Today, as many as a third of Americans experience signs and symptoms of clinical depression or anxiety, according to The Washington Post. Unfortunately, many people are used to visiting their healthcare provider when they have a sinus infection or fracture a bone, but may not seek out medical care for a prolonged depression or bout of anxiety. As a rule of thumb, a person who experiences symptoms of depression or anxiety for two weeks or more should see a mental healthcare provider, and if symptoms are severe, they should see them even sooner.
Mental and behavioral health, like physical health, require maintenance and care too. Sometimes the symptoms of behavioral health are temporary and given time and, sometimes, treatment will completely subside. However, sometimes a mental or mood disorder requires ongoing management. Today, there are many therapies and medications available that reduce the symptoms of clinical mental illness to the extent that people can lead perfectly normal lives, so long as they continue to manage their condition in healthy ways. Here, we’ll explore the importance of mental health management to ensure emotional well-being.
What Is Behavioral Health?
Behavioral health and mental health are often used interchangeably; both are inextricably connected, but there are subtle differences. Behavioral health explains how an individual’s behaviors affect their mental health and, conversely, how their mental health can affect their behaviors. A behavioral health specialist is a licensed medical provider who helps clients identify problematic behaviors that compromise their mental health. Because behavioral and mental health go hand in hand, many therapists also provide mental health therapies that enhance behavioral health. Behavioral health also affects physical health, so the importance of managing it effectively cannot be underestimated.
What Are Some Common Behavioral Health Conditions?
In any given year, one in five adults will have a diagnosable mental health condition. Conditions that affect the mind affect behaviors too, and vice versa. Some of the most common behavioral health conditions today include:
Most people experience some form of anxiety from time to time–feeling nervous before a test and experiencing a week of job-related stress and worry. However, anxious feelings can progress to full-blown anxiety. People may be unable to manage their worries. They may catastrophize and experience pronounced sleep disruptions. They may experience panic attacks and physical symptoms like nausea, shakiness, and even hair loss. Fortunately, generalized anxiety disorder can be managed with medications, counseling, or both.
Depression can rob a person of any sense of joy or hope. Like anxiety, it can affect a person’s sleep as well as their performance at work. Not all sadness progresses to the level of depression, but clinical depression should be treated. There are many ways to manage depression, including medication, exercise, counseling, etc…
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
ADHD is a condition that makes it difficult for an individual to stay focused. People with ADHD often experience powerful feelings of restlessness and impulsivity. They behave in hyperactive ways and may be inattentive to important aspects of their life like work or school. ADHD affects both children and adults. Treatment typically includes medication and behavioral therapy.
Substance Use Disorders
Addiction is a multitype condition that involves physical, mental, and behavioral dependencies. Each of these factors requires management for lasting recovery. When addicted to powerful substances like street drugs, prescription drugs, or opioids, people feel compelled to use them in spite of the negative consequences. Treatment invariably involves therapy designed to help individuals manage these compulsions (or triggers) in healthy ways in order to prevent relapse.
What Are Signs and Symptoms of Behavioral Health Problems?
The signs and symptoms of a behavioral health problem vary with each condition; although, symptoms can overlap between them. Generally speaking, behavioral health symptoms often include:
- Feeling sad for a prolonged period of time
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling mentally fatigued/exhausted
- Feeling withdrawn
- Problems with drugs or alcohol use
- Experiencing negative emotions like intense anger or fear
- Changes in sex drive
- Inability to cope with problems were formerly not difficult
- Trouble coping with stress
- Sleep disturbances
- Suicidal thoughts
These symptoms can impede a person’s ability to live a normal, productive life. With treatment, however, they can be successfully managed.
When Should You See a Doctor?
If you experience these symptoms with little or no alleviation for a week or two, you should consult with your doctor or mental healthcare provider. Thoughts of suicide constitute a mental health emergency, so you shouldn’t wait to seek medical attention right away.
How Are Behavioral Health Conditions Treated?
Each condition necessitates its own course of management. Even so, some treatments overlap. For instance, it’s not uncommon for mental healthcare providers to treat long-term anxiety with an antidepressant because these drugs are also effective for reducing symptoms of anxiety and are not addictive as some anxiety medications like Xanax are.
After explaining your symptoms to your doctor, he/she will recommend a course of treatment that typically involves counseling and possibly medication. There are many medications available today to treat behavioral and mental health conditions. Some may work for you better than others. Try to be patient and attentive to whatever your doctor prescribes. Sometimes doses need to be adjusted. Sometimes one drug is simply not effective for you or involves side effects that you find difficult to cope with.
Once your doctor arrives with a successful plan of management, be sure to stick with it, particularly if your condition is an ongoing one. Some people may fall into a serious depression as a result of a life event–the loss of a loved one. They may need to manage the condition for a year before they’re able to transition off medication or forego counseling. On the other hand, some people have a condition that requires lifelong management. Your healthcare provider will help you find an effective regimen for managing your condition.
Valley Medical Clinic offers behavioral healthcare for patients. If you are experiencing symptoms of a behavioral or mental health problem, don’t put off treatment. The sooner you get help, the sooner you can experience relief.