What Is Behavioral Health?
As opposed to your medical health, behavioral health refers to your psychological well-being and the behavioral choices you make. It relates to your mental health and how it is impacting your life.
There are a few important things to consider when evaluating behavioral health: mental health disorders, “behavioral addictions,” and overall health and wellness.
Mental Health Disorders
Mental health cannot be underestimated in understanding and treating addiction. Often, mental health disorders “co-occur” with an addiction – meaning that someone has both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder. This is commonly referred to as a dual diagnosis.
Common mental health disorders that “co-occur” with addiction:
- Anxiety Disorders (e.g., Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder)
- Bipolar Disorder
- Personality Disorders (e.g., Borderline Personality Disorder)
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
- Disruptive, Impulse-Control, or Conduct Disorders
Even if you do not meet full “criteria” for a mental health disorder, you may have some of the associated symptoms, which still play a role in addiction.
Sometimes rather than becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol, people develop behavioral addictions.
- These are behaviors that are done in excess and negatively impact one’s life. Examples range from gambling, shopping, and sex to ice cream, exercising, and video games.
- Though behavioral addictions are not classified as mental health disorders, they are strongly connected to mental health. They are also related to other addictions, like alcohol and drug abuse.
Overall Health and Wellness
Regardless of whether you have a mental health disorder or behavioral addiction, it is always important to consider your overall health and wellness, as this can also play an important role in addiction.
- Exercise, diet, sleep, and social activity are crucial for maintaining our mental health, physical health, and overall well-being. When one (or multiple) of these areas are lacking, it can have negative consequences on our behavior.
- Missing one piece of the puzzle makes it easier for ourselves to fall apart, allowing for unhealthy attempts to “fix” our uncomfortable feelings or make ourselves “whole” again – often by using drugs or alcohol.
I Have a Behavioral Health Issue and an Addiction: What Do I Do?
If you have a behavioral health concern and an addiction, it is best to find a facility that treats both. This is usually done in a facility that treats co-occurring mental health disorders and substance use disorders.
Treatment Centers for Mental Health and Addiction
You have options when it comes to the type of treatment you receive. The most common modes of treatment are through inpatient and outpatient programs, which will include individual counseling and/or group therapy.
- Inpatient treatment centers. These are residential, meaning that you live there for a period of time. This could range from weeks to months. A team of staff (e.g., doctors, therapists, social workers) are always present to help address your range of needs.
- Outpatient treatment centers. Here you would still live at home and make frequent visits to the center (typically once per week). This will allow you to remain engaged in work or other responsibilities you may have. Outpatient treatment centers are typically best for those who are less severe or who have recently been discharged from inpatient treatment
- Individual and group therapy are generally offered in both settings. Individual therapy allows you to address your addiction and mental/behavioral health concerns with a therapist (e.g., social worker, psychologist, intern). Group therapy allows you to share both of these issues in a supportive community of others who are having similar struggles.
- Private counseling. You may chose to seek out a private therapist for individual counseling. In this case, you wouldn’t be involved in a “program,” per se, but independently schedule treatment sessions with your therapist of choice.
What to Expect at a Mental Health/Addiction Treatment Center
Behavioral health and addiction treatment centers will address a range of needs, including: detox, substance abuse treatment, and mental health treatment. Therapeutic approaches might include:
- Detox. These centers will have medical professionals to help in the detox process.
- Medication. Medical doctors will decide if, and what type, of medication may be helpful for your mental health disorder and/or addiction.
- Individual and Group Therapies (commonly include):
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Cognitive behavioral therapy addresses “dysfunctional” thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are perpetuating your mental health disorder or addictive behaviors. CBT helps you identify these underlying thoughts, feelings, and “beliefs,” and develop strategies to change them.
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Dialectical behavior therapy is typically used when an individual is severely emotionally dysregulated, or they have a hard time controlling their feelings and actions. Sometimes these patients are suicidal or will self-harm. DBT helps people gain more control over their emotions, while paradoxically learning to “nonjudgmentally observe” them using mindfulness skills.
- Motivational Interviewing (MI). Motivational interviewing works to “meet you with where you are at” in your addiction or behavioral concern. Using a nonconfrontational approach, it ultimately allows you to decide when, and if, you are ready to make a change.
- Alternative Treatment Approaches:
- Meditation or yoga.
- Art or expressive therapy.
- Nature retreats.
Inpatient and outpatient centers might also encourage you to pursue additional outside support, like 12-step meetings, social support, private counseling, or practicing the skills you’ve learned in the real-world environment.