The Big Picture

Most people are aware that mental health refers to our general psychological, social, and emotional well-being, but the term ‘behavioral health’ may be less familiar to some people.

What is behavioral health? It includes all the lifestyle habits that may impact our physical and psychological health, such as diet, exercise, and intake of alcohol or other drugs. While some mental health conditions stem from behavioral issues, others have a hereditary component or are linked to brain chemistry.

However, a psychological condition can lead to dysfunctional behaviors and vice versa. For this reason, examining any behavioral issues is an active component of any mental health diagnosis.

Defining Behavioral Health

What is behavioral health? Mental health and well-being are strongly related to behavior. When we speak of behavioral health, this encompasses all of the actions and lifestyle habits that impact both our mental health and our physical functioning and wellness. It may include things like exercise, sleep patterns, exercise, and even typical ways of responding emotionally to situations.

Poor behavior health may impact physical and mental health and could lead to severe conditions like substance abuse or an eating disorder.

In addition, behavioral issues may also be a response to an existing mental health condition. For example, a depressed person may turn to alcohol or drugs as a way of self-medicating.

Defining Mental Health

Defining Mental Health

Mental health is our overall wellness from the standpoint of cognition, emotional well-being, and social functioning. People are considered mentally healthy if their thoughts, feelings, and behavior allow them to function successfully personally and in society.

It includes functioning at work or school, keeping up social relationships, learning new information, behaving as expected in social situations, and personal grooming, to cite a few examples. The Mayo Clinic[1] has pointed out that behaviors and ways of thinking perceived as normal in one society may be considered abnormal, in another.

When cognition, emotion, and functioning fall out of the norm, this may represent a breakdown in mental health and possibly a mental illness. Later in this article, we discuss some techniques on how to improve mental health.

Behavioral And Mental Health Conditions

There are numerous existing mental health as well as behavioral conditions enough to fill the robust Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5. Comparing a few of them from each category provides some insight into the distinction.

Mental Health Conditions

1. Depression

People who are diagnosed with depression experience symptoms such as pervasive low mood or mood swings, anger, social withdrawal, confused thinking, low energy or sleep difficulties, inability to cope with day-to-day life, and even suicidal thoughts for at least two weeks.

2. Bipolar Disorder

Someone with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder swings between periods of feeling very happy, energized, irritable, or related to very low mood, depression, and hopelessness. During the high-energy mania periods, some engage in risky or unwise behaviors like excessive spending or reckless sexual behavior. They may require little sleep and display symptoms like racing thoughts or fast, pressured speech.

3. Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a chronic severe mental illness that affects the way the individual sees, hears, experiences, and interprets reality. Symptoms may include audio or visual hallucinations, delusional thinking, disorganized speech, and lack of motivation. The condition requires lifelong treatment, largely with medication.

4. Behavioral Health Conditions

What is behavioral health? To distinguish it from mental health, here are a few of the most common conditions defined.

5. Alcoholism Or Drug Abuse

These are classed as behavioral conditions because they involve a chronic, pervasive dependence on drugs or alcohol that leads to addiction and related social, vocational, physical, and psychological issues.

6. Gambling Addiction

Similar to a drug or alcohol addiction, someone with this behavioral issue has a dependence on gambling even though it leads to significant financial, social, and other life problems which inhibit healthy functioning.

7. Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia is an eating disorder where the person has a distorted body image and becomes consumed with the idea of gaining weight. It leads them to drastically reduce calorie intake leading to low body weight, which can put their health and even their life at risk.

Comparing Behavioral And Mental Health

Behavioral health

What is mental health, and what is behavioral health? How do the two intersect? Let’s examine the distinctions as well as the connection between them.

Thoughts and Feelings Vs Actions And Behavior

While mental health is primarily focused on thought patterns, emotions, and psychological conditions, behavioral health also considers the person’s physical condition and the specific actions that impact it. These include eating behavior, substance use, exercise, stress management, and others. Maladaptive behavior may lead to conditions like alcohol or eating disorders.

The Link Between Behavioral And Mental Health

Behavioral and mental health conditions often occur together, as the impact of a mental health problem may lead to maladaptive actions like substance abuse, a sedentary lifestyle, or neglecting nutrition. There’s also a greater likelihood of developing physical illness with a mental health problem. People who have chronic health conditions may experience mental health issues like depression or anxiety, and could also turn to substance abuse or other unhealthy behaviors to cope.

Differences In Diagnosis

Diagnosis of a mental health condition generally comes from a psychiatrist or psychologist, although there may be other professionals involved. If there are behavioral health issues present, consultation with other specialists in those fields (i.e. eating disorders) will likely be required.

Treatment Approaches May Vary

While treatment for both mental and behavioral conditions may involve a team of professionals, methods may vary in focus. While treatment for behavioral health issues may include psychotherapy, the process will be focused on modifying specific maladaptive behaviors. Mental health treatment may be more based on changing thought patterns.

How Behavioral Health And Mental Health Intersect

There is a strong link between behavioral health vs mental health, and it’s essential to understand how they connect. Poor health habits may promote or exacerbate existing mental health conditions like depression or anxiety.

Individuals who suffer from a mental health condition have a higher likelihood of developing several chronic health issues, such as heart disease, diabetes, and chronic pain. These problems may cause the individual to engage in behavioral health issues like drinking or drug use to cope with their condition.

In addition, people with chronic physical conditions are likely to develop mental health conditions like depression which can negatively affect their ability to follow healthy lifestyle behaviors. The distinction between behavioral health vs mental health can be difficult to grasp because the two are intimately intertwined.

Behavioral And Mental Health Diagnosis And Treatment Options

An essential part of mental health awareness is having current, correct information about your medical options in terms of diagnosis and treatment. A family doctor familiar with all of your issues may be able to best refer you to the appropriate professionals to get an accurate diagnosis because many mental health diagnoses often involve comorbidities with other psychological or behavioral conditions, and the best course of treatment usually involves a team of professionals rather than one practitioner and more than one method.

This collaborative approach considers both psychological symptoms as well as behavioral health issues, and it may include some of the following:

  • Diagnosis and treatment by a psychiatrist, possibly including medication.
  • Psychotherapy with a professional may include a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or marriage counselor. Substance abuse treatment, either as part of an inpatient program or through outpatient individual or group therapy.
  • Education and information to expand your mental health awareness.
  • Adjunct treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy or dialectical behavioral therapy.
  • Consultation with a registered dietitian and nutritionist or other health professionals who may assist you in modifying some of your behavioral health issues.

Enhancing Your Mental Health

Enhancing Your Mental Health

So, if you’re wondering how to improve mental health through changing lifestyle practices and habits. There are several methods you can adopt which may have a great impact. Consider making improvements in some of the following areas for better psychological well-being.

Exercise Regularly

Regular physical activity has a positive impact on mood and mental health. It helps your body release chemicals called endorphins that may work to block both physical and psychological pain and enhance your overall well-being. An article by the Association of Medicine and Psychiatry[2] cited evidence that aerobic activity may reduce anxiety and depression.

Follow A Healthy, Balanced Diet

Learn how to improve mental health by practicing healthy eating habits which provide your body and brain with the nutrients they require to function at the highest efficiency. Poor nutritional habits can contribute to mental health issues, as a deficiency in vitamins and minerals may exacerbate them.

Seek Out Social Interactions And Support

The research on how to improve mental health is clear on the impact of social support on psychological and emotional wellness. As human beings, we are social creatures, and we often thrive most when we have the company of others – especially loved ones – around us. A meta-analysis in Electronic Physician[3] highlighted the active role that social support plays in mental health based on examining 64 relevant studies.

Get Adequate Sleep

Practicing healthy sleep habits may have an impact on your psychological functioning. Evidence indicates that poor quality and length of sleep can lead to a decline in psychological state and worsen existing mental and behavioral health issues.

In terms of how to improve mental health, ensure that you get 7-8 hours of sleep, and keep to approximately the same consistent sleep schedule. So, try to minimize disruptions like electronic devices, and avoid caffeine in the evenings.

Manage Your Stress Levels With Alternative Approaches

High stress can worsen your mental health, so it’s helpful to take steps to decrease your day-to-day levels. Behavior health techniques like yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and massage have evidence to back their efficacy in lowering stress.

Frequently Asked Questions

Behavioral health, or behavior health, refers to the link between personal lifestyle habits like diet, exercise, alcohol or drug intake, and stress levels and their impact on the physical body, as well as the mind and mental well-being.

Mental and physical health are powerfully linked, and there is a much higher risk of developing chronic health conditions if mental health issues are present. By the same token, physical illness or behavioral issues may lead to or exacerbate existing mental health conditions.

Several mental health conditions have a strong genetic component. A large-scale study published in Cell in 2109 found that there were genes linked to at least 8 common psychiatric disorders.

Behavior health pertains to habits like diet and exercise behavior, drinking habits, or the way you handle stress. Examples of dysfunctions or conditions include eating disorders, alcoholism or substance abuse, or self-injury.

The connection between behavioral health vs mental health is not easy to define, as dysfunctional behaviors appear as symptoms of psychiatric conditions. Mental health refers to our overall psychological and emotional wellness.

What is behavioral health? In short, it’s the connection between your lifestyle habits and your psychological well-being.

Examining behavioral issues is essential in considering someone’s overall mental health because the two are strongly connected.

Mental health issues can lead to dysfunctional behavior, and physical health problems or behavioral health issues can exacerbate psychological problems.

The Bottom Line

Any discussion of behavioral health vs mental health must consider the fact that psychological and physical functioning are closely connected and impact each other powerfully. An important part of nurturing your mental health is taking on healthy lifestyle behaviors and changing your maladaptive ones.

However, it’s also essential as a part of mental health awareness to understand the distinction between the two. In addition, this information can have an impact on the type of treatment you seek out that would be the most beneficial and impactful for you personally.

What is behavioral health? When it comes to physical and emotional well-being, the brain and body are involved in a complex relationship that is impossible to separate. Behavioral health looks at all of the ways you treat your body and how that impacts your mind.