Introduction to Behavioral Health

Rajeswari S | June 1, 2022

Even though the terms “behavioral health” and “mental health” are often used interchangeably, but they don’t always mean the same. Mental health pertains only to a person’s psychological state, whereas behavioral health involves a person’s mental state and their physical condition.

Mental health covers many of the same issues as behavioural health, but only encompasses the biological component of wellness. The term, “behavioural health” encompasses all contributions to mental wellness including substances and their abuse, behavior, habits, and other external forces.

Behavioural health is the connection between behaviours, health and well-being of the body, mind, and spirit. It is the scientific study of emotions, behaviors and biology relating to a person’s mental well-being, their ability to function in everyday life and concept of self. It is the way your habits impact your mental and physical wellbeing.

Good habits like healthy diet, exercise and adequate sleep usually lead to good mental and physical health. Similarly, poor habits result in deterioration in health.

According to a survey in the US, 70% of patients have behavioural health-related issues that require behavioural health services. The various types of care provided to behavioural health issues are:

  • Mental healthcare
  • Psychiatric care
  • Marriage and family counselling
  • Substance abuse prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery
Of the more than 50 million American adults experiencing some form of mental illness today, more than 60% are not receiving any services for those illnesses
  • Management of chronic diseases

Behavioral Disorders in Children

Behavioural disorders are common in children also.

“Behavioural disorders involve a pattern of disruptive behaviours in children that last for at least 6 months and cause problems in school, at home and in social situations.” Nearly everyone shows some of these behaviours at times, but behaviour disorders are more serious.

Behavioural disorders may involve:

  • Inattention
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsivity
  • Defiant behaviour
  • Drug use
  • Criminal activity

There are several types of behavioural disorders in children:

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – Most commonly found disorder in children is ADHD. ADHD is a problem of not being able to focus, being overactive, not being able to control behaviour, or a combination of these. ADHD is diagnosed much more often in boys than in girls.
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) – According to John Hopkins Medicine, children with ODD are uncooperative, defiant, and hostile toward peers, parents, teachers, and other authority figures.
  • Conduct Disorder (CD) – It is diagnosed when children show an ongoing pattern of aggression toward others, and serious violations of rules and social norms at home, in school, and with peers. These rule violations may involve breaking the law and result in arrest.

An interesting finding from a survey – most children with oral clefts may have similar behavioral health outcomes to unaffected children, except for increased inattention/hyperactivity risks at older ages. However, low satisfaction with facial appearance, increased exposure to surgeries, and lower socio-economic status (SES) may significantly increase behavioral problems.

Integrating behavioral health into primary care setting

Individuals with mental disorders approach their Primary Care Physicians (PCP) regarding their issues. Though approximately one in every 4-5 adults experience mental disorders, some studies show that only 5% of those individuals will seek care from professional behavioral health centers. To overcome the situation, integration of behavioral health and primary care would be the best solution. Where healthcare professionals can reach out to more people affecting more probable outcomes in the lives of those who suffer from mental disorders.

Integrating behavioral health into a primary care setting allows providers to treat the medical condition in totality.  Primary care setting allows health providers to collaborate more effectively on cases, which helps them gain more insights into the individual’s concerns and make better decisions to treat them. This approach also frees up the medical provider’s time to attend more medically-oriented cases. In addition, primary care settings are more accessible and have a much more diverse population of individuals seeking care.

Behavioral health treatments go a long way in helping people with mental illnesses or substance use disorders.

  • Counselling and specialized psychotherapies help patients to change behaviors, thoughts, emotions, and how they see and understand situations.
  • Medications provide significant relief for many people and help manage symptoms to the point where people can use other strategies to pursue recovery.

For many people, the most effective behavioral health approach involves a combination of counseling and medication. A trained professional should do a full evaluation to make the diagnosis and the earlier the better.

Common techniques used in behavioral therapy

  • Systematic desensitization – a process that helps you to become less sensitive to certain triggers. It relies heavily on classical conditioning and is often used in the treatment of phobias.
  • Aversion therapy – Often used to treat disorders like substance use disorder, it works by teaching people to associate a stimulus (something that triggers a response) that’s pleasant but unhealthy with an extremely unpleasant stimulus.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy – It combines behavioral therapy, which focuses on patterns of action, with cognitive therapy, which focuses on patterns of thought.
  • Cognitive behavioral play therapy (CBPT) It provides a therapeutic model for how to view children’s problems and provide a structure for sessions that has been shown to be effective in treating many different disorders.
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) – ACT is a type of psychotherapy that includes behavioral analysis performed by a mental health clinician. ACT is based on relational frame theory, which focuses on mental processes and human language.
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) – DBT was created by Dr. Marsha Linehan to help treat the symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD), an emotional regulation disorder marked by suicidal behavior, depression, unstable personal relationships, and other symptoms.

In my next article, I will discuss the role of technology in behavioral healthcare.


About the Author –

Rajeswari S

Rajeswari is part of the Presales team at GAVS. She has been involved in technical and creative content development for the past 15 years. She is passionate about learning new technologies, gardening, music and writing. She spends her free time watching movies or going for a highway drive.

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