At Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, we’re focused on promoting good health and well-being within the state of Arkansas.
When we think of addressing an individual’s health it’s common to think within the realm of illness, nutrition and physical activity. All these factors are important to consider, but behavioral health is another element that helps complete the picture of a person’s overall well-being.
What is Behavioral Health?
Behavioral health is an overarching term to describe the connection between an individual’s behaviors and the health of his or her mind and body.
The term sometimes gets confused with mental health, but the two are similar but not the same.
Behavioral health are a person’s habits – emotionally, biologically and behaviorally – that affect overall well-being. Behavioral health focuses on creating an ideal mental and physical balance. Exercising, eating healthy and preventative care encompasses behavioral health.
For example, poor behavioral health may include substance abuse, social isolation and eating poorly.
In turn, behavioral health can affect mental health.
Mental health is how people react to their behaviors and environments that impact their overall state of being.
Symptoms of mental health issues include disruptive sleep, eating disorders, maintaining healthy relationships and even self-harm. Common mental illnesses are depression and anxiety, as well as mood disorders like bipolar disorder and, on the severe end of the spectrum, disorders like schizophrenia.
Behavioral Health in Arkansas
The COVID-19 pandemic has escalated behavioral health issues in Arkansas.
Before the pandemic, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), the share of Arkansas adults with any mental illness was 20.3% in 2018-2019. The national share was 19.9%.
From January to June 2019, one in ten adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder. That number has increased to three in ten since May 2020.
In a snapshot survey by KFF, from April 28 to May 10, 2021, 35.5% of Arkansas adults reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depression disorder. That’s higher than the national average of 30.7% of adults.
Types of Behavioral Health Conditions
The most common behavioral health conditions are anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder.
People with anxiety disorders respond to situations with fear, dread and stress. Physical signs of anxiety include rapid heartbeat, sweating and shaking hands. Anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder and phobias.
Depression presents itself as a depressed mood with many people losing interest in activities they once loved or basic daily routines like bathing and eating. Depression can cause significant impairment in a person’s life. Possible causes include biological, psychological, and social sources of distress. Depression can cause behavioral and physical symptoms and include changes in sleep, appetite, energy level, concentration, daily behavior, or self-esteem. Thoughts of suicide can also occur.
Bipolar disorder is episodes of mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic highs. Manic episode symptoms may include symptoms such as high energy, reduced need for sleep and loss of touch with reality. Depressive episode symptoms can include low energy, low motivation, and loss of interest in daily activities. Mood episodes last days to months at a time and may also be associated with suicidal thoughts.
Other behavioral health disorders include eating disorders, psychotic disorders, addiction disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorders.
Behavioral Health and Children
In 2019, 11.2% of children ages 3-17 in Arkansas received mental healthcare. Comparatively, 11.1% of children in the United States did. In Arkansas and nationally, many children with behavioral and mental health needs do not receive the care they need.
During the pandemic, adolescents in Arkansas and across the country reported worsened emotional and behavioral health.
The importance of addressing behavioral health conditions in children is twofold; early intervention when a child is coping with trauma, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and other conditions can lead to more positive health outcomes as an adult.
Additionally, increased comfort in discussing behavioral health at a young age can help reduce the stigma around behavioral health in general.
Importance of Addressing Behavioral Health
Recognizing the signs of a behavioral health condition is critical to getting on the right track for care. Arkansas Blue Cross is dedicated to helping Arkansans enjoy healthy lives, and addressing behavioral health is part of that.