When researching treatment options for mental health conditions, references to behavioral health services can seem confusing. While mental health and behavioral health are related disciplines within the realm of healthcare, they are not the same thing. Understanding the differences between mental health and behavioral health will help you find the right type of care for your situation.

What is mental health?

The term “mental health” refers to a person’s state of wellbeing, and how well they can cope with stress and remain a productive member of society. Biology, habits, and psychological conditions can impact and be impacted by your mental health, and many mental health disorders are caused by genetics or brain chemistry. Examples of mental health conditions include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

What is behavioral health?

The term “behavioral health” refers to the way a person’s habits and behavior impacts their mental and physical wellbeing. Factors such as eating and drinking habits, exercise, and addictive behavior and patterns can impact your behavioral health. While behavioral health is considered a subset of mental health, it is also closely connected with physical health as well. Behavioral health disorders include:

  • Substance abuse
  • Gambling addiction
  • Sex addiction
  • Eating disorders
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

How are mental health and behavioral health connected?

Behavioral health disorders are often characterized by unhealthy habits, but the habits themselves are usually not the root cause. Behavioral health disorders very often co-occur with mental illness, so in order to effectively treat the condition, psychiatric care and/or psychological counseling might be necessary in addition to therapy aimed at modifying behaviors. 

Similarly, although many mental health conditions are caused by biological factors, individual behaviors can have a significant impact on the condition in both positive and negative ways. For example, alcohol and substance abuse often exacerbate symptoms of a mental health disorder, while coping mechanisms such as exercise or meditation can provide noticeable improvement in your mental state. 

What are common symptoms of a behavioral or mental health issue?

Whether you think you have a mental health or behavioral health disorder, or you’re not sure which, it’s important to seek out a professional diagnosis so you can obtain the most effective treatment plan for your individual situation. Common symptoms that could be linked to a mental or behavioral health issue include:

  • Feeling sadness or overwhelming depression
  • Excessive worry or fear
  • Reduced ability to concentrate on work or daily tasks
  • Extreme mood swings or emotional changes that do not resolve naturally
  • Withdrawal from friends, family, social activities, or hobbies
  • Significant changes in eating habits
  • New or frequent thoughts about suicide or self-harm
  • Substance or alcohol abuse

What is the treatment for mental and behavioral health disorders?

While treatment will vary depending on each patient and the severity of their symptoms, treatment typically starts with psychological or psychiatric services. During psychotherapy, patients talk through their feelings and experiences while learning how to identify triggers and implement coping skills and other strategies to regain control of thoughts and behaviors. Psychotherapy is most effective with mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and personality disorders.

Psychiatric treatment usually involves psychotherapy along with medication. Specific medications and dosages are typically adjusted until symptoms are minimized or become more manageable. Psychiatric treatment is effective for disorders including depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.

Mental and behavioral health treatment in San Diego

Although there is no cure for mental and behavioral health disorders, there are many treatments available to help patients manage their condition and live healthy, fulfilling lives. At Pacific Health Systems in San Diego, we offer psychological and psychiatric treatment options, along with chemical dependency treatment and cutting-edge depression treatments, including TMS and ketamine. For more information about our services or to schedule a consultation, fill out our contact form or call us at (619) 267-9257.