Behavioral health is a term that refers to mental health and substance use disorders. It includes ways of preventing and treating both mental health conditions and substance use disorders.
You do not need a referral from your Primary Care Physician (PCP) to see a behavioral health provider. Learn more about the different types of mental health or substance use disorder providers below, or visit MVP’s Find a Doctor to search for a provider.
Mental health concerns may affect a person’s thinking, feeling, or mood. They may impact how a person interacts with others, functions each day, and makes choices. Common mental health conditions include anxiety, depression, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
It is important to remember that emotional problems or concerns are not uncommon and often are worth asking about. If any of the disorders described on this page sound like something you may have been experiencing, it could be very helpful to speak with:
- Your primary care physician (PCP). Your PCP knows your health history best and should be able to help you identify if there is a problem and the level of help you may need. Learn more about why a relationship with your PCP is important.
- A trusted family member or friend
- An MVP Case Manager can help with the questions you should ask your doctor. Get support.
If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, get help now. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The lifeline provides free, confidential support 24/7.
While feeling anxious from time to time is normal for most people, when those feelings turn into intense fear and distress, an anxiety disorder may be the cause. Anxiety has both emotional and physical symptoms:
- Feelings of apprehension or dread
- Feeling tense or jumpy
- Restlessness or irritability
- Anticipating the worst and being watchful for signs of danger
- Pounding or racing heart and shortness of breath
- Sweating, tremors, and twitches
- Headaches, fatigue, and insomnia
- Upset stomach, frequent urination, or diarrhea
Types of anxiety include General Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and Phobias. Anxiety is a highly treatable problem.
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
ADHD is a common disorder that affects both children and adults. Recent studies show that almost 10% of children between the ages of four and seven have been diagnosed with ADHD*
There are three common symptoms of ADHD. These symptoms can interfere with everyday functioning and development. Symptoms include:
- Difficulty paying attention or staying focused
- Being overactive or having trouble sitting still
- Impulsivity (acting without thinking first)
Most children with ADHD will have all three symptoms. However, some children with ADHD only have hyperactivity and impulsivity. Others only have challenges with attention or staying focused.
A treatment plan developed with a doctor can help improve functioning. Improved functioning can help at home, school, and in social situations.
Treatment plans may include therapy and/or prescribed medications. The right dose of the right medication has been shown to improve symptoms of ADHD.
Children taking medications to treat ADHD must be closely monitored by the prescribing doctor. If your child is prescribed a medication to treat ADHD, regular follow-up appointments are important. Follow-up appointments allow your doctor to identify potential side effects and ensure your child receives the full benefit from the medications. Your doctor may also ask about your child’s sleep, appetite and may check their height, weight, blood pressure and pulse. As your child grows, your doctor may adjust the medications to make sure your child is getting the maximum benefit.
MVP recommends that children who are prescribed medications to treat ADHD:
- See the doctor who prescribed the medication for a follow-up appointment within 30 days of filling ADHD-related prescriptions.
- See any doctor two more times within the next nine months for ADHD follow-up visits.
Visit the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry to learn more about ADHD. Or read Understanding ADHD (also available in Spanish) to learn more about treatment and follow-up for children diagnosed with ADHD.
*According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that starts in early childhood. It can cause significant communication, social, and behavioral challenges for children.
Behavior challenges can also be caused by other underlying issues common in children with ASD, such as emotional, communication or sensory difficulties, or medical issues. No matter the source of the issue, it is important that all are considered during a comprehensive evaluation.
While there currently is no cure for ASD, there are many treatments to help children lead healthy, happy lives. Members diagnosed with ASD should receive the recommended evaluations so MVP can process requests for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) treatment.
Recommended evaluations include:
- A physical with your child’s doctor
- An evaluation by Early Intervention or your school’s Committee on Preschool and School Education (CPSE)
If your child is living with ASD and has other medical, behavioral, or developmental concerns, your child’s ABA provider and other doctors should work together to best support your child’s overall health.
Resources for Parents
Children & Teens
Children and teens can show many of the signs of mental health concerns listed on this page, including depression and anxiety. If you have any concerns or think your child may be struggling, it is important to get help right away. Talk with their pediatrician, family doctor, or find a behavioral health provider who can help.
The following resources may be helpful for parents:
Choosing a Mental Health Provider
If you or a loved one need a mental health provider, you may not be sure where to start. It is important to speak with your primary care provider (PCP) first; your PCP will be able to help you identify if there is a problem, and the type of behavioral health provider that may be right for you. You do not need a referral from your PCP to see a behavioral health provider. Some of the different types of behavioral health providers include:
Psychiatrist – a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. A psychiatrist can prescribe medication to treat mental illness.
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner – advanced practice registered nurse with a specialty certification in psychiatry. A psychiatric nurse practitioner can prescribe medication to treat mental illness.
Psychologist – a behavioral health professional with an advanced degree who evaluates a person’s mental health through discussion, interviews, evaluations, and testing. A psychologist can make diagnoses but cannot prescribe medications to treat mental illness.
Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) – a health care professional who is trained to evaluate a person’s mental health and help them find emotional wellness. Working with a LMHC often leads to symptom reduction and better ways of feeling and thinking.
Clinical Social Worker – a licensed or certified professional who is trained to evaluate a person’s mental health and use therapeutic techniques to help. They are also trained in case management and advocacy services.
Feelings of sadness or grief are normal emotions that people experience from time to time. Major depression, however, is a serious mood disorder that impacts daily life. Depression causes long-lasting, severe symptoms that affect how a person feels, thinks, and handles daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working.
Someone who is experiencing some of the following signs and symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks, may be suffering from depression:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or guilt
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
- Decreased energy or fatigue
- Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Appetite and/or weight changes
- Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
- Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment
Not everyone who is depressed experiences every symptom. The severity and frequency of symptoms and how long they last will vary depending on the individual. The good news is that depression—even the most severe depression—is treatable.
There are many ways to take care of yourself to make sure you can successfully manage everyday life, relationships, and challenges.
Mental Health and COVID-19
Substance Use Disorders
Substance use disorders occur when someone loses the ability to control their use of alcohol and/or drugs, causing significant impairment. People who struggle with an addiction condition will continue to use the substance despite the harm it causes and may experience health problems, disability, and failure to meet responsibilities at work, school, or home.
Alcohol Use Disorder
Compulsive alcohol use, or loss of control over alcohol intake, describes the chronic brain disease known as alcohol use disorder (AUD). Approximately 15.1 million adults in the United States ages 18 and older had AUD in 20151. Some signs of AUD include:
- Drinking more, or longer, than expected
- Trying to reduce or quit alcohol, but cannot
- A strong urge to drink
- Drinking, or the effects of drinking, are interfering with family, work, or school
- Gotten into situations during or after drinking that were unsafe or dangerous
- Continuing to drink despite it leading to feelings of depression or anxiety, causing problems with family, friends, or work, or causing other health problems
Having an assessment performed by a health care professional can help to determine if an AUD is present. Receiving treatment can greatly improve the chances of overcoming AUD.
Children & Teens
When a child or teenager is struggling with substance use, there is an often an underlying emotional difficulty, situation, or mental health issue that they are having difficulty with. We know that addressing this in addition to the substance use is more likely to lead to sustained wellness and recovery.
If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, or think they have a substance use disorder, seek advice from a trusted professional, such as a school counselor, pediatrician, or family doctor.
The following resources may be helpful for parents and guardians:
Choosing a Substance Use Disorder Provider
If you or a loved one needs care for a substance abuse disorder, you do not need a referral from another doctor. You may wish to reach out to your primary care physician (PCP) or an MVP Case Manager as a starting point, or you can find a substance use disorder provider or treatment center in the MVP provider directory.
The following providers are focused on substance use disorders:
Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor – a certified practitioner who provides alcoholism and substance abuse counseling services including assessment, evaluation, intervention, and counseling in both individual and group settings.
Addiction Psychiatrist – specially-trained providers who focus not only on substance use disorders but on the mental illnesses that may have contributed to those substance use disorders.
Buprenorphine Prescriber – a provider who is able to prescribe buprenorphine (Suboxone), a medication used to treat opioid dependency.
Smokers and those who use tobacco products may have an addiction to tobacco caused by the drug nicotine. Smokers have a higher rate of cancer, heart disease, and stroke than nonsmokers. Quitting is the best way to improve your health and help reduce the chance of future disease.
MVP Case Management has the tools to help you quit. Learn more or connect with a Case Manager.
Opioid Use and Misuse
Opioids are prescribed to treat pain, yet they are highly addictive. In fact, opioid misuse has become a national crisis in the United States. If you or a loved one are prescribed an opioid, it’s important to be informed on proper use and the signs of misuse.
Types of Behavioral Health Treatment Services
Treatment plans for those with behavioral health conditions will differ based on the severity of the condition and the appropriateness of care needed as determined by a doctor. Treatment services include:
- Therapies and medication
- Inpatient hospital treatment
- Partial hospital treatment or day treatment programs
- Outpatient therapy
- Residential treatment facility services
- Inpatient or outpatient detoxification services (substance use disorders)
- Residential treatment program (substance use disorders)
Individuals who have already engaged with inpatient or outpatient treatment services should continue to follow-up with their provider(s) after in order to fully support their recovery journey.
Sources: National Alliance on Mental Illness; National Institutes of Health
1: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism