Frequently asked questions

Behavioral health matters — here's why.

Learn about behavioral health, the different providers who can help and related health conditions and terms.

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About behavioral health

What's the difference between behavioral health and mental health?

Let’s say that behavioral health is like a pie. Mental health would be a piece of the pie. Behavioral health looks at how our behaviors affect our overall physical and mental well-being. Your behavioral health can be influenced by different factors like your diet, alcohol and drug use, relationships, chronic health issues and trauma. Your mental health is simply one part of your behavioral health, and it focuses on your ability to handle regular life stressors in your daily life.


Mental health vs. behavioral health

Why is mental health important?

Everyone has mental health. Our mental health affects how we think, feel, act and behave. Some signs of positive mental health include being able to contribute to your community, engage in healthy relationships, handle normal levels of stress and recognize your value and worth.

When you struggle with your mental health, other areas of your life may feel the effects. There’s no shame in reaching out for help when you need it. Anyone can experience challenges with mental health at any time.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, World Health Organization

Behavioral health providers

How do I find the right therapist for me?

Finding the right therapist can take some time, but it is worth the effort. When you’re searching for a therapist who can help you long-term, we recommend you follow these five tips.

What’s the difference between a psychologist and a therapist?

Great question. It’s good to know the differences between types of behavioral health professionals. Sharp Health Plan members have access to all the following types of providers, depending on your needs.

  • Psychiatrists (MD, DO)

    Psychiatrists are licensed medical doctors that specialize in mental, emotional and behavioral disorders. They diagnose mental health conditions, prescribe and monitor medications and perform medical laboratory tests to help determine a patient’s specific issues and needs. Psychiatrists may use several treatment methods together to improve a patient’s well-being.

  • Psychologists (PhD, PsyD)

    Psychologists can provide individual or group therapy and may have specialized training in different forms of therapeutic treatment. They use clinical interviews, psychological evaluation and testing to determine your mental health and psychological needs. Psychologists may not prescribe medication.

  • Licensed clinical social workers (LCSW)

    Licensed clinical social workers are the largest group of mental health services providers. They diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, emotional and substance abuse issues among individuals, couples, groups and families, and they provide therapy and develop treatment plans. LCSWs are well-trained in case management and often act as the administrators of social programs such as child welfare.

  • Marriage and family therapists (MFT, LMFT)

    Marriage and family therapists specialize in psychological issues in the context of marriage, couples and family systems. They are trained to deal with both individual psychological issues and issues that affect the entire family, such as marital problems and child-parent relationship issues.

  • Addiction counselors

    Addiction counselors treat people who are suffering from addictions. It’s common for addiction counselors to work in group settings, either with other individuals dealing with the same addiction or with loved ones affected by the behavior.

  • Eating disorder specialists

    Eating disorder specialists focus on helping individuals who struggle with conditions such as anorexia, bulimia, body dysmorphia and binge eating disorder. They also support their patients’ medical and nutritional needs and guide them to build lasting, healthy eating habits.

Understanding mental illness

What is mental illness?

Mental illnesses are health conditions that can affect your daily life, your moods, your behavior and the ways you think and feel. These conditions can happen over short periods, be chronic (long-lasting) or occasional. Many individuals who experience mental illness benefit from the support that behavioral health providers can offer.

Source: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

What causes mental illness?

Many factors may contribute to the risk of mental illness, including:

  • Biological factors, such as genes or chemical imbalances
  • Family history
  • Feelings of loneliness or isolation
  • Life experiences, such as stress or abuse
  • Use of alcohol and/or other drugs
  • Other injuries or medical conditions

Behavioral health providers help to identify your concerns and offer suggestions, treatment and guidance.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Medline Plus

Can my overall health be affected by mental illness?

Certain types of mental illness can increase the risk of physical health problems. The opposite can also be true: Chronic conditions may increase risks for mental illness.

Source: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

Is mental illness common?

Yes. Like many other health concerns, mental illnesses are common and are treatable. In the U.S., nearly 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and nearly half of them receive treatment. Adolescents and children can also experience mental illness.

Sources: American Psychiatric Association, NAMI

Which types of mental illnesses are most common?

There are over 200 types of mental illness. Common conditions include:

  • Anxiety disorder
  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Substance abuse disorders

Source: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

What are common signs and symptoms of mental illness?

Symptoms can show up differently, depending on the type of mental illness someone is experiencing. Common signs can include:

  • An inability to cope with daily problems and activities
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Excessive anxiety, fear or worry
  • Extended periods of irritability or sadness
  • Extreme highs and lows in mood
  • Strong feelings of anger
  • Thoughts of suicide

Behavioral health glossary

Search the American Psychological Association’s online dictionary for behavioral health conditions, commonly used terms and more.

Sharp Direct Advantage is offered by Sharp Health Plan. Sharp Health Plan is an HMO with a Medicare contract. Enrollment with Sharp Health Plan depends on contract renewal. Read the full disclaimer.

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Page Last Updated: 6/01/2022
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