Electro-convulsive Therapy (ECT)
June 13, 2004 5:37 PM   Subscribe

electro convulsive therapy (ECT): My brother has been diagonized with major depression. He no longer responds to the standard anti-depressants. Doctors are considering ECT for him. Have any meta filter members had experience with ECT? How effective? Side effects? Relapses?
posted by TimeFactor to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My brother went thru ECT. It left him dazed and confused with a spotty memory for a few weeks, but ultimately he seemed to weather it fairly well. I found that my bro was far more stable after he had gone thru it: he listened to suggestions, took advice, wasn't combative, and generally was closer to his "normal" self than before the ECT.

I was the one who authorized the ECT, figuring that it couldn't be any worse than what my brother was already going thru.

There is always the chance of a relapse.
posted by ashbury at 5:43 PM on June 13, 2004

Go to the Bipolar forum at About.com. There are quite a few regulars over there who have been through the experience.
posted by konolia at 5:48 PM on June 13, 2004

My grandmother had this done about ten years ago, also for major depression.

It's advanced quite a bit since it started, though why exactly it works is still not entirely understood, and therefore, as is to be expected, the effectiveness varies greatly.

As for side-effects, mostly short-term memory loss for a few weeks following, nothing really serious.
posted by dagnyscott at 7:05 PM on June 13, 2004

electroconvulsive therapy, eh? i'll stick to self-medication, thank you!
posted by quonsar at 8:02 PM on June 13, 2004 [1 favorite]

My mother had it in the 60s, was not helped, and suffered gaps in her memory as a consequence.

Having said that, I understand that they're much more restrained these days, and it does actually often work where other treatments have failed.

You may find this book helpful if you have not yourself been depressed.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:48 PM on June 13, 2004

I remember reading some essay in college about an artist who went though ECT treatment for extreme depression and came out with serious long term memory loss, such that she forgot large gaps of her memory of the past 5 years, and never regained them. General consesus was that she was a special case, but still, it is not without risk.
posted by Hackworth at 9:50 PM on June 13, 2004

Yeah, it's not without risk, but untreated severe depression carries a fairly hefty set of risks of its own, from suicide on up.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:18 PM on June 13, 2004

Someone close to me underwent ECT (prefer not to say should they be reading they may not want me discussing their medical history).

Short term memory loss that went away after a week or two. There are gaps that never recovered - but mostly from the two weeks that the treament was administered. Otherwise, the treatment was a success -- the depression, though not eliminated, began responding to more traditional treatments. Going on four years and things have been fairly good. The depression that preceeded the ECT was a crippling, never-leave-the-house kind of thing -- fortunately, that's no (so far) only a memory.
posted by herc at 10:44 PM on June 13, 2004

Hmmm. ECT sounds a lot like getting knocked unconscious. Short term memory loss, short hospital stay, gaps in memory, all that jazz.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:55 PM on June 13, 2004

A friend of mine had it done a couple of times, but swore she'd never have it again.

IIRC, she claimed that it fixed the depression, but also gave her memory problems and left her not really knowing what was happening. The memory returned about the same time the depression did.
posted by twine42 at 12:09 AM on June 14, 2004

Um, isn't this a case of the cure being worse than the disease? Didn't you see Smallville where Luthor Sr. fried Lex's brain?
posted by Grod at 9:49 AM on June 14, 2004

My father underwent ECT for similar reasons. He has become disabled because of it. He has permanently lost chunks of his memory. His attention span is now almost nil. He has difficulty even driving, because he just *forgets* what he's doing. It's not fun.

He may be an outlier, but he is definitely one case where the cure was worse than the problem.
posted by jammer at 10:18 AM on June 14, 2004

It's not. At least, not usually. Not only do I know someone who underwent the therapy, but my best friend is a psychiatrist and he explained the whole thing to me. The cure isn't worse than the problem, mostly because it's such an extreme treatment that should only be used in "worse case" situations. After all the new drugs, old drugs, and cominations thereof have failed, and the patient's depression is so debilitating that to not act would invite even bigger problems. It's extreme, but still less dangerous than not doing anything.
posted by herc at 10:24 AM on June 14, 2004 [1 favorite]

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