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.

  • Behavioral health
About behavioral health

What is the difference between behavioral health and mental health?

Let’s say behavioral health is like a pie. In this scenario, mental health would be a piece of the pie. Behavioral health involves looking 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 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?

Mental health is different from mental illness. Everyone has mental health, but not everyone experiences mental illness. Your mental health affects the way you 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 are the differences between behavioral health providers?

There are many types of behavioral health care professionals. As a Sharp Health Plan member, you have access to all of these providers, depending on your needs.

  • Psychiatrists (MD, DO)

    Psychiatrists are licensed medical doctors that specialize in mental, emotional and behavioral disorders. They can diagnose mental health conditions, prescribe and monitor medications and perform a full range of medical laboratory tests to help determine a patient’s specific issues and needs. Psychiatrists may utilize several treatment methods in conjunction with each other to improve their patient’s well-being.

  • Psychologists (PhD, PsyD)

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

  • Licensed clinical social workers (LCSW)

    As the largest group of mental health services providers, licensed clinical social workers diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, emotional and substance abuse issues among individuals, couples, groups and families. 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 individual psychological issues, as well as those that affect the entire family, including marital problems and child-parent relationship issues.

  • Addiction counselors

    Addiction counselors are trained to treat people suffering from addictions. They commonly 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 deal with conditions such as anorexia, bulimia, body dysmorphia and binge eating disorder, while supporting individuals’ medical and nutritional needs. They guide patients through their struggles, to help build lasting, healthy eating habits.

Understanding mental illness

What is mental illness?

Mental illnesses are health conditions that can affect your daily life, as well as your moods, 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 different factors may contribute to the risk of mental illness, including:

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

If any of these experiences are affecting your mental health, you’re not alone. Help is available. A behavioral health provider can help you to identify your concerns and offer suggestions, treatment and guidance.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Medline Plus

How can mental illness affect my overall health?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, certain types of mental illness may increase risks for physical health problems. The opposite can also be true: Chronic conditions may increase risks for mental illness.

Source: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

How common is mental illness?

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

Sources: American Psychiatric Association, NAMI

What are the most common types of mental illnesses?

There are over 200 types of mental illness. Some 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 may vary, depending on the type of mental illness someone is experiencing. Some common signs in adults and adolescents can include:

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

The It’s Up to Us® website provides more information about symptoms you may notice.

Behavioral health glossary

Search our glossary for behavioral health conditions, commonly used terms and more.