Mental Health vs. Behavioral Health

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Mental Health and Behavioral Heath.

Are they basically the same thing? Not really. But kind of. It might depend on who you ask, but behavioral health might be a better term to use. Here’s why:

The Difference.

Behavioral health can encompass “mental health.” Think of behavioral health as the umbrella and mental health as everything underneath it. Behavioral health can relate to practices that help manage physical issues like diabetes, but also mental issues like anxiety.


Most people can learn new behaviors. Often enough, a change in behavior will translate into a change in outcomes. It is difficult to live with diabetes, for example. To get different physical results, a person with diabetes has to change certain specific dietary behaviors as well as physical behaviors. To a certain degree, the diabetic person can manage the disease through their behaviors.


Specific behavioral actions will often have an affect on mental health. People sometimes manage anxiety by writing down their fearful thoughts and revisiting them later. This practice gives the person a chance to gauge whether or not the thoughts were realistic. A person with anxiety might also repeatedly expose themselves to fearful situations. This practice allows the person to learn that many fears often go unfounded.

The Cleaner Term.

Behavioral health is ultimately the cleaner term to use because it serves as a reminder that behaviors have an affect on mental state. Of course, not all behaviors are easy to change and environment plays a significant role in mental health as well. Behavioral health does not always account for uncontrollable and unchangeable environmental factors.

What’s in a Name?

The term behavioral health is largely beneficial, however, because it gives people a certain degree of control and autonomy. Mental illness does not define a person. Humans can benefit from learning that they are capable of not only learning, but applying the skills that allow them to overcome, adapt to, and even change their environment. Behavioral health helps reinforce the concept of individuality, and that is a good thing.