What is the difference between behavioral health and mental health, and why is this important?

While these two phrases refer to similar concepts, there are clear distinctions between them.

Before starting you need to understand these terms and exactly what they mean:

Difference Between Behavioral Health and Mental Health

The phrase behavioral health essentially refers to how your behaviors affect your health, and more specifically your mental health. People with behavioral problems may experience mental health problems.

For example, if you have a drug addiction, learning disability, or are suffering from stress, then you may experience certain mental health problems.

These types of issues may cause depression, anxiety, mood, or relationship problems. 

Your behaviors can also cause other problems. If you’re overweight or have a poor diet then you may eventually develop diabetes.

People with drug and alcohol addiction who chain smoke or drink could end up with lung cancer or liver cirrhosis. 

On the other hand, mental health simply refers to your ability to feel good about life and deal with the stresses and challenges of life. The state of your mental health will impact your ability to do this.

Mental health can also refer to the various types of mental illness. There are dozens of different types of mental illnesses. Some of these include things like schizophrenia, ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and even things like personality disorders. 

Why Are They Classified Separately?

The reason why mental and behavioral health are classed as two different things is simple. Your behaviors do not necessarily affect your mental health.

It’s entirely possible that you have a mental illness, without it being caused by some type of behavior.

For example, some people are born with mental health issues such as schizophrenia, bipolar, or personality disorders

That being said, the reason why these terms overlap is that your behaviors can play an important role in your mental health.

If you are dealing with mental health problems, it’s important that you do not behave in a way that makes your problems worse.

The biggest example of this is people who use drugs and alcohol to self-medicate.

Along with this, you want to do things like getting enough sleep, exercising, eating well, and avoiding stressful situations.

If you are lacking in any of these areas, then it may greatly exacerbate your mental health problems. 

What Are the Treatment Methods For Behavioral and Mental Issues?

Another area where these disciplines differ is in the treatment methods. Treating behavioral problems can be relatively easy.

If you’re abusing drugs or alcohol then the solution is simply to stop.

Other solutions could include lifestyle changes such as going on a diet, getting more exercise, dealing with sources of stress, or quitting smoking. 

The treatment for mental health problems can be highly complex. Many mental health issues cannot really be cured. This includes things like schizophrenia and personality disorders.

These conditions are chronic and can only be managed. The treatment of mental health disorders may also require years and counseling, and also certain medications. 

Which Term Should I Use?

If these terms are so similar then which one should you use? This is a good question and the term you use will probably depend on the situation you’re in.

Each of these terms has various pros and cons. 

Behavioral health is inclusive. It can apply to almost anyone, not only people who are dealing with mental health issues. It also promotes the idea of wellbeing and self-reliance as a method of alleviating your problems.

Also, this term does not have the stigma that can come with the mental health label. The phrase behavioral health can promote dialogue and help people to open up and feel freer to talk about their issues. 

What’s also nice about this term is that it promotes the idea of change. In most cases you can change your behaviors, behavioural problems are not permanent and can eventually be overcome with enough hard work.

With time and effort, you can quit drugs and alcohol, stop smoking, improve your relationships, or lose weight

In other cases, it might be better to use the mental health phrase. This is useful in times where your problems are not necessarily caused by your own behavior.

A good example of this is where your issues are caused by external factors, such as the environment, abuse, bullying, or discrimination.

Along with this, there may be underlying causes of problems.

Some of these can include genetic factors and other things that are beyond your control, such as past trauma.

Also, mental health is more personal and serious. It denotes that you have a condition or illness that must be treated in some way. 

Behavioral health simply makes it sound as if you are engaging in an activity that must be stopped but this is not always the case when it comes to severe mental health conditions.

Schizophrenics and people with personality disorders can manage their condition with a healthy lifestyle, but they will never be truly cured. 

Ultimately, what you need to understand is that your behaviors will affect your health, and also your mental health.

If you’re abusing drugs, living in a way that causes you to stress, or in an unhealthy relationship, then eventually it’s going to catch up with you.

After enough time, these things will affect your mental health and may trigger serious mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, or even PTSD.

This is why it’s important to live a life based on balance and moderation. It’s critical that you get enough sleep, exercise, and eat a nutritious diet.

Also, focus on healthy relationships and a healthy social life. Most importantly, avoid any type of behavior which will damage your health, including drugs, alcohol, and smoking. 

Final Thoughts

Finally, if you are doing all of these things and still have a problem, then maybe it’s time to admit that you could have a mental illness. In this case, it’s best to have your suspicions confirmed.

Try to see a counselor or psychiatrist and determine once and for all if there is anything wrong with you. For many people, this may be one of the best things they ever do.

About the author

Guest Contributor

This article was written by a Healthgist contributor. Please note, this content may include links to products or services for which we are compensated. Want to be a Healthgist contributor? Send your pitch to us at info@healthgist.com

Leave a Comment