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Ect: Helpful Or Harmful?


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#1 In_Remission_twitchy

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Posted 30 March 2008 - 08:11 PM

My mom is considering getting ECT and I'm worried about what will happen or whether it will help.

Also, they cause seizures in the brain with those shocks. I have those. I'm not happy. Maybe if a nurse were around to drug me up beforehand I would be. I've seen the movie Shock Corridor and part of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. I'm worried it will kill her. Then again, she's already a zombie.

But, maybe god gave me seizures because he loves me and wants me to be happy. :mad:

Any stories of ECT, whether it helped you, would put my mind at ease.



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#2 Simba Cub

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Posted 31 March 2008 - 01:10 AM

Well, I'm undergoing ECT at the moment - in fact, I'm just about to go for my next session! You can find my continuing account here: http://www.crazymeds...?showtopic=1716

Just for the record, I HATE ECT! I do NOT like being knocked out and zapped. I don't like the memory loss, the confusion, the hangover.

On the other hand, it is the ONLY thing to have made an impact on my mood, which is why I'm still having it. I'm on session eight now and the limit will hopefully be twelve at the most.

I hope it's not more than that...

Oh, and for the record, it's not as barbaric as the film industry makes out, it's quite painless and you're totally unconscious and paralysed.



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Diagnosed with: Schizoaffective Disorder of the Depressive Type; Panic; GAD; OCD; PTSD; Transient Ischaemic Attacks

Experience in: Alprazolam, Aripiprazole, Bupropion, Chlordiazepoxide, Citalopram, Clonazepam, Clozapine, Dothiepin, Duloxetine, ECT, EMDR, Fluoxetine, Imipramine, Lamotrigine, Lithium, Lorazepam, Mirtazapine, Moclobemide, Olanzapine, Paroxetine, Procyclidine, Propranolol, Quetiapine, Reboxetine, Risperidone, Sertraline, Sodium Valproate, TMS, Tranylcypromine, Trifluoperazine, Venlafaxine, Zolpidem, Zopiclone.


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#3 sorrel

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Posted 31 March 2008 - 03:51 AM

I haven't had it myself, but I know several people who have had it.

As Simba says, they give the person general anesthesia, including a drug that prevents them from moving. So even though there is a seizure in their brain, there is no seizure in their body.

Everyone I know has had an essentially positive experience. ECT usually works very well and works fast for severe depression. The major drawback is memory loss. A lot of people say things like, "The memory loss really sucks, but if things got that bad again I would do it again in a second." I know one guy who had no memory loss at all, and he raves about ECT and how amazing and life-saving it was.
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#4 In_Remission_twitchy

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Posted 31 March 2008 - 11:20 AM

Thank you guys. As an epileptic with grand mals and petit mals, I know seizures suck, and can sometimes be weird, and I've had natural amnesia. It was happy. Maybe it helps when the seizures are controlled. :mad: Also, maybe it's good that she'll hate it, she called me a slut the other day. :) Just kidding. No one deserves what she's going through. Maybe I'll finally see her again.

And this whole thing has made me rethink how I see my chronic illness. It interrupts my life, and for a while there I was getting bad grades. But I get free ECT. :)

#5 Jerod Poore

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Posted 31 March 2008 - 02:37 PM

I've seen the movie Shock Corridor


Great movie. Samuel Fuller was one of the great filmmakers of the 20th century.

As I've written all over the place, in the sample of two people I was in the lock ward with, one guy with the worst. depression. ever. found it to be a lifesaver. The only thing he couldn't remember was the time spent drugged up for the treatment. The other was a woman who wasn't accurately diagnosed during the time I was there. It didn't do a damn thing for her kleptomania, and it was hard to tell what was forgetfulness and what were tactics. But she was cheerful.
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#6 In_Remission_twitchy

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Posted 31 March 2008 - 08:51 PM

Shock Corridor is awesome. I found it quite frightening actually. but I was on Topamax and Lamictal at the time, and my brain was spaghetti, and I was anorexic, despite the fact that I ate quite healthily. I should watch it again and see if its awesome awesome, not just awesome.

Topamax + Lamictal = 2 x stupid

#7 AnonoLady

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Posted 01 April 2008 - 02:51 AM

I was very biased against ECT having a grandmother who was given ECT against her will (hell, she was institutionalized and treated against her will for 20+ years) and stories from non-grandpa family members were horrific of the ECT. Mind you this IS the old school 1950s kind of ECT. She also had a lobotomy.

However, it was actually Simba who posted about his experiences that made me relook into the whole thing. Still not something I would take lightly and as a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 10th, line option. But - if it came down to it I could see it being a viable option before giving up.
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#8 In_Remission_Unscripted

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Posted 24 February 2010 - 01:02 AM

I'm not sure I would recommend ECT's for anyone, but maybe. All I can tell is my experience.

I had ECT's in the mid-90s. I was severely depressed and I barely remember going into the hospital and don't remember being in the hospital at all. My mother signed for me to have the ECTs.

But when I finally came to or woke up or whatever, I was in a group home. I didn't even recognize my family, including my own kids. I had to practically relearn everything.

My mom said they gave me 17 ECTs and that they stopped because something went wrong.

It took me about 6 months to finally start being able to take care of myself. And even longer for my memory to come back.

However, and this is a BIG however.

Before I had the ECTs, hospitals were like a revolving door. I was in and out of one hospital or another all the time either because I was manic or depressed - or rapid cycling.

After the ECTs, other than for med adjustments, I have only had one hospitalization since then.

I don't know if I would ever want to have them again - at least not 17 of them. However, they gave me back my life.

Since I had the ECT's my Bipolar Illness has been a fraction of the problem it was before I had them..

I would say that losing 6 months of my life for 15 or more years of relative sanity is not a bad trade-off.

I don't know if this helped anyone, but that's my experience with ECTs.

Edited by Unscripted, 24 February 2010 - 01:06 AM.


#9 Wallace

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Posted 24 February 2010 - 03:41 PM

OK, another data point.

I had unilateral ECT 10 years ago. 12 Treatments followed by six monthly maintenance treatments. It worked. It wasn't scary for me at all. I found it surprisingly non-invasive. No memory loss at all (there was something specific about the protocol that was meant to minimize memory loss... but I forget what that was ( :mad: ). Seriously though... essentially no memory loss... I never paid much attention to the details of how they were giving the treatment.

(I'd get the treatment in the morning as an out patient (lived just two blocks from the hospital). One afternoon after the treatment, I had a job interview and got the job (so something was working).

I wish I knew why I didn't get the memory loss. My sister had ect, at a different hospital, a couple of years ago. She did have the memory loss which was somewhat disorienting. But she'd do it again if it ever got that bad again.

To me the biggest downside was having to go to the hospital.
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#10 mr2011ez

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Posted 09 April 2010 - 05:50 PM

My mom is considering getting ECT and I'm worried about what will happen or whether it will help.

Also, they cause seizures in the brain with those shocks. I have those. I'm not happy. Maybe if a nurse were around to drug me up beforehand I would be. I've seen the movie Shock Corridor and part of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. I'm worried it will kill her. Then again, she's already a zombie.

But, maybe god gave me seizures because he loves me and wants me to be happy. :mad:

Any stories of ECT, whether it helped you, would put my mind at ease.


My father suffered a complete nervous breakdown that developed over a year of things going on with his business, a new marriage, financial issues, whatever. He was not eating, loosing weight and tried to commit suicide with a gas stove in the bathroom. Basically his life just shut down and out. I found him in time before he bailed out and the family made him go into the hospital for psychiatric treatment. His doctor had him in the hospital for 3 weeks and he had about 15 ECT treatments and was prescribed a benzo and AD when he was released. It took a few months, but he completely recovered without any longterm problems and was ok until he passed on years later. His ECT treatments probably saved his life.

ECT has always gotten it's share of bad publicity from anti-psychiatry groups and movies/documentary and scares a lot of people away from it. However, ECT techniques have improved and are much safer than in the past with less side effects. Scientists claim they don't know how it works, but to me it seems it works the same way a set of jumper cables starts a dead or defective car battery. It probably 'jolts' the nervous system and get the brain chemicals back in proper balance.
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#11 bittersweet

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Posted 27 July 2010 - 02:20 PM

It wasn't particularly helpful to me until treatment number 10. Number 12 will be on Friday. They changed the electrode placement when I was having trouble even reading a book (couldn't keep track of the characters) and now I don't seem to have memory troubles too much any more. I decided to write this because I wished I could have found more positive reports of ECT before I started my course of treatments.

You are kind of in a fog during the two or three times a week treatments. The worst part is the IV placement (I don't have great veins). Most of the people I see getting ECT are older, but some are younger like me. You have to have someone stay with you. I'm not allowed to work and I'm not allowed to drive and you shouldn't make any legal decisions. It gives me a wicked headache every time. I've stocked up on ibuprofen and tylenol. I've hardly told anyone what I am going through because I'm afraid they just wouldn't understand. I told my family and I told a couple people who I've needed to look after me on treatment days. I'm a mystery to my friends anyway because I can't keep a job or finish a college degree. I'm not open about bipolar disorder to the people in my life for the most part.

My husband is angry with me because we need two incomes to afford our house. I have a part time job starting the end of August. Very part time. Life is hard but at least I don't want to end it all anymore. I'm less pessimistic.
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Current treatment for the mentally interesting stuff: Fanapt, fluvoxamine (luvox), melatonin, ambien. Currently in maintenance treatment with ECT- partial response. Other meds: nexium, pepcid AC, flonase spray

Meds I have tried: prozac, trazodone, desipramine, nortriptyline, other TCA's, wellbutrin, diazepam, xanax, paxil, zoloft, effexor, lithium, depakote, zyprexa, buspar, neurontin, topomax, lamictal, abilify, trileptal, various sleep meds (ambien, halcion, rozerem, lunesta), cymbalta, pristiq, nuvigil, wellbutrin XL, celexa, geodon, saphris, lexapro, viibryd, and there may be more - yes I have been called treatment-resistant!

#12 In_Remission_stanelyshane

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Posted 21 August 2010 - 10:21 AM

I heard that ECT is helpful into the depression but from your stuff I can get the more information about its advantages and disadvantages. It is really helpful to me. I am really appreciated for your valuable information.

#13 In_Remission_hilary

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Posted 23 August 2010 - 05:18 PM

Hi,
I had six treatments before they were forced to stop due to my getting double pneumonia from the anesthesia. I didn't notice any improvement and have no memories of the few months pre and post treatment. It has been almost twenty years now and I don't have proof but I have always felt that it left me with permanent brain damage.
Good Luck, Hilary

#14 In_Remission_bicrazy

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Posted 27 August 2011 - 10:47 PM

i had ten bilateral treatments in 2003. many cognitive functions were fried -- not just memory. logic, concentration, reading comprehension, word retrieval, all were damaged. it was like living in a fog. i ended up losing my job and with it a lot of my self-respect. then i tried to kill myself (nearly succeeded) and ended up in the crazy tank.

worst experience of my life, bar none.

if anyone i loved were contemplating ect, i would do my best to talk him/her out of it. of course, people who are considering ect are desperate for help. i know i was -- i thought it would be my salvation. i don't think i could have been talked out of it. you live, you learn.

#15 Rainman56

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Posted 29 August 2011 - 08:20 PM

I had 14 ECT treatments,2 a week for 7 weeks.First 10 unilateral and 4 bi lateral and theres no doubt in my mind is greatly brought my mood out of the darkness.Short term memory loss was brutal till about 6 months after.After a year I,m pretty good with memory,might even be back to where it was.

Its hard to tell if your having ups and downs as depression/anxiety can make everything foggy to begin with.

My reason was I,d had little success with meds except for a few but admit I,m a pain in the @ss with agreeing to take certain ones.ECT brought my mood up and the only side effect was some meory issues for awhile.

There are people Ect hasn,t worked for but for me it did...I would like to add I do think it matters who actually does the ECT as I think some hospitals are better than others.Just my .02.
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#16 Martin

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Posted 11 September 2011 - 10:29 AM

Hello Twitchy,

This topic may be a little old but I'll add a few thoughts for the record.

I underwent 12 ECTs in January and February of 2011. I apparently agreed to it but was allegedly in a suicidal depression and so probably didn't care one way or the other. I do not regret it.

Obviously ECT has come a long way, particularly in the last 20 years. There is anesthesia and muscle relaxants etc. I think they've discovered that there is an "optimum" treatment range of between 10 and 16 therapies. I think they've discovered that lower voltages help to limit the impact to memory loss. I've seen my medical report and I noticed the doctor mentioned a voltage of 50 - 55 percent (whatever that means).

The point is, I experience no significant memory loss or long-lasting ill effects. That is, there is no significant loss of anything I would like to remember. The brain is pretty plastic and if treated reasonably can recover well. I imagine diet and exercise can help the brain recover from this rather curious therapy.


But beware, ECT is expensive and there is a certain financial incentive for doctors to suggest it when it might not be appropriate for a particular patient. It is analogous to the "surgeons like to perform surgery".

As a final defense of ECT, while a certain amount of memory loss is a likely side effect, I don't see this as any different to the likely side effects of medications used to treat the particular disorder. The side effects can impact other organs like the kidneys, liver, pancreas, thyroid and in rare cases, so I've recently learned, the electrical functioning of the heart.

There was an Australian prime minister, Malcolm Fraser, who became notorious for a famous utterance - "Life wasn't meant to be easy". :-)
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