View Full Version : ECT for depression

Apr. 8, 2012, 02:22 PM
Has anybody had this for depression? My doctor is wanting me to go thru it. I have had a horrible lapse and even with some major changes in my meds not much is changing. Not my first bout with this, having lived with it most of my life and been actively treated for it for over 20 yrs. Have had major work up done the past 6 months looking at all sorts of other contributing issues too--hormones, metabolic syndrome, etc. Most everything checks out and have the few hormones that are low corrected now.

ECT scares me. Part is the stigma of it. Like I haven't even told my DH that my doctor wants to do it.

She initially wanted me to take 2 weeks off of work and do a series of it every other day. I can't do that, financially. So we talked about doing a couple of them. She told me that I would basically just go home and sleep all that day afterwards and would "be fine" the next day. True?


Apr. 8, 2012, 02:26 PM
This is pretty serious treatment. I believe it can cause significant and not always transient memory problems. I'd consider getting a second opinion.

Your psychiatrist should be okay with that. If not, you might wish to consider finding a different psychiatrist.

Apr. 8, 2012, 02:40 PM
watch this I saw it a couple of weeks ago and somewhere twards the middle there was a neurolscientests maybe neurologists who was working with frontal lobe and depression.. I have no idea how old this is but can not hurt to watch or even contact to see what if anything can be done...

Apr. 8, 2012, 02:55 PM
A close family member recently underwent this treatment at a very well-renowned facility as a last resort for what was essentially a catatonic state. She is in her early 80s. She suffered extremely severe memory loss as ("lost" several weeks around the treatment), but is now in a much better place.

Having gone through it with her, I cannot imagine a doctor recommending going back to work directly afterward. It was several weeks (months?) before my relative was capable of functioning at a normal level...

Apr. 8, 2012, 03:22 PM
Actually many really benefit a lot from this, those with depression unresponsive to other treatments. However, I would want to very comfortable with the procedure, know what to expect (do NOT think One Flew over the cuckoo's nest). Certainly a second opinion never hurts, and I would want to make sure my doc had a lot of experience with ECTs and could give me a good pic of what would happen. You might try some health forums as well, to see if people there have had experience with ECT or some alternative. Hope whatever you do you wind up feeling better!

Apr. 8, 2012, 03:42 PM
My best friend has ECT for her depression. Nothing else was helping at all and it really did make a difference for her. She was extremely tired around the treatments but didn't have any long lasting issues. I would definitely get a second opinion and make sure this person is very familiar with what they are doing. I am so sorry you're going through such a rough bout, mental illness just really sucks.

Apr. 8, 2012, 03:47 PM
I would jump on the band wagon of: get other opinions...!! ASAP!
It's a pretty drastic thing to do... and the side effects can be less than desirable or even scary.

Hope you find something that has less potential damage than that. I've read/done a bit of research on the subject if you'd like for me to share some of the findings- I can pm you.

Jingles going your way either way!

Apr. 8, 2012, 03:50 PM
I have a very dear friend who stayed in the hospital for 2 weeks and went through 8 or 9 treatments. She really had to do it. She is better, although it left her tired and weakened. However, mentally it was successful. Good luck -- do what you need to do to get help and get better.

Apr. 8, 2012, 04:31 PM
Jumpingmaya: if you could PM me with what you have found that would be great. I have dug a lot too though but maybe 2 brains are better than one.

As for other options, we are running out of treatment options. Name a drug, or combination, and I have been on it. (or am on it) Underlying problems looked for, dug for, etc. Repeatedly. Only one was found and has been corrected, with no change in me. Days got longer and DST is in effect. No change. Have all the cognitive/psychotherapy skills. Am also bipolar and usually when a bad depressive perioid hits I can wait it out long enough for a manic swing to hit, if one of the above changes don't work. Not this time.

My insurance actually approved teh ECT, meaning they actually agree I meet the criteria and that it is indicated. If you can believe that. So I don't doubt my doctor's recommenedation regarding the treatment. I have been seeing her for many years so it isn't like I just started seeing her and suddenly its "you need ECT". My file is pretty darned thick. She has seen my go thru similar downs and has been able to get me out of them before. Just not working this time.

FWIW, I am safe. No worries there.

Apr. 8, 2012, 04:53 PM
What have you explored diet wise and fitness for your depression and bipolar?
I don't know what ECT is but it sounds serious. Have your house tested for mold too.

Apr. 8, 2012, 05:01 PM
Bart, as long as you have gotten the low-down on what the effects on memory are likely to be for you (and so long as you can live with those), I think you have one additional, needed bit that you need to make an informed decision.

Oh, and run this by DH.

You sound like you know what you are doing. You "get" the disease and know exactly where you are in it. Unless you have been snowed by your psych of many years, I think you can trust her recommendation of ECT as an appropriate treatment for you.

If you *do* have any questions about your psych's ability or the accuracy of his/her understanding of your mood, can you ask DH or someone close to you to put in his/her .02?

Half the battle with mood disorders is to figure out when it's an accurate perception of other people in the world speaking and when it's the disease speaking.

Apr. 8, 2012, 05:45 PM
She's not my first psych. Actually my 4th. I've been thru the in-hospital treatment route (voluntary and not so voluntary), day-patient as well as out patient for many many years. From back when Prozac was the new kid on the block and we were still using Lithium for bi-polar. Done the pychycologists as well as psychitrists. So yah, been there, done that, know the dance all too well. That's the problem. This time the dance isn't going like it is supposed to and everything we have tried hasn't changed it.

The memory loss part worries me. I deal with enough of that now with the depression. Don't know that loosing more of it is something I can risk? But is not fixing this degree of deprssion something I can risk either?

I just am in need of info so that what ever decision I made I am comfortable with it.

And yes, I will (eventually) talk to DH about it. Heck, he will have to take me to it if I have it so I will have to if it comes to that.

Apr. 9, 2012, 12:37 AM
ECT is serious, but so is depression untreatable by the usual means. As Im sure you are aware, its a much more humane procedure than it was in the past. IF you are sure youve tried the options available to you and your quality of life still isnt good, I would do it. My Mom is a psych nurse, and I work in a secure forensic hospital setting and have seen all types of treatments. WIth really resistant forms of depression, I think its a viable option. I would do it. Good Luck OP. Depression kills, and though ECT sounds so One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest-ish, its not- in some cases it can be a life saver. Do your homework and trust your gut (and Drs if they are good ones) Bring your DH and support system in on this one.

Apr. 9, 2012, 02:42 AM
What have you explored diet wise and fitness for your depression and bipolar?
I don't know what ECT is but it sounds serious. Have your house tested for mold too.

Electroconvulsive Therapy.

It is extreme and sometimes effective (as pretty much a last resort, however depression is quite a serious condition and it must be treated).

I don't have enough expertise or experience with ECT to give an opinion Bart , but I would seek a second opinion if I was in your situation, and then, do what you think is best.

You seem to me to have a grip on your illness, and you do your research. I agree that there are other forums worth checking out that may give you more specific answers than you will find here.

All the best to you and hope things look up soon! And, good for you, for confronting your depression and taking action!

Apr. 9, 2012, 07:33 AM
I know you said they've checked pretty much everything, but I just *have* to ask - they've checked your thyroid levels, right? I have hypothyroidism AND depression, and the combination can be a real PITA. And you can just suddenly develop hypothyroidism, or your thyroid suddenly stop working right - if they checked your TSH, T4, and T3 levels just a few months ago and nothing's changed, you're probably fine, but if it's been years/you don't feel the same way you did when they checked them, you really should have that done before you undergo something like ECT.

I'd also recommend getting a second opinion, even if your insurance has already agreed to cover the ECT, simply because something like that could cause real harm if you don't need it - if, for example, your thyroid isn't functioning properly.

Oh, and if they do test/re-test your thyroid, ask for the lab results. They have to show it to you, and sometimes doctors want to treat hypothyroidism *really* conservatively, when people sometimes need aggressive treatment (me, for instance). You can check "normal" ranges for TSH, free T3, and free T4 online - the mayo clinic is great.

I hope, whatever you decide to do, it works for you.

Apr. 9, 2012, 08:08 AM
My best friend had several ECT treatments years ago.

They saved her life - she will tell you that now.

However, they also came with a very high price - we have been best friends since we were 11 years old, and she can barely remember anything from the time period surrounding her treatments (when we were in undergrad). She continues to struggle with major depressive disorder and bipolar symptoms, but at the time it was the right choice (explored and performed after a period of months of several serious suicide attempts and hospitalizations after years of depression).

At the time, ECT was simply a last resort. I do encourage you to continue talking through any concerns with your psychiatrist. You need to weight whether the memory loss and side effects of ECT is worth risking to alleviate the degree of symptoms you have - in my friend's case, it was.

Apr. 9, 2012, 08:48 AM
Have you tried mindfulness based practices? My sister is a social worker at a hospital and has worked in adult mental health for her entire career. They have been teaching mindfulness practices to patients for the last 3 years. She believes that ten years from now that hardly any medications will be prescribed and that treatment will involve mindfulness practices and brain based interventions that will have been developed from all the recent and ongoing research in neuroscience. You might start with reading Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Best of luck to you and wishing you peace and good health.

Apr. 9, 2012, 09:02 AM
What have you explored diet wise and fitness for your depression and bipolar?
I don't know what ECT is but it sounds serious. Have your house tested for mold too.

I'm sure others have suggested this as well and it is tough to think that diet can make you so sick for so long but I suffered for years and years with "normal" bloodwork and taking piles of AD's which did nothing for me and as it turns out what was making me sick was gluten. Plain and simple. Dr's will do a celiac panel and tell you that is not the problem. It was another 10 years before I discovered it was the problem. So, before you go for this treatment, try a serious attempt at a diet restriction. you will know in a few weeks if it will help or not.

There is a good chance that if you are gluten intolerant you will feel sick as a dog for a few days. This is actually a good sign because it seems to mean that as the gluten is exiting your body there are changed happening. I felt like i had a serious case of the flu for a week.

It is quite a lot of work to eliminate gluten. Basically you need to eat meat/seafood, fruit and veggies and nothing else until you absolutely understand the sources of the gluten and where it is hidden.

I also eliminated dairy and sugar which absolutely were contributing to the depression and fatigue. And I'm talking serious, hospitalization depression, not just "the blues" where a little walk every day would give me the endorphin boost. For me, the exercise line was always bullshit and just meant that people had no clue how sick I was.

Just try it.

Apr. 9, 2012, 09:26 AM
I understand the advice and suggestions regarding dietary changes and the like... and I do agree that there is a mind-body connection and that there are a billion things we don't know yet about the human body and brain; or about mental illness...

However, telling someone who is in such a depressive state as to be recommended for ECT by her *doctor* to "wait on all medical treatments" and instead try: a, b, c, d, or x alternative idea is somewhat misinformed and is definitey irresponsible.

I appreciate that some of you have been down this route yourselves and have found something that works for you other than medications or ECT... however, if you've been down this path before, then you understand the importance of TIMELINESS in the treatment of mental illness; especially depression (and especially in a patient who has a history of suicidal tendencies).

Not saying any of you are wrong... I just wanted to point out that maybe bart45's doctor could actually be right!

(and yes, I've been in bart's shoes, so I know of which I am speaking)

bart, I wish you well. If you need anything, feel free to PM me.

Apr. 9, 2012, 10:48 AM
I know someone who has gone through ECT. She's very open about what she's experienced to those with questions. PM me if you want me to put you in touch.

Apr. 9, 2012, 10:53 AM
Kitty Dukakis (the wife of former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate Michael Dukakis) gets ECT treatments. You should be able to find her personal accounts online. For her it was certainly a last resort, but she says it's saved her life and her personal relationships.