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Understand the Difference: Behavioral Health vs. Mental Health | RMHP Blog

Understand the Difference: Behavioral Health vs. Mental Health | RMHP Blog



Behavioral health and mental health are closely related, but there are some unique differences between them that may affect the type of care you need.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mental health “includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act.” Mental illnesses are very common in the United States, with more than 50% of people estimated to be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder in their life.

Mental illnesses relate more to biological factors, like chemistry or genetic inheritance, that influence our mental state. They can have a direct impact on our physical health. For example, depression can often cause weight fluctuations, which can then result in other health issues. Many people experience symptoms associated with mental illnesses, but not everyone makes behavioral changes as a result of their condition.

Behavioral health encompasses mental health and includes how our behaviors and habits impact our overall health and well-being, including our physical and emotional health. Behavioral health disorders often co-occur with some mental health illnesses. These disorders are characterized by negative behavioral changes and unhealthy habits, such as turning to substance use as a coping mechanism.

In children, behavioral health disorders present in a pattern of disruptive behaviors for at least six months. These behaviors can include hyperactivity, impulsiveness, defiant behavior, and/or drug use.

Examples of Behavioral Health Issues

Common behavioral health disorders can include:

  • Substance use
  • Gambling addiction
  • Sex addiction
  • Eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Autism

Find Help and Get Care

You are not alone if you or a loved one is suffering from a behavioral health issue. Resources and help are available. Some services may be obtained at no cost if you qualify. Benefits are often offered through insurance coverage, including for Health First Colorado (Colorado’s Medicaid Program) members. Effective treatment plans take a collaborative approach between a team of health care providers, and many primary care practices are integrating behavioral health care into their practice. Talk to your doctor about care that may be right for you, or use these resources to find help in your community: