Most Teens with Psychiatric Disorders Aren't Receiving Treatment

Less than half of teens with a recognized mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder received some type of services for the disorder in the previous year.

Most adolescents with diagnosable psychiatric disorders have never received treatment, according to data from the National Comorbidity Survey of approximately 6,500 13- to 17-year-olds conducted in 2001-2004. According to E. Jane Costello, PhD, of Duke University, and her colleagues, 45% of the teens that meet DSM-IV criteria for a recognized mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder received some type of services for the disorder in the previous year.

Although the survey is a decade old, the data are the most recent available from nationwide government-conducted surveys. The new analysis was published online in Psychiatric Services on Nov. 15, 2013.

The researchers found that behavioral disorders such as attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder were the most likely to be treated (70%-75%), but phobias and anxiety disorders were least likely to be treated (41%).

The most common service providers were schools and mental health specialty clinics. General medical facilities, human services departments, alternative medicine providers, and the juvenile justice system each provided a small percentage of teens with services.

Parents’ education, poverty status and geography did not significantly affect the overall usage of services. Insurance status was not known.

The researchers noted that most treatment was delivered in settings other than mental health clinics, where providers were not likely to have mental health training.