C02 – Beyond Pharmacotherapy: Is Increased Health Literacy Helpful or a Hindrance for People with Mood and Anxiety Disorders?

C02 – Beyond Pharmacotherapy: Is Increased Health Literacy Helpful or a Hindrance for People with Mood and Anxiety Disorders?

Thursday, Oct. 27
14:30 – 16:30 (2 hrs)
Meeting Room: Willow (Mezzanine)
Sachinthya Lokuge*, BSc; Martin Katzman, BSc, MD, FRCPC; Irvin Epstein, MD, FRCPC; Tia Sternat, PhD (C)

CanMEDS Roles:

  1. Health Advocate
  2. Scholar
  3. Medical Expert

At the end of this session, participants will be able to: 1) Showcase how to move beyond standard treatment in their practice and consider the potential use of complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs); 2) Discuss the current literature on the benefits and drawbacks of supplementary treatment options; and 3) Review the neurobiological mechanisms that may underlie changes in psychiatric symptoms, cognition, and sleep, as a result of CAMs.

Over the past decade, clinical trials have consistently shown that approximately one in three people will remit following standard-of-care treatment for mood and anxiety disorders (e.g., SSRIs or SNRIs). Data from naturalistic studies and clinical observation have demonstrated that the presence of comorbid conditions creates significant challenges to treatment, due to the complexity of overlapping symptoms, pervasive functional impairments, and the increased likelihood of treatment non-adherence. Moreover, poor responses to treatment and increased accessibility to information may spur patients to seek supplementary or alternative options, such as psychedelics, nutraceuticals (e.g., L-theanine, GABA, and Rodiola rosea), technology (e.g., smartphone apps), and sleep aids in an effort to self-medicate and (or) choose “natural or healthy” options to address persisting symptoms. As such, there is increased impetus for clinicians to be aware of the various complementary and alternative options available and to evaluate the safety and appropriateness for individual patients.

This course will explore diagnostic complexities and treatment considerations of comorbid populations, drawing on real-world clinical case study examples and a review of current literature. Emphasis will be placed on novel medications, supplements, and technology that have the potential to improve symptoms across psychiatric disorders, as well as cognitive and sleep deficits. This course aims to add a nuanced layer to treatment that may ultimately lead to better outcomes and improved quality of life.


  1. Lorca C, Mulet M, Arévalo-Caro C, et al. Plant-derived nootropics and human cognition: a systematic review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2022;Jan 3:1-25.
  2. Torous J, Nicholas J, Larsen ME, et al. Clinical review of user engagement with mental health smartphone apps: evidence, theory and improvements. Evid Based Ment Health 2018;21:116.