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Questions about ECT

Discussion in 'Mental Health Disorders' started by AlCal, Dec 15, 2014.

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  1. AlCal

    AlCal Member

    My doctors have wanted me to try ECT for awhile since the multiple regimens of meds I have tried have not helped my depression. This seems like a drastic next step and was wondering what other people have experienced with ECT. I know the science and the studies; I'm looking for personal experiences. Did it help? How long did you feel better if you did experience improvement in sx? What, if any, side effects did you have? I know meds are still a part of treatment with and after ECT. If you also "failed" previous medication therapy, what meds were you tried on in conjunction with ECT?

    Also, I was told I would have to be inpatient for this initial round of ECT which could mean being hospitalized for up to a month. Has anyone been able to do this as an outpatient?

    I probably have more questions that I can't think of now. Thank you in advance for any personal insight you can give.
  2. pbcmom

    pbcmom Member

    I have not had ECT but my ex-husband did while we were married. He had two full courses and one smaller maintenance course during the time we were married. It was difficult for him to go through but even at the time he admitted that it saved his life and he didn't regret agreeing to it. He was completely outpatient for all of the ECT but it did require a lot of support and commitment. At that time, a course of ECT meant three treatments per week for 3-5 weeks depending on the patient's response to treatment. The patient cannot drive at all during the time that they are receiving ECT. I had to drive him to the hospital very early, three times a week until the treatments were over.

    There was definitely memory loss during the treatments but it was temporary. Within several weeks after the treatment had ended his memory was back to normal.

    Not sure what else to include right now but if you have other questions I can try my best to answer them.
  3. AlCal

    AlCal Member

    Thanks for you reply. Do you feel the ECT helped him? Did you notice changes before and after? How long between his 2 full courses of ECT and why (did he completely relapse or was it somewhat preventative)? Do you feel like overall it was beneficial for him as well as you and other family/friends?

    With the driving restrictions, can the patient not drive at all throughout the ECT course or can (s)he drive on days when not receiving treatment? Also, with the memory loss did he have difficulty remembering things during the course of the ECT or did he also have any retrograde memory loss? Did he feel like his memory fully returned to normal?

    Sorry for all the questions. This just seems like a decently big commitment and I am trying to get as much info as possible before making a decision. Thank you again for your reply!
  4. pbcmom

    pbcmom Member

    The ECT definitely helped him. He was in a very desperate place and the medications that had helped him in the past were no longer working. We worked with his doctor to try to change his medications but during the transition of coming off of one type of medication long enough to be able to start another he was definitely a danger to himself. If he had not agreed to the ECT he most certainly would have ended up dead. The ECT allowed his symptoms to improve and for him to get started on new medications.

    There were changes during the ECT...mostly memory type issues. But within a few weeks after the ECT was complete there were no noticeable changes between him pre- and post-ECT.

    I honestly do not remember how long between his 2 full courses of ECT. If I had to guess/estimate, I would say it was somewhere between 6 months and a year. As for why, his mood did start to decline but he didn't want to go back for a maintenance course of ECT. He got more and more depressed and was in a dark, dangerous place again. Because he let his symptoms get too out of control before being willing to go back for ECT it required another full course. He improved yet again. Several months later he started to become depressed again and he went back for just a maintenance course. It only took a few treatments, which for him meant almost no negative side effects and things were improved again. He realized then that if ECT was even potentially necessary it was better to discuss it with his doctor sooner rather than later and that a maintenance course was much better than waiting too long and needing a full course. It has been about seven or eight years since then and he has not needed ECT again. He has had definite ups and downs, needed medication adjustments and I believe one hospitalization during that time, but his depression has not gotten to that same level it was when he required ECT.

    Once the patient begins ECT they cannot drive at all. I do not remember the exact timing, but I think it was at least a couple of weeks after the last ECT treatment before he was able to drive again.

    First, I just want to say that the side effects and memory loss can be different for each person. I know this to be absolutely true because while he was receiving his treatments I met a lot of people who were also receiving ECT at the same time as well as having an opportunity to talk to their family members while we were there waiting for our loved ones. In my ex-husband's case, after the first 3-5 treatments he clearly was struggling with memory loss. It got worse through the course of treatment. His memory loss involved things that were happening in our present day-to-day life as well as memories from long ago. For example, there was a point where he actually forgot that his grandmother was dead and she had passed away years before that. It was difficult having to explain to him that she was dead. For him, at the time, it was like losing her for the first time all over again and he grieved that loss as if it had just happened. Within a few weeks after the treatments ended he had almost all of his memory back. The only lingering memory lapses are some minor details and events that happened while he was receiving ECT that he does not remember. That is not to say he has to memory of that time. He remembers a lot from that time but there are definitely some holes.

    No apologies necessary. It is a big decision. Even though I completely regard it as having saved my ex-husband's life, I do still think it is a last resort line of treatment. No one wants to go through that if there are other reasonable and potentially effective options you haven't tried yet.
  5. AlCal

    AlCal Member

    Thank you for taking the time to give such a thorough relpy. I'm still not quite sure what I'll do about it, but this extra info is helpful. Will probably just worry about getting through the holidays right now and try to decide before I have another psych apt (have a few weeks off of them b/c of the holidays)
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