What Are Sexually Maladaptive Behaviors And How Are They Treated?

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This article was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp.

Maladaptive behaviors prevent you from adapting to new or challenging situations. They can begin as a result of a significant life change, illness, or traumatic experiences. It could also be a habit you developed as a child.

You can recognize and replace ineffective behaviors with more productive ones, but they can cause emotional, social, and health issues if not addressed. There is help available if things are getting out of hand. A trained therapist can assist you in developing more effective responses to life’s obstacles.

There are various kinds of maladaptive behavior, but let’s take a look at sexual maladaptive behavior and where it comes from.

What Is Sexually Maladaptive Behavior? 

Sexually maladaptive behavior refers to children, adolescents, or adults engaging in sexual practices that are inappropriate for their age or have the potential to be harmful. This can include things like:

  • engaging in unprotected intercourse in a situation that necessitates it
  • sexual aggression or violence
  • doing things you don’t want to
  • placing oneself in potentially dangerous situations

What Can Cause These Behaviors? 

You can develop a maladaptive behavior pattern for a variety of reasons. It’s possible that you haven’t been exposed to positive models of adaptive behavior, or that your turbulent upbringing has prevented you from establishing effective coping mechanisms. Perhaps you were caught off guard with a chronic condition. It’s possible that you won’t be able to determine the source of the problem.


Self-harm, drug and alcohol addiction, and risky sexual activity have all been related to childhood sexual abuse. Adult trauma can also lead to maladaptive behavior.

Developmental Disorders

Sleep disturbances and maladaptive behavior among individuals with developmental delays were linked in a short study published in 2010.


According to research, avoiding fear and anxiety is a maladaptive behavioral response. While avoidance can provide brief respite, it can also raise anxiety.

Effects of Sexually Maladaptive Behavior

When people participate in sexually maladaptive activities during their childhood and adolescence and don’t get the help they need to stop, the long-term repercussions can be devastating. It is critical that parents, teachers, or any other authority figure who witnesses a kid or adolescent exhibiting this type of conduct intervene and provide him or her the help that he or she requires. If left unattended, the following consequences may occur:

  • Academic failure / school troubles
  • Significantly reduced self-esteem and self-worth
  • Developing a substance addiction or dependence
  • An inability to form and sustain long-term friendships
  • Not being able to form and sustain good romantic relationships
  • Run-ins with the legal system
  • Imprisonment
  • Being required to register as a sexual offender
  • Unemployment and inability to find and keep a job

Types Of Treatment For Sexually Maladaptive Behavior


In many circumstances, sexually maladaptive behaviors occur in the context of another mental health problem. Medication may be utilized to assist ease the symptoms of the co-occurring disorder in such cases. At least once a month, patients should consult with a psychiatrist to confirm that the medicine they are taking is effective and to make any required modifications.

Talk Therapy

With this kind of treatment, patients typically attend a minimum of one to two individual treatment sessions each week, although more sessions can be added as needed. These sessions are intended to provide an opportunity for adolescents and adults alike to meet one-on-one with a therapist to address concerns and work on developing and applying new skills. Take a deeper dive into behavior with these resources here

Group Therapy

Group sessions include psycho-educational and process groups, as well as a sexual process group. These sessions are trauma-informed and usually based on a curriculum. A variety of supplementary groups are also typically available to patients interested in this treatment method, with subjects ranging from assault cycles to trauma consequences to healthy relationships.

Family Therapy

When it comes to younger patients, involvement of the family in the therapy process is critical to the success of each child’s treatment. Family sessions are typically held at least every two weeks, but more are added as needed depending on each individual case. 

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