Mental vs. Behavioral Health: Are They The Same?

by Patricia O. Urquiaga | Sep 01, 2021 | behavior, behavioral health, behavioral health disorders, mental and behavioral disorders, mental and behavioral health, mental and behavioral health symptoms, mental and behavioral job opportunities, mental disorders, mental health, mental health crisis, mental vs. behavioral health, mental wellness, psychology
Mental vs. Behavioral Health: Are They The Same?

Mental vs. behavioral health. Many people believe they’re the same. In fact, they often use both terms interchangeably.

The truth is, there is a difference between both two terms.

So, whether you’re interested in better understanding your own psychological well-being or helping others take control of theirs, the first step is to clearly understand the difference between mental vs. behavioral health.

The Difference Between Mental and Behavioral Health

Are you happy?

This is a question we often ask ourselves as individuals.

Happiness is characterized by or indicative of pleasure, contentment, or joy.

As we continue our battle with COVID-19, most of us have taken the time to reflect, understand how the pandemic has affected us and have even questioned ourselves if we are truly happy with our lives.

Happiness is inextricably linked to our mental health.

Mental health revolves around an individual’s social, emotional, and psychological well-being. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is defined as a state of well-being where individuals realize their own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and are able to contribute to society. So, as you can see, our mental health impacts every aspect of our lives.

While on the other hand, behavioral health revolves around the impact an individual’s habits have on their physical and mental health. There are several factors that can affect your behavioral health such as diet, medication, exercise habits, alcohol and drug use, relationships, chronic health issues, trauma etc.

The Importance of Mental and Behavioral Health – And How They Are Linked

Understanding mental vs. behavioral health is crucial to help you best understand psychology and the role it plays in your life.

Mental and behavioral health have a reciprocal connection, meaning our behavior can influence our thoughts just as our thoughts can influence our behaviors.

Mental health is considered one branch (or one component) of behavioral health. Therefore, behavioral health not only includes mental health conditions such as depression, addiction, personal relationships (couple, family) etc. but it is more inclusive and addresses addiction and substance abuse problems.

Types of Mental and Behavioral Health Disorders and Their Symptoms

There are approximately 300 types of mental and behavioral health disorders according to the diagnostic and statistical manual (DSM-5) of mental disorders.

Some common disorders include:

  • Trauma-Related Disorders – This is the most widely known disorder. People who experience physical abuse, combat, and other types of severe illness tend to develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Acute stress disorder is another common type of trauma-related disorder.
  • Mood Disorders – People who struggle with mood disorders often suffer from depression, bipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder etc. Mood disorders often negatively affect your mood as well as outlook on life and other people. Symptoms include:
    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Irritable for prolonged or alternating periods
  • Personality Disorders – People with personality disorders struggle with following thinking patterns and behaviors that deviate from the norm, causing problems in their day-to-day. Common personality disorders include borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Symptoms for each of these disorders vary, but can typically be categorized into clusters:
    • Cluster A: strange behaviors and thinking patterns, paranoia etc.
    • Cluster B: dramatic and unpredictable thinking and behavior, being antisocial etc.
    • Cluster C: extreme anxiety, fearful over regular situations etc.
  • Substance Use Disorders and Addiction – A very serious and fatal disease. People suffering from addiction often continue to use substances even when it hurts their personal relationships or even causes health issues. Symptoms of addiction include:
    • Using drugs several times a day
    • Shelling out money for drugs
    • Driving under the influence
    • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms after quitting
    • Physical health issues (lack of energy, change in weight etc.)
  • Eating Disorders – A complex and serious mental health condition causing severe health problems, even death. Common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder and binge eating disorder. Lesser-known disorders include purging disorder and night eating syndrome. Symptoms of an eating disorder include:
    • Having an unhealthy obsession with one’s weight and body image
    • Avoiding certain foods to lose weight
    • Practicing extreme diets
    • Frequently checking one’s body in the mirror
    • Following unusual food rituals
  • Psychotic Disorders – People with psychotic disorders struggle with abnormal thoughts and perceptions of others. Common psychotic disorders include schizophrenia and less common psychotic disorders include schizoaffective and delusional disorders. Symptoms of psychotic disorders include:
    • Delusions
    • Hallucinations
    • Psychosis (hearing and seeing things that aren’t there, feeling suspicious around others, having trouble distinguishing reality from fantasy, withdrawing from family/friends etc.)

Taking Control of Your Mental and Behavioral Health

From childhood, it’s important for people to take the necessary steps to protect and nurture their mental and behavioral health/wellness.

As discussed previously, our mental health directly correlates to how we act and feel; affecting our everyday decisions and the people we surround ourselves with.

Behavioral health disorders are often characterized by unhealthy habits that co-occur with mental illness. If problems arise in our life that affect our mental health, its crucial to address them immediately to prevent long-term consequences. Modifying behaviors is not enough to treat conditions, make sure to also seek psychological counseling and/or psychiatric care to address problems.

If you or a loved one are experiencing a mental health crisis, call (800) 273-TALK or text NAMI to 741-741 to receive support from a trained counselor.

For additional resources, click here.

To connect with a healthcare recruiter to discuss mental and behavioral job opportunities or staffing needs, simply say hello.


One of our specialist will reach out to you.