Behavioral Health

The term ‘behavioral health’ makes an instant link with ‘mental health’ issues. The two terms are often used as synonyms in layman language. Their meaning and implications are poles apart. The diagnostic and therapeutic approaches also contrast each other.

An individual with issues of behavioral health may develop mental health problems. The latter is often looked upon as a taboo in many societies of the world and overlooked for the same reasons. We cannot deny the fact that both behavioral and mental aspects are part of essential health. Dealing with behavioral health critically is important.

Read the account of Melissa, a teenager hospitalized for six weeks as doctors tried to save her life. Then go through the story of River Phoenix, a celebrity star who died at the young age of 23. Both of the narrations seem to have the same causes. Both of them deal with essential health. The real-life events that led to these misfortunes have different origins.

According to the definition of Mental Health by WHO, “It is a state of well-being in which every individual

  • realizes his or her own potential,
  • can cope with the normal stresses of life,
  • can work productively and fruitfully,
  • and is able to make a contribution to her or his community”

While the definition by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is simple.  “The psychological, emotional and social well-being of a person”

The definition of behavioral health clears the misconception. “It represents a person’s state of being. It symbolizes the effects of choices and behaviors on their health”.

The root cause behind the two terms originates in a manner different from each other. Mental health issues have neurological and biological causes. Though some particular behaviors play their part too.

Behavioral health issues arise from one’s conscious decisions. The question may arise how a conscious decision becomes a health issue. This is important to note. Resisting the urge to repeat a specific behavior is not under one’s control. Such activities start interfering with one’s daily life. A person loses the ability to deliver his responsibilities. A process that may culminate into mental health issues.

It is important to appreciate the difference between the two terms.  The therapeutic course of action takes opposite turns. You need to know where to find help in case you or your loved one suffers from such misfortune. Examples of the two terms simplify the solution.

Some of the mental health issues include

  • Bipolar disorder.
  • Generalized anxiety.
  • Social anxiety.
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Behavioral health caters to

  • Substance abuse disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Behavioral Addictions

The Mental Health Awareness Month receives apt observation.  While no such activities highlight issues related to behavioral health. Though both make part and parcel of essential health of an individual.

Substance abuse disorders

As the name implies, it refers to illicit use of psychoactive substances. These include chemical substances that bring about changes in brain function. It induces changes in perception, cognition, conscious levels, mood, and behavior. Though some of them deliver therapeutic purpose in a controlled amount. Most often, the issue starts with the recreational use of such substances. Many misused drugs deliver benefits catering to our essential health.

Examples are cocaine, LSD, cannabis, caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine.

Eating disorders

What we eat is a part of essential health. Ever since size zero has hit the catwalks, dieting has emerged as a vogue that does not seem to fade away. Every now and then, celebrity health news flashes an account of such disorders of behavioral health.

Eating disorders refer to irregular and abnormal eating patterns. They have detrimental health effects. They include either extreme of eating behaviors, i.e. either you are eating too much or not at all. It often involves the perception of a negative body image on part of the patient.

The causes behind eating disorders overlap with mental health. They usually coexisting with depression or anxiety disorders. Biological, psychological and environmental factors contribute to their development. The issues of behavioral health usually have its roots in teenage and early adulthood.

The three common types of eating disorders are

  • anorexia nervosa,
  • bulimia nervosa, and
  • binge eating

Behavioral Addictions

There is a reason behind categorizing behavioral addictions as a separate title. You may find them surprising. Normal behaviors turning into addictions shock us but they do exist. You may find behavioral health issues right in your living room. It is important to accept them as addictions because acceptance makes treatment possible.

  • Exercise addiction
  • Sex addiction
  • Porn addiction
  • Gambling addiction
  • Internet addiction
  • Gaming addiction
  • Shopping addiction
  • Work addiction

These issues of behavioral health are often discarded in our society. We use insensitive terms as ‘shopaholics’, ‘workaholics’, or ‘exercise junkie’. Yet these define disorders related to essential health. Individuals lose their relations, savings, and assets while indulging in them. That leads to mental health issues. So looking after the behavioral health is utmost important. Otherwise, it complicates the scenario with the loss of precious lives.

The therapeutic approach to behavioral health

There may not be any documentation of issues of behavioral health in medical journals. A majority of health experts recognize that addictive is not restricted to substance abuse only.

Behaviors change. People adapt. It remains a normal life cycle all around us.  There are grave problems like cancer and AIDS prevalent in our world. So disorders of behavioral health do not interest health experts much. The family members or even the sufferer do not seek help until it is too late.  Because you cannot see an issue of behavioral health as you see a body deformity, it does not mean it does not exist. Early recognition and prompt treatment is the only solution. Some of the treatment lines for behavioral health include

  • In-patient
  • Out-patient
  • Peer support and group therapies

They cater to behavior health via

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Reality therapy

Where to get help?

  • National Alliance on Mental Illness Helpline, 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
  • Crises text line
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255

Take home message

Behavioral Health issues exist as facts. It is important to recognize them as part of our essential health. Atypical behaviors have a tendency to complicate into mental health issues. They even result in loss of precious life. Help is available. The question is, are you ready to get help?

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