What Is The Difference Between Behavioral Health Vs. Mental Health?

Updated October 22, 2021

When it comes to distinguishing different types of health, it can be difficult to see the difference between behavioral health and mental health. After all, don’t they both revolve around the mind and its ability to function normally? However, there is a small difference between the two terms. Basically, mental health focuses on an individual’s ability to handle regular life stressors, work in a productive manner, and contribute to their society. Behavioral health revolves around the impact that their habits have on their physical and mental health.

Learning how to distinguish the difference between behavioral and mental health can help you better understand psychology and its role in your life.

Overview Of Behavioral Health

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Behavioral health involves the impact that your behavior has on both your mental well-being and physical health. Everything from your fitness routine to your diet has an impact on both your emotions and physical health.

A number of different factors can affect your behavioral health, such as:

  • Diet
  • Medication
  • Exercise habits
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Relationships
  • Chronic health issues
  • Trauma

When helping an individual overcome certain challenges, many health professionals examine their patient’s behavioral health. For example, a behavioral health therapist might treat a patient with obesity by first examining what behaviors lead to their weight gain. They can then incorporate methods for addressing these behaviors in their treatment plan.

A Quick Guide To Mental Health

When discussing a patient’s mental health with them, a health services professional might ask them about their ability to get along with other people or their skill at managing stressful situations. In general, mental health revolves around one’s social, emotional, and psychological well-being.

No matter what age you are, your mental health plays a crucial role in your overall well-being. Learning how to handle stressful situations, manage personal relationships, and work in a productive manner is indicative of a positive mentality. To maintain and cultivate this healthy mentality, you can perform a number of different actions such as:

  • Seeking out therapy for extra help and counseling
  • Following a healthy fitness routine
  • Staying in contact with your loved ones
  • Eating healthy and nutritious food
  • Sorting out relationship problems in a healthy and productive manner

Behavioral Health Vs. Mental Health

Essentially, mental health plays just one part of the broader branch of behavioral health. Behavioral health includes mental health conditions, such as depression and addiction. However, it can also extend to interpersonal relationships revolving couples counseling or family counseling. Behavioral health also focuses on addressing addictions and substance abuse problems. Basically, behavioral health is inclusive of more conditions than mental health alone.

Different Types Of Behavioral Health And Mental Health Disorders

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Located in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders are almost 300 behavioral health and mental health disorders. Some of the main groups of these disorders include:

  • Eating Disorders
  • Personality Disorders
  • Psychotic Disorders
  • Substance Use Disorders and Addiction
  • Trauma-Related Disorders
  • Mood Disorders

Eating Disorders

An eating disorder is a complex and serious mental health condition that can cause severe health problems and, in extreme cases, death. Some of the most common eating disorders include Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, and Binge Eating Disorder. Some lesser-known disorders include purging disorder, which involves extreme efforts to rid the body of food and prevent weight gain, and night eating syndrome. Night eating syndrome is characterized by the need to eat excessive amounts of food after awakening.

Symptoms and warning signs of an eating disorder may include:

  • Having an unhealthy obsession with one’s weight and body image
  • Avoiding certain foods to lose weight
  • Attempting to practice extreme fad diets
  • Frequently checking one’s body in the mirror
  • Following unusual food rituals, such as eating only one type of food

Personality Disorders

Someone with a personality disorder struggles with following thinking patterns and behaviors that deviate from the norm and can cause problems with their day-to-day functioning. Some common personality disorders include:

  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder
  • Histrionic Personality Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

While symptoms will vary a little from disorder to disorder, they can typically be categorized into different clusters.

For example, cluster A includes personality disorders marked by strange behaviors and thinking patterns. Paranoid and Schizoid Personality Disorder both belong in cluster A. Cluster B disorders are characterized by dramatic and unpredictable thinking and behavior. Antisocial and Borderline Personality Disorder are cluster B personality disorders. Cluster C disorders, which include Avoidant and Dependent Personality Disorder, can cause someone to feel extremely anxious and fearful over regular situations.

Psychotic Disorders

People with a psychotic disorder struggle with abnormal thoughts and perceptions of others. Schizophrenia is perhaps the most well-known psychotic disorder. Others include Schizoaffective and Delusional Disorder.

Delusions and hallucinations can plague those with a psychotic disorder. Psychosis, which occurs when someone loses touch with reality, is another serious symptom. Someone who is experiencing psychosis might see or hear things that aren’t actually there. Early warning signs of psychosis include feeling suspicious around others, having trouble distinguishing reality from fantasy, and withdrawing from their friends and family members.

Substance Use Disorders And Addiction

Addiction is a serious and sometimes fatal disease. People who are addicted to drugs or alcohol will often continue to use these substances even when it strains their relationships or causes health problems. Symptoms of addiction include using the drug up to several times a day, shelling out money for the drug despite not being able to afford it, driving under the influence of the drug, and experiencing withdrawal symptoms after quitting it. People who struggle with addiction may also experience physical health issues, such as a lack of energy or a change in weight.

Trauma-Related Disorders

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is perhaps the most widely-known trauma-related disorder. Physical abuse, combat, and severe illness can cause someone to develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Acute stress disorder is another common trauma-related disorder diagnosed in patients.

Mood Disorders

Depression, bipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder are common mood disorders. As the name implies, mood disorders negatively affect your mood as well as your outlook on life and other people. In most cases, a combination of psychotherapy and medication is the best treatment option. If you have been feeling depressed, anxious, or irritable for prolonged or alternating periods, you might be struggling with a mood disorder. You must seek help right away so you can start treatment and manage your symptoms.

Different Types Of Behavioral Health And Mental Health Services

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You have a wide variety of options when it comes to looking into different mental health services. Psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and licensed mental health counselors can all offer effective behavioral health and mental health services to patients.

In regards to treating your behavioral health, social workers can specialize in different areas to effectively address certain issues such as family problems and substance abuse. Mental health counselors typically specialize in psychotherapy to help with behavioral health problems too.


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