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Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT - aka shock treatments): What you should know

Discussion in 'Therapy and Medication' started by catecholamine, Jul 13, 2012.

  1. catecholamine

    catecholamine Well-Known Member

    I have noticed that there is not much talk about ECT, but when I've mentioned it in chat and other places, people are always full of curiosity about the subject. I figured I'd put together a little FAQ on it since I've been through it so people can have the info, educate themselves, and hopefully be encouraged to do more research on the treatment if it becomes a viable option.

    Q: ECT? Shock Treatments?! They still do those?!
    A: Indeed they do, but it is not the same as it used to be and not so brutal.

    Q: What exactly is ECT?
    A: Electroconvulsive Therapy is a treatment where seizures are induced by small shocks to one (unilateral) or both sides (bilateral) of the temple. To this day, there are only theories as to why it works, why it seems to reset the brain, but there is quite a good bit of evidence that it is one of the most effective treatments for depression.

    Q: That sounds brutal. Do they hold you down and shock you?? What's it like?
    A: We've all seen the old movies or videos of what ECT used to be like, but trust me, it is no longer like that. The procedure goes like this, or at least did for me: You get to the hospital and go into the room, at the hospital here it was done in the surgery recovery room. You are not supposed to have eaten or drank since midnight, like before most procedures. A nurse establishes an IV and you crawl into a hospital bed. Leads are put on your chest and head to monitor your heart and brain waves. When the time comes and the doctor and nurses are all gathered round, they put an oxygen mask on you and inject the medication cocktail into the IV. If I remember right, it consists of several things, one being a short-acting barbiturate to put you out and a muscle relaxer to keep you from clenching up/moving and causing any harm to yourself during the seizure. Before the meds were administered, a nurse would put a blood pressure cuff around my ankle and pump it up to keep the muscle relaxer from going into my foot so that they could see it moving during the seizure. A bite block is also put in your mouth to keep you from biting your tongue or breaking a tooth. When you're out, they take the stick-looking things and shock ya! You're out cold and have no memory of it. The whole thing does not last long. Soon, you're waking up wondering when they're going to start and when you can have a sammich.

    Q: What are the side effects like?
    A: Side effects can be mixed. I'd say the most common is loss of some memories of the past, and that is what I experienced. Most other possible side effects are from the meds used to put you under. I did experience memory loss and it is very unique. There are holes that I don't even know are there. I found pictures I took at a concert - I don't remember going to a concert, where it was, when, or anything else. I had no idea I went until I found the pics.

    Q: Is ECT effective?
    A: It has been found by many studies to be more effective than antidepressants or placebo, but there are some studies that contradict those findings. Medication treatment is usually continued after ECT has stopped in order to prevent a relapse.

    Q: How many times do you have to have ECT?
    A: I had it about 12 times. At first, it was 2 to 3 times a week, then once a week, then once every two weeks, the once a month as maintenance.

    More you should know: ECT is usually reserved for patients with severe depression when other treatments have failed. You may also have to travel some distance to have it done - the closest hospital to me that does it is 2 hours away.

    Have any questions about anything? Curious about something? Feel free to ask. :cool:
  2. aussiegal

    aussiegal Well-Known Member

    Thanks for sharing. My psychologist seems to think it might be worth considering for me. Psychiatrist feels he hasn't exhausted other opportunities yet. Just wondering if you have found the memory loss frightening? Does it stay? Have you found memory loss worse as treatments increase? Did you find the whole process worthwhile? Sorry... I am very intrigued.
  3. TheLoneWolf

    TheLoneWolf Well-Known Member

    Weird... I mean, I could see how it might work, resetting the brain, especially if there is some sort of imbalance... it just seems kind of extreme to me. Still, I guess if it works, then more power to you. I don't know if I like the idea of losing memories though, unless I could pick and choose which memories to lose.
  4. catecholamine

    catecholamine Well-Known Member

    It wasn't frightening per say, just surprising that I could completely lose a memory like that. So far, it has been nothing more than annoying. It did get worse as I had more treatments. And some of it does seem to be permanent.
    It didn't really help me, but I have met people it did help. If it had helped me, it would have been worth the memory loss for sure.