The Key Difference Between Mental Health And Behavioral Health

Psychological well-being influences so much of our lives. It can impact our relationships, work, and our physical health. When you think about how your thoughts and emotions affect your behavior, psychological well-being encompasses both our mental processes and our resulting behaviors. While it's common for people to swap behavioral health for mental health, these terms refer to different approaches to healing our psychological well-being.

Mental health deals with internal experiences such as thoughts, emotions, personality, and cognitive function. Behavioral health takes a broader approach by looking at how our habits, reactions, and coping strategies affect our psychological and physical well-being. Mental health might be able to explain some behaviors, such as why someone turns to certain substances to cope with life. Behavioral health recognizes that certain patterns of behavior might cause a disturbance in our health, or those behaviors could be the effect of several other attributes of health, including mental health (via Healthline).

Treating mental and behavioral health conditions

Mental health conditions can vary in severity, from mild to severe. These can include anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and schizophrenia. Mental health can also include unhealthy attachment style and low self-esteem (via Better Help). Mental health can be treated with medications such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, psychotherapy, and brain stimulation treatments. In severe cases, mental illness is treated in a psychiatric hospital (via Mayo Clinic).

Behavioral health disorders include substance abuse, gambling, eating disorders, or other addictive patterns (via Better Help). Treating behavioral health conditions usually involves a more integrated approach, often involving a team of health professionals. For example, if someone is struggling with obesity, a behavioral health professional will also consider how the person's mental health might contribute to obesity (via Uprise Health). Behavioral health also includes certain lifestyle changes like exercise, proper hygiene, and quality sleep. Improving interpersonal skills while finding more productive coping strategies are also effective ways to manage your behavioral health (via Healthline).

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.