Risks of Untreated Psychiatric Disorders in Teens
Published On: May 2, 2017|Categories: Teen Mental Health|

Recent studies show the prevalence of mental health disorders in the lives of many teens – in 2021, severe major depression increased to 9.7 percent\; by the age of 18, 31.9. percent of teens will meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder, and approximately 9.8 percent of teens struggle with ADHD.

As seen from the statistics, psychiatric disorders in teens are not rare; but what is less common than it should be is getting 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. And while teenage years are emotional, they should not be debilitating.

Psychiatric disorders in teens do require attention because they are not always a mere byproduct of growing up. Without treatment for mental or mood disorders, teens are at increased risk for various problems, including reduced academic performance, substance abuse, risk-taking behaviors and suicide.

Are there risks for leaving a mental illness untreated?

A number of negative effects can present themselves if a mental illness is not properly addressed. Teens can be left feeling confused, unmotivated and defeated if physical manifestations begin arising; they may also begin coping with these changes on their own in ways that do more damage than good, including self-medication through substances or seeking validation through promiscuity or risk-taking.

Reduced performance in school

Untreated psychiatric disorders in teens can result in poor academic performance. Many mental health disorders manifest in some negative physical way, and 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 behind in their studies or give up on them entirely.

Additionally, if they are struggling with a disorder like ADHD, remaining concentrated on their schoolwork can feel incredibly daunting; without the proper treatment, their grades may begin to suffer, through no fault of their own.

Substance abuse

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 of developing an addiction.

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. One of the benefits of seeking treatment for teens is that they are guided through the right coping mechanisms so that the risk of self-medication via substances is significantly reduced.

Risk-taking behaviors

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.

However, if they are given the right tools to properly handle the challenges of a mental disorder, they will be less inclined to engage in these behaviors. Parents should ensure their teens are getting any treatment they need while also maintaining healthy boundaries in the home so that opportunities for reckless actions are minimized.


Teens as well as adults are at increased risk of suicide if mental health conditions like depression or bipolar disorder are left untreated. Sadly, suicide is the third leading cause of death among people between the ages of 15 and 24, and left untreated, many mental disorders may progress to become acute with suicidal thoughts as a side effect. During these periods, people may experience suicidal ideation and are at an increased risk of taking their own lives.

With treatment, sufferers, including teens, can learn to manage their condition with therapy and medications. One of the key suicide prevention strategies is ensuring that teens get the help they need when symptoms are less severe versus waiting til they have become acute.

Where can I find psychiatric treatment for 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, but to be open about their challenges and acknowledge the importance of preventative care.

Treatment for teens is accessible in many places, including counseling services at school, through recommendations from your pediatrician or by accessing a mental health treatment center. Facilities like High Focus Centers offer care for both teens and their families to help stabilize emotions and guide individuals into proper coping mechanisms.

To learn more, contact High Focus Centers to get in touch with an admissions specialist today.

Sober ActivitiesMaintaining Sobriety While Making the Most of Your Summer
Mental Health Therapy for Teens: What to ExpectWhat is Receiving Teen Mental Health Treatment