Up to 80% of patients who visit their primary care doctor have a behavioral health problem. But up to 70% of them don’t receive treatment for their condition.
Behavioral health can make the difference between prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Or between becoming overweight and maintaining a healthy weight.
But the news is not all bad. The digital health revolution is making behavioral health more accessible than before.
So, what makes behavioral health so important? Read on to find out.
What is behavioral health?
Behavioral health is the link between behaviors and their impact on well-being. It helps patients identify and change their everyday actions. These include ways of thinking leading to unhealthy behaviors.
Eating disorders are a good example. A patient may overeat to cope with stress or loss. Behavioral health can change how they think and feel about food. It may help them discover better ways to cope with stress. It can improve their eating patterns.
In the 20th century, behavioral health referred mostly to disease prevention behaviors. For example, quitting smoking to prevent lung cancer.
With time, it incorporated disease management behaviors. These would include healthy eating or exercising to manage type 2 diabetes.
In our times, behavior health has come to incorporate mental health as well. It encompasses well-being alongside disease prevention and management.
And it’s no longer confined to doctor’s offices and clinics. The internet and mobile devices are bringing behavioral health into the home.
How it differs from mental health
Behavioral health encompasses mental health. But it doesn’t stop with mental and emotional well-being. Take, for example, a person with weight problems. They may have become overweight because of unhealthy eating habits.
Mental health specialists can find and treat any eating disorder. However, weight problems are not their domain.
Behavioral health specialists will look at the unhealthy actions too. These may include behaviors that don’t fall under any mental health diagnosis. Nevertheless, they may have contributed to the patient’s unhealthy weight gain.
In a nutshell, mental disorders are behavioral disorders. But not all these disorders are mental problems.
Why should behavioral health be at the core of wellness?
Throughout most of medical history, behavioral health and primary care have existed separately. But psychosocial factors today are behind up to 70% of primary care visits.
Most primary care doctors don’t treat behavioral problems. As we all know, doctors often have limited time for each patient. Even if they have ample time, these problems don’t fall within their specialization.
Doctors may recognize behavioral issues in patients. And they may refer them to mental health specialists. But patients often don’t follow through.
This can happen for many reasons, from time constraints and costs to the stigma associated with mental health.
What’s more, patients may not recognize their behavioral problems. After all, bad eating habits don’t hurt! At least not until you get cavities or develop a chronic medical condition.
Behavioral problems may not seem serious enough to patients to warrant psychological counseling. Even if patients follow through, mental health experts may not be able to fully help.
As we’ve seen, some behavioral problems are not the domain of mental health experts. Unhealthy weight due to bad eating habits, for example.
Behavioral health can address problems that mental health practitioners may not. And it can do this through continuous education and habit-changing strategies.
Cognitive behavior therapy is a good example. Many studies support the use of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). In some cases, CBT brings better results than mental health therapies.
3 ways how we can improve our behavioral health
Behavioral health can bring together many components and technologies. These can include chronic disease management, mental health, socializing, health data, and more. It is its inclusiveness that makes it so powerful.
Over 133 million Americans have one or more chronic conditions. Managing a chronic disease doesn’t require only lifestyle changes. It depends on good mental health just as much.
A person with type 2 diabetes who is under stress may struggle to live healthily. They may need mental and behavioral support to eat healthily and keep on exercising.
Mental healthcare in doctor’s offices can be a big step toward better behavioral health. But things don’t have to stop there.
Creating more opportunities for deep connection
Health is not only about what you eat or how much you exercise. It’s also about who you share your food and time with. Three out of every five adults in the US feel lonely. According to the same source, loneliness is on the rise.
Face-to-face contact acts as a vaccine. It lowers stress and releases neurotransmitters that support physical and mental health. Volunteering, talking to neighbors, or joining groups can all support behavioral health.
Even the small things matter. Like tracking your fitness progress and sharing it with others.
Using data to decide the next steps
The fitness plan that your best friend loves may leave you totally indifferent. The same can hold for dieting, fasting, or chronic disease management plans.
General health advice often only scratches the surface. But today, you don’t have to settle for general advice. Tracking health data and personalizing the solutions available is revolutionizing health.
It enables constant micro-adjustments to treatment. And macro lifestyle changes through meal personalization or workout optimization. Data-driven personalization is already the future of behavioral health.
UAB Kilo Grupe brings behavioral health to your phone
Digital health is changing medicine even as we speak. Instead of having to see your doctor, you can bring behavioral health to your phone. You can make health a part of your everyday life.
Behavioral health is at the heart of many Kilo Grupe products. For instance, the Sensa app is a personal mental health assistant developed by UAB Kilo Grupe. It uses cognitive behavioral therapy strategies and helps you deal with stress, anxiety, procrastination, or burnout.
Klinio can help you revert prediabetes through behavior changes. Personalized plans and expert advice support you in your journey.
All these apps help you prevent and treat potential health conditions every day.