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NIMH on ECT and some thoughts

Updated on February 5, 2013

Insight

Electroconvulsive therapy and other brain stimulation therapies

For cases in which medication and/or psychotherapy does not help relieve a person's treatment-resistant depression, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be useful. ECT, formerly known as "shock therapy," once had a bad reputation. But in recent years, it has greatly improved and can provide relief for people with severe depression who have not been able to feel better with other treatments.

Before ECT begins, a patient is put under brief anesthesia and given a muscle relaxant. He or she sleeps through the treatment and does not consciously feel the electrical impulses. Within 1 hour after the treatment session, which takes only a few minutes, the patient is awake and alert.

A person typically will undergo ECT several times a week, and often will need to take an antidepressant or other medication along with the ECT treatments. Although some people will need only a few courses of ECT, others may need maintenance ECT—usually once a week at first, then gradually decreasing to monthly treatments. Ongoing NIMH-supported ECT research is aimed at developing personalized maintenance ECT schedules.

ECT may cause some side effects, including confusion, disorientation, and memory loss. Usually these side effects are short-term, but sometimes they can linger. Newer methods of administering the treatment have reduced the memory loss and other cognitive difficulties associated with ECT. Research has found that after 1 year of ECT treatments, most patients showed no adverse cognitive effects.32

Nevertheless, patients always provide informed consent before receiving ECT, ensuring that they understand the potential benefits and risks of the treatment.

Other more recently introduced types of brain stimulation therapies used to treat severe depression include vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), and repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). These methods are not yet commonly used, but research has suggested that they show promise.

This was taken from the NIMH site. It makes ECT sound so easy and somewhat delightful but if you have ever undergone ECT you know different. As a one time candidate and having 13 of them administered within the time frame of less than two months I can tell you that there are more side effects than what they have mentioned here. The memory loss can linger for longer than a year as I had gone to Daytona, Florida about six months before they were administered in 2004 and I still cannot recollect or remember the trip. It also leaves long lasting effects of memory loss including short term memory loss. Now, don't judge me because I had it done. You would have had to understand that when I had my breakdown, which was bad and one that I will never forget that I was battling in court and had just had a miscarriage (more to the story than that of course, but you get the idea). I know people get judged because they might not be quite right in the head and I'll admit that I have had psychological problems since at least the age of twelve but it has factors that brought it on including almost being raped/molested. I don't like talking or letting people know much about my personal life or my past but felt the need to share this as I know people are experiencing more and more downs within their lives than they have in the past. Life is hard, difficult in fact and we can't always smile but knowing more about our afflictions does help.

During the time of my breakdown, I had lost a child prior (in 2002) and had both of my girls. I was living with an abusive man who abused drugs and alcohol. He was never much of a support system as neither was his family. He treated me like shit and it has taken me a long time to find who I am and realize that I deserve better than what he made me believe I was worth (which was nothing). He killed my self-esteem and at times now, I still find myself putting my own self down and thinking that I am not worth much.

Now, enough about me. Just realize that you are worth something to someone and that the bad days are just a test of strength and that you can get through it. I have and will continue to survive because there is no battle that I can't win once I set my mind to it.

If you or someone else you know is depressed or thinking about suicide, remember there are people and places out there to help. You are not alone.

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