Co-occurring Emotional and Addictive Disorders: a Chicken-Egg Conundrum
Emotional disorders (such as post-traumatic stress disorder or depression) and addictive disorders (such as substance abuse or problem gambling) are common, costly, impairing conditions. They also frequently occur together: someone with an emotional disorder is two to six times more likely to also develop an addictive disorder. People who suffer from both experience more severe symptoms, poorer response to treatment, and a greater relapse rate compared with those who have only one or the other.
Dr. Sherry Stewart, Canada Research Chair in Addiction and Mental Health, has devoted her career to improving the understanding, assessment, prevention and treatment of co-occurring emotional and addictive disorders. Her work has shed light on why social anxiety commonly co-occurs with alcohol abuse and nicotine dependence; why depression commonly co-occurs with disordered gambling and alcohol abuse; and why post-traumatic stress disorder commonly overlaps with alcohol misuse and cannabis dependence.
Stewart will use survey, lab-based and field methods to explore why people who have an addictive disorder are much more likely to also suffer with social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or depression. She and her research team will then use what they learn to develop and test new, integrated interventions for co-occurring mental health and addiction problems.
Stewart expects her research to greatly improve our understanding of the complex interplay between emotional and addictive disorders. She also hopes to conduct clinical research that will identify the most effective interventions.