Behavioral Health

What is Behavioral Health?: A Complete Guide

Maintaining behavioral health ensures fulfilling lives. Learn all about behavioral health — from risk factors to symptoms and beyond.

From young children to adults, navigating the world of behavioral health can initially seem overwhelming.

However, to live a fulfilling life, we must understand how important behavioral health is to our well-being — and get help when needed. 

With 1 in 5 adults living with a mental health condition, it’s important to know how behavioral health fits into our lives. 

For those who might not understand the complexity of behavioral health, we’ll dive into the details below, including the definition, risk factors, symptoms, conditions, when to seek help, and more. 

What is Behavioral Health?

Behavioral health is a broad field that covers the mental and emotional well-being of individuals. It also explores how their habits and behaviors  impact physical health. 

It isn’t just the absence of mental illness — behavioral health also includes the presence of positive characteristics that contribute to a person’s overall functioning and quality of life.

It's a comprehensive approach that looks at the factors affecting how we think, feel, and behave. Behavioral health is a dynamic state that can change over time depending on various internal and external influences.

Why is Behavioral Health Important?

Behavioral health has a major impact on our health, how we feel day-to-day, and how long we might live. Managing our behavioral health helps us manage stress, become more resilient, and stay physically healthy. 

For example, problems like depression can cause physical issues such as chronic pain or stomach problems. 

On the other hand, if you have good behavioral health, you're more likely to do things that keep you healthy, reducing the risk of serious illnesses like heart disease or diabetes.

Good behavioral health also affects our daily lives by improving our ability to do everyday tasks, maintain good relationships, and achieve our goals in school or work. However, mental health issues or substance abuse can shorten your life.

The impact of behavioral health goes beyond individual well-being. It affects society, too!

Economically, poor behavioral health leads to high healthcare costs, less productivity at work, and more disability claims. For instance, mental health issues or problems with substance abuse can cause a big drop in productivity, which affects a person's income and the economy overall.

So, keeping good behavioral health is essential for personal well-being and the communities’ economic and social health. Investing in better behavioral health services can bring many benefits across different areas of society.

What is the Difference Between Behavioral Health and Mental Health?

Behavioral health is often confused with mental health, and while they’re similar, it’s important to highlight how they differ.

Behavioral health is a broad term that includes mental health and behaviors that affect physical health and well-being. It examines how habits, lifestyle choices, and mental health impact overall health.

Conversely, mental health focuses on emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It's about how people think, feel, behave, handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. 

Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence to adulthood.

Mental health is one piece of the bigger behavioral health picture. Because mental health issues can influence behaviors that affect physical health, and those behaviors can also impact mental health, they are deeply connected. 

This means that improving mental health can help enhance overall behavioral health, and the reverse is also true.

Risk Factors and Threats to Behavioral Health

A combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors influences behavioral health. 

Understanding these risk factors can help us better manage and potentially prevent some behavioral health issues.

Genetic Factors

Genetics play a significant role in behavioral health. 

Just as you can inherit physical traits like eye color from your parents, you can also inherit a higher likelihood of certain mental health disorders or substance abuse issues. 

For instance, if a close family member has depression or alcoholism, you might have a higher risk of developing these conditions, too.

Environmental Factors

The environment you grew up in and live in greatly impacts your behavioral health. This includes everything from your family and upbringing to your educational experiences and socio-economic status. 

For example, growing up in a high-stress environment or experiencing poverty can increase your risk of behavioral health issues. Exposure to community violence or having limited access to quality education can also play a part in developing such problems.

Psychological Factors

Personal experiences and emotional reactions to life events also shape your behavioral health. 

Traumatic experiences, such as a death in the family, abuse, or witnessing a traumatic event, can lead to long-lasting psychological effects, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression. 

Even day-to-day stress, if not managed properly, can accumulate and significantly impact behavioral health, affecting how one thinks, feels, and acts.

Symptoms of Behavioral Health Issues and When to Seek Help

Understanding how important behavioral health is to your well-being is one thing. However, you also need to know when to seek help.

Behavioral health issues can manifest in various ways, affecting your emotional, psychological, and physical well-being. Recognizing the symptoms early and understanding when to seek help can significantly improve outcomes. 

Here’s a guide to help you identify signs of behavioral health issues and when to seek professional assistance:

Emotional Symptoms

  • Frequent mood swings or unexpected emotional responses
  • Persistent feelings of sadness or depression
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Withdrawal from social interactions
  • Loss of interest in once enjoyable activities 
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Aggressive behavior or rapid changes in behavior

Cognitive Symptoms

  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering things
  • Constant worry or anxiety that interferes with daily activities
  • Confusion or problems with decision-making

Physical Symptoms

  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Significant weight loss or gain without a clear reason
  • Feeling tired all the time, even with adequate rest

When to Seek Help

  • Intensifying symptoms - If the symptoms worsen over time or begin to interfere significantly with your daily life — such as impacting your work, relationships, or self-care — it’s important to seek professional help.
  • Distress and dysfunction - When emotional or psychological distress becomes overwhelming, and you find it challenging to function normally in your daily life, you may need professional guidance.
  • Harmful thoughts or behaviors - If you experience thoughts of self-harm, suicide, or harming others, immediate help from a mental health professional is important. These are signs that the issues have progressed to a critical level and require urgent attention.
  • Ineffectiveness of personal efforts - The issues may persist despite best efforts to manage symptoms through self-help techniques like exercise, meditation, or talking to friends. This indicates that you need additional support from a behavioral health professional.
  • Advice from others - Friends or family members may notice changes in your behavior that you might not see yourself. If people close to you suggest seeking help, consider their opinions seriously, as they may notice things you're unaware of.

If you or someone you know exhibits these symptoms, you should contact a healthcare provider, a counselor, or a mental health specialist to discuss the next steps.

Common Behavioral Health Conditions

Understanding common behavioral health conditions can help you recognize symptoms and seek timely help. Just as symptoms can manifest differently, many conditions are associated with behavioral health. 

Here’s a brief overview of several widely recognized conditions that impact many individuals:


Anxiety disorders involve more than temporary worry or fear. For a person with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time. Symptoms might interfere with daily activities such as job performance, schoolwork, and relationships. 

Common types include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and various phobia-related disorders.


Depression is a common but serious mood disorder that negatively affects how you feel, think, and handle daily activities. 

Symptoms must last at least two weeks and must represent a change in your previous level of functioning for a diagnosis of depression. Common signs include persistent sadness, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, and changes in appetite or sleep.


ADHD is characterized by patterns of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that interfere with functioning or development. 

Symptoms often include difficulty staying focused, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior. ADHD can lead to difficulties in school or work, problems with relationships, and low self-esteem.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes sudden changes in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. The cycles of bipolar disorder include high periods (manic episodes) and lows (depressive episodes).

Substance Use Disorder

Substance use disorders occur when the recurrent use of alcohol and drugs causes impairment, such as health problems, disability, and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home. 

Diagnosis is based on evidence of impaired control, social impairment, risky behaviors, and pharmacological criteria.

PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)

PTSD is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event. The symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts about the event. People with PTSD may feel stressed or frightened, even when they are not in danger.

BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder)

Borderline personality disorder is a serious mental disorder marked by a pattern of ongoing instability in moods, behavior, self-image, and functioning. These experiences often result in impulsive actions and unstable relationships. 

A person with BPD may experience intense episodes of anger, depression, and anxiety that may last from a few hours to days, depending on the situation. 

What Are Behavioral Health Services?

For those who need help dealing with conditions and symptoms of ailing behavioral health, there are different options out there to help!

Behavioral health services encompass a broad range of interventions designed to treat mental health disorders, substance use disorders, and other behaviors that negatively impact health. 

These services help improve and manage individuals' mental and behavioral health through various therapeutic techniques, support systems, and treatment plans. 

The goal is to provide effective support that fosters recovery and enhances quality of life.

Behavioral Health Counseling 

Counseling is a core service in behavioral health that involves talking through problems with a trained professional. 

This approach helps individuals address and manage their issues in a safe, confidential environment. Counselors promote healing and growth by building communication skills, enhancing coping strategies, and exploring effective problem-solving methods. 

Counseling can be beneficial for dealing with life's challenges, mental health problems, relationship issues, and more.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a highly effective treatment technique that explores relationships among a person's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. By scrutinizing negative or false beliefs and testing or restructuring them, CBT helps individuals reduce emotional distress and develop more effective coping strategies. 

This therapy can treat a variety of conditions, including depression, anxiety, PTSD, and eating disorders. It is known for its direct approach that delivers measurable improvements.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy 

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) emphasizes balancing behavioral change, problem-solving, and emotional regulation with validation, mindfulness, and acceptance. 

Originally developed for treating borderline personality disorder, DBT has also been successfully adapted for treating mood disorders, eating disorders, and substance abuse. 

This therapy is especially suited for individuals who experience intense emotions and require both acceptance and change strategies.

Neurobehavioral Therapy

Neurobehavioral therapy is an approach that combines neurobiological principles with behavioral treatment techniques. It focuses on understanding how brain function affects behavior and uses this knowledge to develop treatment plans that address neurological and behavioral issues. 

This type of therapy is particularly useful in treating conditions like traumatic brain injuries, neurodevelopmental disorders, and neurological conditions that impact behavior.

NeuroRestorative, for example, offers neurobehavioral therapy programs tailored to an individual’s needs. 

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) encourages people to embrace their thoughts and feelings rather than fighting or feeling guilty for them. 

ACT uses mindfulness strategies to help people live and behave in ways consistent with personal values while developing psychological flexibility. 

It's effectively used in treating a variety of disorders, including stress, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse, focusing on living a meaningful life despite potential mental health issues.

How to Find a Behavioral Health Provider

Finding the right behavioral health provider is crucial in managing and improving your mental and behavioral health. Here are some steps and tips to guide you in your search:

  • Determine your needs - Before starting your search, consider what type of help you need. Are you looking for support with a mental health disorder, substance use, or perhaps coping strategies for stress? Knowing your requirements will help narrow down the type of specialist you need, such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or licensed counselor.
  • Consult your primary care physician - Your primary care doctor can be a great starting point. They can assess your situation, provide an initial diagnosis, and refer you to a behavioral health specialist.
  • Use insurance provider directories - If you have health insurance, check your provider's directory for a list of covered behavioral health professionals. This ensures that the services will be financially accessible under your insurance plan.
  • Check online directories and resources - Utilize reputable online directories and resources from established organizations like the American Psychological Association or the National Alliance on Mental Illness. These can provide listings of licensed professionals in your area.
  • Consider teletherapy - Many behavioral health services are now offered online via teletherapy. This option can be convenient if you have limited access to local services or prefer receiving help from home.
  • Ask for recommendations - Sometimes, recommendations from trusted family members, friends, or even colleagues can lead you to great providers.
  • Evaluate credentials and experience - Once you have a few names, check their qualifications, experience, and patient reviews. Ensure they are licensed in your state and see if they have expertise in treating the issues you're dealing with.
  • Contact the provider - Reach out to the potential provider to ask about their approach to treatment, availability, and whether they are accepting new patients. This initial interaction can also help you gauge whether you will feel comfortable working with them.

Get Behavioral Health Support When You Need It

No matter what you’re going through, managing your behavioral health is key to thriving and living a fulfilling life. 

Sevita’s companies can help those who need it. With highly specialized services, our programs help people heal in the ways they need to. 

Explore our behavioral health services to learn more about how Sevita’s companies can support you or someone you care about.

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