Nearly 10 percent of teenagers meet the diagnostic criteria for major depression. One in five teens have experienced a major depressive episode at some point during their teenage years.
Psychiatric disorders in teens are not rare, but they are not always given the medical attention they need. There is a long-standing belief that emotional episodes and fluctuating emotions are just a normal part of teen development. However, psychiatric disorders in teens do require clinical attention because they are not always a mere byproduct of growing up. Without treatment for mental or mood disorders, teens are at increased risks for various problems, including reduced academic performance, substance abuse, risk-taking behaviors and suicide.
Reduced Performance in School
Untreated psychiatric disorders in teens can result in poor academic performance. Teens who don’t feel well can naturally find it difficult to perform well or stay focused in school. When teens feel unwell for an extended period of time because their mental condition is left untreated, they will find it difficult to excel and are apt to fall far behind in their studies.
Teens who suffer from mental health conditions that are left untreated are at increased risk for abusing substances like drugs and alcohol. When teens develop a pattern of substance abuse, they are at greater risk for developing an addiction.2
Psychiatric disorders in teens can become even more problematic when coupled with drug or alcohol use. One of the reasons teens may turn to drugs or alcohol is to alleviate their mental health symptoms, which is why untreated psychiatric disorders in teens are such a serious problem.
Teens who are experiencing untreated psychiatric disorders often engage in reckless behaviors. Without treatment, psychiatric disorders in teens can lead to high-risk behaviors like binge drinking, unprotected sex or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. When teens are emotionally unstable, they can find it difficult to regulate their behaviors.
Teens as well as adults are at increased risk of suicide if mental health conditions like depression or bipolar disorder are left untreated. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among people between the ages of 15 and 24.1 Left untreated, many mental disorders may progress to become acute. During these periods, people may experience suicidal ideation and are at an increased risk of taking their own lives.
With treatment, sufferers, even teen sufferers, can learn to manage their condition with therapy and medications. Psychiatric disorders in teens must be treated or their mental health conditions can escalate to thoughts of suicide or an actual attempt to commit suicide.
Get Help for Psychiatric Disorders in Teens
Teens who are experiencing signs and symptoms of depression or any other type of mental illness should seek medical care if their symptoms last beyond a period of two weeks or if they suddenly escalate. It’s important for families, schools, healthcare providers and teens themselves to not ignore symptoms of mental illness or chalk them up to something that teens simply “go through.”
When symptoms of a mental illness do occur, it’s important to obtain a medical evaluation. Healthcare providers will be able to determine whether these symptoms constitute a mental health condition and can provide immediate treatment if they do.