Annual conference to discuss connection between brain and mood disorders

2013-03-21T00:00:00Z Annual conference to discuss connection between brain and mood disordersLAURYN SCHROEDER MEDILL NEWS SERVICE nwitimes.com
March 21, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Only one in three people with a mood disorder seeks medical treatment, according to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance of Greater Chicago.

While medical research on mood disorders is in its infancy, the 14th annual mini-conference "Connections Between the Brain and Mood Disorders Symposium" will educate the public on the newest treatment methods available. 

The conference scheduled for April 20 will also help to bring together the friends, family and coworkers of those with mood disorders.

"It will be a way for them to feel connected to a community of people who are either dealing with the same problem themselves or working to fix it," said Dr. Rachel Jacobs, a research assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago within the Pediatric Mood Disorders Center.

From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 20, Jacobs and four other medical experts will speak on their latest work, both theoretical and practical. The conference will be held at the Frank Auditorium in the Evanston Hospital, 2650 Ridge Ave., in Evanston. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online at www.dbsa-gc.org or by calling the alliance at (773) 465-3280. Prices will increase after April 13.

Jacobs will be joined by Dr. John Gottlieb, assistant clinical professor at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University; Dr. Thomas Bristow, associate professor of psychology at Lewis University; and Dr. Seoka Salston, former president of the Mindfulness and Acceptance Special Interest Group at the Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies.

According to the alliance, mood disorders affect a large portion of the population. The term "mood" does not refer to one feeling that someone experiences at one moment. Instead it is used to describe a persistent emotional state that dramatically impacts a person's life.

Jacobs, who works primarily with children and adolescents, said someone who is bipolar experiences a combination of two extreme levels: very high and very low.

 "It's when that level becomes too much and it's preventing them from leading healthy, normal lives," she said.

Jacobs said manic symptoms, or "high" moods, are usually some form of extreme risk taking like spending a lot of money, driving a car very fast or risky sexual behaviors. A bipolar person will swing in between this high and a state of depression. 

In depressive disorders - also known as unipolar depression - someone will only experience the low mood. Jacobs said the most serious impact of this is suicide or wanting to hurt someone else.

At the conference, Jacobs will discuss certain treatment methods that have been effective when treating mood disorders. One treatment found to be effective is a cognitive behavioral therapy program available for children and their families.

"The therapy works to help parents who are dealing with the emotional reactivity of their kids," she said. "It helps them know how to best respond in the moment, so that they can handle it affectively."

In addition, Jacobs said there are more simple treatment methods that have helped both children and adults, such as the implementation of a strict routine, especially when it comes to sleep.

"To a certain point, we do know what treatments are helpful so there is hope in that sense," she said. "But we don't know what underlies the disorder and why it will crop up for one person and not another."

Jacobs said the Pediatric Mood Disorders Center is also hopes to continue a study that involves scanning the brains of bipolar children at rest or in activity to see how they react to certain brain stimuli.

"Hopefully, this will help us develop treatments that will be better suited for the different symptoms and help those with mood disorders cope with them," she said.

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