If you search for the term “behavioral health” online, you’ll find several articles that explain the difference between behavioral and mental health. In the past, these two terms were used interchangeably. However, over the last few years, people started to see the difference between mental health and behavioral health.
According to the Maine Health Access Foundation (MeHAF), during the 1980s, the term “behavioral health” referred to “behaviors that prevent illness or that promote health”. Later, it included behaviors that help people manage their illnesses, for example, a complete lifestyle change to control diabetes. Recently, mental health is part of the term “behavioral health”.
According to the definition of the National Business Group on Health, as a discipline, behavioral health refers to mental health, psychiatric, marriage and family counseling, and addictions treatment, and it includes services provided by social workers, counselors, psychiatrists, neurologists, and physicians.
The American Public Human Services Association describes behavioral health as a term that includes both mental health and substance use encompassing a continuum of prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery support services.
What Exactly is Behavioral Health?
It is a wide-reaching term that describes the connection between our well-being – body, mind and spirit – and how behaviors, like eating, drinking or exercising impact our physical and mental health. It also takes into consideration other factors that may influence harmful behaviors that affect our health. Like pollution or nearby environmental factors.
Mental health conditions are part of behavioral health. So, mental health professionals encourage the use of behavioral therapy for mental illnesses and substance abuse. The most common behavioral therapies are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational interview, and aversion therapy. These therapy approaches encourage changes in behavioral and thinking patterns. Not only in the individual but also in family members and the community. This can help the person deal with mental health problems or substance abuse in an easier way.
The connection between our mind, spirit, and physical health is mostly visible through the illnesses that affect these areas. Many patients that suffer from chronic diseases and pain often develop symptoms of depression. The key to healing the entire person and living a healthier, happier, fulfilled life are behavioral interventions that address not only the physical but also the psychological aspects of the patient. The primary goal of behavioral health is combining the benefits of primary care with behavioral therapy and helping the patient become a functional member of the society.
Seven out of ten people waiting in the doctor’s office are seeking care for reasons related to behavioral health.
That includes people with symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD, or other mental health problems. Those that have a drinking or drug problem that affects not only their health but also destroys relationships with friends and family. People that want to lose weight, quit smoking or need a behavioral change to deal with chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart problems. All of these problems require not only primary care but also behavioral health care.
This led many health care professionals to start offering primary care and integrated behavioral health care to patients suffering from different conditions. The approach assures an effective, “all in one field” care that meets the patient’s needs on different levels.
People suffering from behavioral health issues can be taught that their own choices and behaviors can prevent, change, cure or decrease the symptoms of their disorder.
The following are the most common behavioral health disorders:
- Eating disorders: The most common disorders in this group are anorexia and bulimia nervosa. The person suffers from destructive eating behaviors.
- Sex Addiction: Sex addicts have compulsive sexual behaviors that are difficult to control. After a while, sex addiction starts to negatively impact the person’s life. The addiction leads to unstable relationships, divorce, sexually transmitted diseases, multiple pregnancies and financial problems.
- Porn Addiction: Preoccupation with porn to the extent that it negatively affects everyday life. It is very common because of the easy access to porn sites.
- Exercise Addiction: People that are addicted to exercising spend the vast majority of their time exercising. After a while, this affects their life and health causing injuries and excessive weight loss. They also neglect other responsibilities because the addiction consumes their time.
- Gambling Disorder: Gambling is a very serious behavioral disorder because it deeply affects not only the person’s financial life but the entire family.
- Internet Addiction: Internet addiction has become extremely common and characterizes with spending too much on the Internet. People nowadays tend to spend their time on the Internet and sometimes neglect other responsibilities. But people that have a serious Internet addiction are unable to control the urge of spending the majority of their time online.
- Shopping Addiction: People with shopping addiction spend a lot of money (many times money they don’t have) buying things. That is a way of dealing with stressful situations because a new purchase makes them happy and excited. It is a way to forget about their problems for an instance. They easily get into debt.
- Work Addiction: Work addiction is common in perfectionists and people whose life centers around being successful and earning a lot of money. They work long hours and this affects their health and relationships.
Even though many behavioral addictions are not officially recognized as addictions, psychiatrists around the world believe that the term addiction is not limited to substances. In fact, according to R.I.F. Brown, there are six criteria for diagnosing behavioral addiction:
- Salience – The activity dominates the person’s life.
- Euphoria – Doing the activity brings positive feelings.
- Tolerance – After the initial “high”, the person needs to repeat the activity for a longer period to feel the same thing.
- Withdrawal – When the person stops doing the activity experiences unpleasant symptoms. Like depression, irritability, difficulty sleeping, and unpleasant sensations in the body.
- Conflict – The activity starts to interfere with the person’s life. The person experiences self-conflict and is in conflict with others.
- Relapse and Reinstatement – The person relapses after a period of abstinence.
People with behavioral addictions find it extremely hard to stop doing the activity even though it negatively impacts their life. Very often, they have co-occurring mental health disorders or underlying emotional problems. These problems may even contribute to their behaviors. The diagnosing criteria are similar to ones used to diagnose substance abuse (but the symptoms are not as extreme) and the treatment is just as complex as with co-occurring mental disease and substance abuse.
Some of the treatment options available for mental health disorders, alcohol or behavioral addictions are:
- Inpatient treatment: The best option for people with severe mental or behavioral addictions. Takes place in a residential setting usually for 30 to 90 days. The patient is in isolation from the outside world. The therapy in inpatient treatment consists of individual and group counseling, peer support, 12-step programs, and other alternative therapies.
- Outpatient treatment: The treatment approach is similar to the one offered in inpatient treatment. The patient lives at home while visiting the treatment facility for therapy.
- 12-Step programs: These traditional programs are available in most communities. For example, Gamblers Anonymous, Spenders Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, Workaholics Anonymous. and many others.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: One of the best therapy approaches that addresses mental and behavioral problems. This therapy approach helps the patient recognize negative behaviors and find the connection between emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. After that, the patient works on changing thinking patterns and behaviors, which reduces the symptoms.
- Motivational Interviewing: It helps the patient set a goal and work towards a change. The person recognizes the consequences of the addictive behaviors and works towards changing them.
For more information please call this Toll Free 24/7 Addiction Treatment Helpline at (844) 439-4765. This is a completely confidential call. If you have health insurance it may cover up to 100% of the treatment cost. So please call now!