxiety-provoking situations. However, this is not very easy though doing so aid in recovering from panic disorder.

What has been conditioned in Simons's mind can be unlearned through a process of systematic desensitization. Past studies have shown that systematic desensitization is effective in reducing the panics and anxieties, which are associated with the fear of certain situations (Alexander Chapman, 2011). The process involves people creating and imaging a process of a fearful situation and trying to relax. This process helps them to compete with the anxiety. Once people are able to successfully manage their anxiety by imagining fearful situations, they can use the same technique in real-life situations.

In the case study, Simon can manage his anxiety by imagining of a situation where he is driving across the bridge and imagine all the possible terrible outcomes. By doing this Simon will be able to condition his mind and reduce the fear, hence he would be able to overcome his anxiety by developing adaptive skills. It is therefore imperative for people to learn to expose themselves to situations that bring anxiety or fear and practice the techniques of relieving the fear.

Some common techniques used in training relaxation include deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation. When Simon reached the bridge, he took rapid and shallow breaths. This disturbed the carbon dioxide and oxygen levels in the body thus increasing heart rate tension in his muscle, causing dizziness, and other physical body sensations. This made his body to increase stress response hence creating anxiety and panic attacks. In employing progressive muscle relaxation, Simon can quickly rediscover the tension and relaxation of his muscles. Muscle relaxation can be achieved through visualization. He can reach muscle and mental relaxation if he starts to imagine a peaceful and stress-free setting. For example believing in himself.

For people to overcome maladaptive behavior, they should have a known relation training and come up with a list of situation they fear, and mostly affects their lives. It begins with having an imaginary exposure to the situation that they fear. Then they should use anxiety hierarchy to come up with manageable components of the feared situations. For instance, Simons is more anxious when driving across the bridge, than he is on the road. The anxiety intensifies as he drives closer to the bridge. Driving in the middle of the bridge has the highest fear response. He is likely to start focusing on reaching the other end of the bridge, which according to him, has a small amount of distress. This may force him to accelerate faster to arrive at the other end. The result of this is that Simon would gradually become desensitized to driving over the bridge.

Various factors can lead to the development of maladaptive behavior. Maladaptive behavior theory lists some of the possible reasons as to why people choose to act in a manner that is ultimately damaging (Alexander Chapman, 2011). Some people may turn to maladaptive behavior because of faulty logic. This is where an individual unknowingly possesses maladaptive behavior. Other people may possess the behavior due to influence of a substance. For instance, a shy people may result to substance abuse just because they feel drugs makes them more confident and sociable, without knowing the substance is affecting their behavior. When people use drugs or self-medication, they may decide to accept the deterioration of their life for the short reprieve brought by these maladaptive behaviors (Alexander Chapman, 2011). In other instances, some people may turn to maladaptive behavior by copying other people. Children who see their parents turn to drugs or alcohol to solve their life problem may do the same when they have similar problem

Maladaptive behavior is associated with various vices; hence people should embrace the techniques for mitigating it. Drugs usually lead to miseries, especially if abused. People ends up to worse situations than they were before they resorted to this maladaptive behavior. Maladaptive behavior not only damages the involved person, but also those them around including the family members, friends and the society at large. Most individuals who are affected by maladaptive behavior may miss out worthwhile things in their lives.

In conclusion, maladaptive behavior can be avoided by dealing with life on lifes terms. People should be ready to overcome any obstacle that may come in their way and this will enable them to address any discomfort that may be in their way. People should develop coping strategies which will make easier for them to deal with life issues. They should develop emotional sobriety which reduces the likely of one falling into maladaptive behavior, this means that a person is mature to face life challenges without trying to run away from them. Finally, mindfulness meditation increases self-awareness (David A. Clark, 2012). This enables them to know when they are slowly getting into maladaptive behavior. There are therapists who are trained to help people identify the maladaptive behavior and advise them accordingly. Therefore, if people suspect they have any kind of maladaptive behavior, then they should seek help from such specialists.


Alexander Chapman, K. G. (2011). The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook for Anxiety: Breaking Free from Worry, Panic, PTSD, and Other Anxiety Symptoms. Oakland, California, United States: New Harbinger Publications.

David A. Clark, A. T. (2012). The Anxiety and Worry Workbook: The Cognitive Behavioral Solution. New York City: Guilford Press.

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Maladaptive Behavior Case Study. (2021, Mar 09). Retrieved from

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