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    Considering ECT treatment
    borntimestwo posted:
    Hello, I am considering ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) treatment. My Dr. is recommending it and I am doing as much research as I can. Part of that research to me is finding out personal experiences from those that have undergone it. How bad is the memory loss? Is it profound? Have you had other cognitive problems?
    Also, did it help!? I have been battling bipolar illness for many years and no meds help even just a little bit. I am constantly having suicidal idealization. I have been on meds and in therapy for over 15 years.
    Thanks for sharing!

    Also, can you please share how long ago you had it done?
    Anneinside responded:
    I am currently on ECT maintenance, about every 2 or 3 weeks. I started with 3 times a week for two weeks - this is pretty much standard. I started feeling a difference after the second treatment. I have had a series and maintenance in the past - maintenance for 18 months (once a week, every other week, every 3 weeks and finally once every four weeks). There are some people who have monthly ECT indefinitely... I can think of Carrie Fischer from Star Wars.

    I have minimal memory loss. Usually when reminded of something the memory comes back. I feel very lucky that I do so well with ECT. I believe I have more memory loss when depressed as I don't seem to form memories... I have re-read some of my journals and don't recall much of what I wrote while depressed.

    I would stay on scheduled ECT as long as my pdoc would do it but she started me on another antidepressent - Emsam, an MAOI patch, and she wants to see if it is working so we are doing ECT on a as needed basis - I call in for a treatment when I need it. It always helps.
    beautifulbuffalo responded:
    I've had over 50 ECT treatments over a period of 4 years and that was 10 years ago and haven't had to have another since. But any Dr. that tells you you can have a few here and a few there they are wrong. You need a series of ECT 3 days a week for a month.

    Yes it does affect your memory but your get it back.
    Thomas L Schwartz, MD responded:
    ECT is a bonafide and good treatment for depression AND also has risks which you are looking into. The memory issues are short term and there is no brain damage issue. Sometimes ECT works great after 10-20 sessions and folks can stop- other times they need it in similar series every few years and sometimes they need 1 a month to stay undepressed
    paulpaulpaul responded:
    I was suicidal about five years ago. I checked myself into a hospital. The psychiatrist prescribed ECT so I did it. It helped stabilize me. I haven't had any ECT since then. The memory loss was subtle. I can't remember some conversations I had. I haven't had any other side effects from it.
    musicnightingale replied to Thomas L Schwartz, MD's response:
    Dr Schwartz, I have had recurrent major depression many times over the years-had therapy and antidepressants, currently on Wellbutrin XL now for several years but lately am losing ground-dx with breast cancer and being treated post surgery. I assume they sedate you completely before ect-what immediate symptoms do you have post shock? Any problems with going back to work? I had 6 weeks radiation and am very tired. Don't want to add insult to injury. Wonder if I should wait till I build myself up again or just get going on this. I had previously asked my GP about ect and he thought it might be a good option for me. I just am on the fence about this. Have tried Celexa and had Prozac in past. I am currently on Tamoxifen. Any advice you could give me would be appreciated. NR
    MGhelp replied to Thomas L Schwartz, MD's response:
    Dr. Schwartz...I have had mild and more serious depression for most of my adult life which would be about 18 years now that I'm 36. I've been on everything under the sun some allowing minor relief some not working at all. I have hit rock bottom again but I've found that most doctors won't recommend ECT unless you seem to look like your a nut job. I would also like to know if I am able to get a referal from my doctor would my employer have any way of knowing since they are providing my insurance that I am receiving these treatments as I do not want to loss my job or be looked down upon....Thank you.....
    BYNOG10 responded:
    jnetk9939 responded:
    I understand your hesitancy. I was the same way until my depression got so bad I had no other place to turn. I checked myself in Emory Psychiatric Hospital last November (2010). I suggested the ECT and the doctors concurred. However, once things started rolling I got soooo scared. I was hysterical and begged my husband to come get me. Thankfully, he did not and that night I met another patient that was having the treatments. She seemed "normal" with no apparent effect. I talked with her and I felt much better. The next morning we went together for our treatments. I had 6 treatments (2 x week for 3 weeks) but I stopped them before them recommended. Once an outpatient it was difficult to make the 250 mile round trip for each treatment. I saw continuing improvement for 6 months. There was some memory degradation. It was like some things I knew were behind a curtain but once they were mentioned the memories became clear. After 6 months I felt I was "slipping" and went back for another treatment. The doctors wanted me to have 11 more over the next 6 months. I had 3 and was feeling much better so I quit, once again (that was in July). I am having a little trouble now but August and September has ALWAYS been my worst months. Do I want to have any more treatments? NO WOULD I have more treatments? YES, definitely if I got to the point I was before. They work! It's like it "resets" things in your mind.

    A word of advice. Make sure you go to a facility that is set up for ECT and doesn't do it as a "side" service. The facility I went to (Wesley Woods Geriatric Center - part of Emory Psychiatric) has an ECT suite set up just for ECT and is used solely for that purpose. They do approximately 20 to 30 treatments per day. You are put asleep for the treatments and feel no pain. Afterward you will be tired and groggy for several hours and may be pretty sore after the 1st treatment. I have been suffering with bipolar for 40 years (only diagnosed 13 years ago - I am mostly depressive). I have been on antidepressants for 22 years. Prozac was my wonder drug for years until it just quit. I have been on a dozen or more since, as well as anti-psychotics and mood stabilizers. I have treatment-resistant depression. I rarely have any manic episodes anymore.

    My heart goes out to you - I understand - and I will help you in any way I can.
    sandytoo1 responded:
    I have had over 130 ECT treatments over a period of 15 years, my last treatment was about 8 weeks ago. I currently have have the treatments on a maintenance schedule of about 1 every 8-9 weeks. I am not wild about having the treatments but because they do definitely work for me, I continue to go in on this maintenance schedule that works well for me.When I am having an acute episode of depression I usually receive ECT on a 3 times a week basis untill I am stable. Then the period of time between treatments is gradually increased until I reach my maintenance schedule of 8-9 weeks between treatments. This allows me to have to take less medication than I would have to without the treatments and certainly does provide me with increased stability.

    I agree totally with an earlier writer who said that memory loss from his depression was far worse than memory loss from the ECT. Immediately after the treatment I may have some clouding and memory blurring for about 24 hours. Others say they don't notice it but I can feel that I am not as sharp as I want to be. When that clears up, things generally go pretty smoothly. This pattern of confusion/memory problems is typical for maintenance ECT. When I was having treatment phase ECT, i.e. 3 times/week for 2-3 weeks the confusion and memory problems seemed more cumulative and disabling. However, I was hospitalized during these phases and the depression itself was far worse then too so it was hard to sort out what was causing what during these times.

    So bottom line: I don't particularly like ECT. But I do go for ECT because it works for me. And I prefer it to the greater amounts of medication I would have to take to control my depression if I did not go for the ECT. And after 130 treatments I guess I should know what I am talking about, at least for myself. Good luck to you!
    2sillies responded:
    I take ECT. At the beginning the memory loss was great, but, my memories has returned and further treatment does not cause a problem. I have an excellent doctor and I would reccommeened the treatment. I suffer from severe depression; I do find that I am getting better.
    susiemargaret responded:
    hello, B2 --

    here is an excerpt from a post i wrote some time ago about my experience with ECT --

    about seven years ago, i was suffering from very severe depression -- i had the privilege of being what my psychiatrist said was the most depressed patient he had ever seen -- and was in and out of the hospital over a period of about four months. we could not seem to find any med that worked well enough to make a difference in my emotional state. with reluctance and nervousness, i agreed to have ECT. i had approx 12 treatments at 3/week, inpatient at first, then outpatient.

    frankly, that whole period is a blur to me, and i don't remember feeling a change in my emotional state, but my sister and others said that they could see an immediate change for the better. we saw it as a temporary measure to get me to an equilibrium where i could think straight and where we would have some more time to try different antidepressants. it does not solve all of your problems (nor do antidepressants, as i'm sure you know), it just sort of "resets" your brain chemistry so that you can think about your problems more clearly.

    the treatments don't hurt. you lie down, they hook you up to various monitors (heart, etc.), they give you some sort of short-acting anesthesia, then give what i understood to be an extremely short and small electrical charge thru things on your head that look like very small earphones (except that they are not on your ears, just on the sides of your head). you are completely unaware of anything after they start the anesthesia. because of this, you may want to ask for a blanket before you start, because the next thing you will be aware of is waking up in the recovery room, and i was always cold there.

    as for side effects, i usually had a headache and was very tired after each treatment. and i did experience some short-term memory loss; i could not remember the name of my sister's dog, for instance, but i never forgot who i was or where my house was or who other people were or why i was in the treatment room. as i recall, this memory loss was for about a month or six weeks; it's a drag and frustrating, but it's not physically debilitating or emotionally crippling in terms of daily life.

    the idea of ECT is scary, and it is definitely a last-resort measure; i don't think that anyone disagrees with that. but after my treatments, i've never had to be hospitalized again. so my advice to you is that if you have been suffering disastrously and you trust your psychiatrist, you should very strongly consider having the treatments.

    of course, this is solely my experience, and i acknowledge that others' experience might have been different. i would not lightly agree to do it again, but i would seriously consider doing it again if i became as depressed as i was then.

    if you or anyone has any Qs about this, i'll be glad to answer them. i hope that this has helped and that you are having a good day today.

    -- susie margaret
    what good is gold, or silver too, if your heart's not good and true -- hank williams, sr.
    frac125061 responded:
    I have had ECT and it did not affect my memory. However, it ccan have a different effect on other people. I just had ECT back this year and I loved it. It helped me with my depression and anxiety that goes with Bipolar 1 disorder. If you have been advised to do it, go for it. It does not hurt because they put you to sleep.

    SusyQ63 responded:
    Had it in 2000 over a period of several weeks and it did stabilize me (I was suicidal) but I did not suffer any memory loss. I am sure there have been changes over the last 12 years. I would like to hear from people who had it done recently to see how they are doing
    animas323 responded:
    Hi. I have been under ECT treatments since May. I started the acute series while I was in the hospital for 6 weeks and now I am undergoing weekly treatments on Mondays. I go every Monday. The memory loss is your short term memory. I have no issues with my long term memory. I also have been battling bipoar for lots of years. I currently take meds but they are not working for me either. The ECT does work and gets me through week to week. The memory issues are a sacrifice that I make to be able to be stable. Good luck on your decesion and I hope this helps your decesion. Animas323

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