An exclusive residential treatment center in the heart of Malibu, The Meadows Malibu has just 12 beds, which means our clients receive fully individualized treatment and the undivided attention of our staff.



The Meadow Malibu offers customized residential treatment for drug and alcohol addiction using a dual diagnosis approach that goes beyond physical symptoms to address the underlying issues and set you up for lasting recovery.

Our Approach

Our Approach

Our primary goal for treatment is always to help clients find freedom from drugs or alcohol and provide them with the tools they need to reach new levels of health, happiness and success in recovery.



Addiction is an insidious disease, and when you or a loved one needs help it can be hard to know where to turn. We understand. That’s why we have highly trained admissions specialists ready to walk you through a free, brief, and confidential screening.




Women with anxiety

Maladaptive Behavior and Anxiety: What’s the Connection?

Written By:

By Beau Black

When we encounter obstacles or major turning points in life, we always have choices as to how we will respond. Those responses fall into two broad categories: adaptive behavior and maladaptive behavior. Adaptive behaviors help us respond to changes, challenges, and setbacks in healthy ways. Maladaptive behaviors, conversely, are dysfunctional coping mechanisms we develop to evade and protect ourselves from life’s hardships. According to VerywellMind.com, while these unhealthy behaviors may offer temporary relief from anxiety and other conditions, they may actually create more long-term problems.

Identifying maladaptive behaviors is only half the battle. Learning how to replace them with healthy responses is the rest.

Life changes, illnesses, and traumatic events can trigger anxiety that can be difficult to manage, opening up the potential for anxiety disorders. Here at The Meadows Malibu, we help many patients who are struggling in this area. Symptoms include excessive worrying and intense, sustained anxiousness and nervousness that extends beyond the typical kind of worry that is appropriate in life situations. This type of anxiety can interfere with day-to-day functioning and leave you feeling consumed by fear and drained of energy.

What Is Maladaptive Behavior? 

Rather than help you cope successfully with anxiety or other mental health issues, maladaptive behaviors keep you stuck in them — or make conditions worse. To better understand these patterns, Healthline.com offers the following examples as maladaptive coping strategies: avoidance, withdrawal, passive-aggressiveness, self-harm, anger, substance use, maladaptive daydreaming, and acting out sexually. Here’s a brief look at each:

1. Avoidance and withdrawal 

Though disengaging from unpleasantness can at times be one productive way of dealing with a situation, choosing this solution regularly can be harmful. Similarly, it’s OK to unplug and veg out in front of the TV on occasion (or play video games, lose yourself in a book, etc.), but doing so often — instead of being engaged in the world — can lead to an unhealthy lack of interaction and support.

2. Daydreaming

We all zone out in our heads from time to time, but letting a maladaptive thought turn into a full-on parade can become a problem. If we’re diving into fantasy for hours and hours to the point where it keeps us from participating in life around us, like avoidance and withdrawal, it can hinder and isolate us.

3. Anger

This is a normal, healthy response in some situations, and when channeled effectively, anger can be useful. But when it is marked by habitual and uncontrolled verbal outbursts and physical acting out, it is counterproductive. In addition to driving others away, it can fail to resolve the issues that prompted it, often leaving circumstances worse than before.

4. Passive-aggressiveness

The flip side of an angry outburst is passive-aggressiveness — saying everything is “fine” when it isn’t — and then taking out your emotions on someone or something else later. This attempt to make the other person somehow pay for a perceived or real transgression while appearing innocent is a maladaptive coping mechanism that can be a relationship killer.

Rather than help you cope successfully with anxiety or other mental health issues, maladaptive behaviors keep you stuck in them — or make conditions worse.

5. Self-harm

This can present itself in a number of ways, but the most common are cutting or hitting yourself to inflict pain or using substances to cause deliberate harm to your body. 

6. Substance use

A more common maladaptive strategy for managing anxiety, depression, or stress is substance use or abuse. This involves alcohol, illicit drugs, and misuse of prescription drugs. Studies shared by VeryWellMind.com have shown that people with anxiety disorders are up to three times more likely to have alcohol or another substance abuse disorder. Additionally, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that, of the 20.3 million adults with substance use disorders, nearly 38% also have at least one mental illness. And because the negative effects of mental illness are far-reaching, including its treatment alongside addiction treatment is crucial.

7. Acting out sexually

Finally, engaging in a variety of high-risk sexual behaviors to numb or distract yourself is another manifestation of maladaptive behavior. This may include unprotected, anonymous, or otherwise dangerous sex acts that may lead to harming yourself or others.

Anxiety Disorders: Types and Symptoms

While experiencing some anxiety from time to time isn’t a bad thing, prolonged, overwhelming anxiety can have dire health consequences. According to Mental Health America, anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health disorders in America, with the lifetime prevalence of any anxiety disorder being 31.6%. However, statistics from the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA) show that only 37% of those people receive anxiety treatment

Types of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and various phobias. Anxious individuals may experience the following symptoms:

  • Persistent and irrational worry
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle tension
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Physical manifestations such as rapid heartbeat, sweating, trembling, and shortness of breath

Factors that contribute to anxiety disorders include genetics, brain chemistry, personality traits, and stressful life events.

The Interplay Between Maladaptive Behavior and Anxiety

Unfortunately, maladaptive behaviors and anxiety can combine to create a vicious cycle, with each one reinforcing the other. Maladaptive behaviors, like avoidance or substance abuse, can trigger or exacerbate anxiety, which was one of the causes of maladaptive behavior in the first place. As the cycle continues, heightened anxiety leads to more dysfunctional coping mechanisms, such as daydreaming, anger, or withdrawal, which serve to perpetuate anxiety by keeping you in a hypervigilant state. You’re constantly on edge, letting even minor stressors get to you.

women with head in hands anxious

Eventually these behaviors become ingrained habits, making anxiety management even more difficult. Any time you become anxious, your first instinct is to fall back into maladaptive coping strategies, even if you know they are not ultimately helpful. Once these coping mechanisms become habits, you’re not just fighting a battle against anxiety anymore, you’re battling the coping habits as well. And as we all know, habits can be hard to break. Like Pavlov’s dog, when you start to become anxious, almost without thinking you reach for a drink. It takes self-awareness — something in short supply when you’ve been triggered — to keep yourself from falling into the familiar habit and try something different instead.

Impact on Mental Health and Well-Being

One reason this cycle is so difficult to break is because unhealthy coping strategies can seem to be effective at treating anxiety in the short term. For instance, avoiding social situations for a person with social anxiety might temporarily prevent anxiety, but over time it may reinforce the fear of social situations.

Alcohol or drugs may promise a quick way to self-medicate, but they often worsen symptoms of anxiety as they wear off. In the long run, they can lead to addiction and other negative psychological impacts. 

Understanding this connection is crucial to breaking the cycle, overcoming maladaptive behavior, and developing healthier coping mechanisms, such as therapy, mindfulness, stress management techniques, behavior modification, and other cognitive-behavioral approaches for anxiety management.

Break the Cycle: Seeking Treatment for Maladaptive Behavior and Anxiety

Identifying maladaptive behaviors is only half the battle. Learning how to exchange healthy coping strategies for maladaptive behaviors is the rest. One step is to have a plan. Another is to seek help when needed. 

We generally know many of the day-to-day stresses we face, and that allows us to plan ahead. Putting the brakes on anger by seeking other strategies or removing ourselves when we sense we’re about to blow can help avoid outbursts. And forcing ourselves to articulate clearly when someone has hurt us short-circuits the need to slam doors while claiming everything is “fine!”

When we face stressors that trigger anxiety or an unhealthy tendency to isolate, we can instead resolve ourselves to engage with people and environments we know are good for us. Seeking appropriate intimacy, whether among friends or romantically, can help keep us grounded and balanced. Of course, that may be easier said than done if past relationships are the source of our maladaptive anxiety.

Perhaps the most adaptive of approaches to anxiety management is to seek treatment for the underlying causes of anxiety. The short-term investment of time and finances in a quality program like that at The Meadows Malibu can pay off in long-term freedom and mental wellness. We can also equip you with the skills you need to adapt to the changes, challenges, and hurts that life inevitably throws your way. Reach out to learn more about our customized treatment plans for mental health issues and co-occurring conditions today.