advertisement

The Miracle of Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

September 3, 2017 Susan Traugh

I refused electroconvulsive therapy for my daughter for two years. Now I wonder why I waited so long. Electroconvulsive therapy isn't scary as it once was.

For two years I refused to even consider electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for my severely depressed daughter. After all, I saw those 1950s movies—I saw those patients emerge zombie-like with no memory. But then my daughter’s life became so bleak we had no choice but to try electroconvulsive therapy, and I’ve kicked myself for letting her suffer so long.

Sometimes Electroconvulsive Therapy Is the Best Option

My daughter has been seriously depressed since she was eight. She is 25 now. Over the years, we have tried innumerable medications and combinations. Sometimes they would work for a little while. Sometimes they simply wouldn’t work at all. Too often, they just turned her into a zombie. Regularly, she was hospitalized for allergic or dystonic reactions.1

As class after class of medication proved harmful to my child, her depression became more and more overwhelming. She couldn’t stay in school, couldn’t work, ate too much, and neglected her hygiene.

Why Choose Electroconvulsive Therapy?

During this time, doctors suggested ECT. This is a therapy where an electrical current is run through the brain to create a seizure. I couldn’t believe they would so cavalierly throw out such a drastic treatment.

But then my daughter asked me if I would mind if she just ended it all as she could no longer bear the pain.

I went straight to the Internet, did a ton of research, and called for an appointment the next day.

About the Electroconvulsive Therapy Process

Our ECT team was fabulous. They walked us through each step, answered all our questions and had us watch a video of a person going through the electroshock process, including the actual administration of the shock.

They explained that my daughter would be put under short-acting anesthesia and administered muscle relaxants so only her brain (and not her body) would experience the convulsion.

It took the mystery away.

But, the first treatment was still terrifying. After signing papers and taking her vitals, we waited for our turn. They let me walk my daughter into the treatment room and help her onto the table. I held her foot while they put her under general anesthesia and administered muscle relaxants. Yet, I’ll admit, a sob escaped my throat as I walked out of the room.

My child was in the treatment room for five minutes then was transferred to recovery where she stayed for about a half-hour. I was called back after 10 minutes and was beside her when she began to awaken from the anesthesia.

ECT Treatments Take About an Hour Total

I’ll admit my daughter’s first experience was tough. (I’ll talk about that in the next blog post.) But, the staff got right on her discomfort and promised it would be better the next time. (It was.)

Thirty minutes after treatment, my daughter was taken to the car by wheelchair (although we watched many patients walk out on their own) and we drove home. She went to bed and slept a couple hours then got up.

Electroconvulsive Therapy Was a Miracle for My Daughter

The effects were instant and dramatic. My daughter walked downstairs from her bedroom with a bounce in her step and a giggle in her voice. She glowed.

“You look positively chipper!” I said, shocked.

“I am!” my daughter laughed. “I don’t remember ever feeling so good!”

A year later, she has graduated from ECT. She’s finished her college classes, gotten a job, lost weight, and begun to dress beautifully and socialize whenever she can. In short, my daughter has her life back thanks to ECT.

See Also

1Medication-Induced Dystonic Reactions. (2016, June 29). Retrieved September 04, 2017.

APA Reference
Traugh, S. (2017, September 3). The Miracle of Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/parentingchildwithmentalillness/2017/09/the-miracle-of-electroconvulsive-therapy-ect



Author: Susan Traugh

Find Susan on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and on her blog.

Debby Hyman
says:
September, 11 2017 at 5:35 am
My son tried ECT as a last resort!!! He did it over a period of several months!! Sadly he still took his own life 3 months later!!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 11 2017 at 1:59 pm
I'm so sorry for your loss, Debby. You will be in my thoughts.
Charlotte Boyden
says:
September, 12 2017 at 11:09 am
My mother did too in 1974. Have learned it is just too painful for some. Now my sister is receiving treatment. Also she is making an effort to change her enviroment to where she wants to be.
Matt
says:
September, 11 2017 at 3:13 am
I've spent the last three years studying ECT, and ehre are the facts:

1. There is absolutely no good scientiffic evidence that it works.
2. The little research that hs been done on it's damaging effects is totally ignored by psychiatry.
3. When I pointed out to the NIMH (National institute of mental health) the facts surrounding ECT, and the few scientiffic reports on it's damages they closed down their entire ECT conference as I had pointed out to them how they where lying to the public, and realized that they where not going to get away with it.
4. I've got recordings of several so called ECT specialists where they have widely different opinions on how it supposely works, but absolutely no clue how it works or not any knowledge of it's damaging effects, simply because they have denied the claims from their aptients, and never ever followed up on teh damages their patients have reported. One so called Specialist accnowledged that he knew nothing at all about what kind of damage ECT could give.
3. Countless patients have told me their stories, and countless more have posted their stories to the public, and absolutely all describe the same damaging symptoms. Symptoms that simply destroy a persons recognition of "Self", because who are we without our human emotions, personality and memories? ECT destroys all of this.
4. Since when did ever a mentally ill person ahve the ability to give informed concent ? Their illness is simply the factor that sets their ability to give infomred concent out. And psychiatrists are absolutely not capable of giving informed concent for their patients, as they are the ones giving the treatment.
5. Facts of damages: All electricution damage has a so called wild card effect. a random damage that can not be foretold. This can be anything from a minor nerve damage to death and everything in between. psychiatrists ignor this completely, and if they do damage a patient, they blow it off as an effect from the aptients diagnose.
6. Research on cognitive damage from ECT has shown that absoløutely all patients suffer cognitive damage, either it is as simpla as a delayed reaction time to loosing cognitive abilities, such as math skills, speach, ability to read, concentrate etc. psychiatrists completely ignore this.

I could go on for hours whipping up facts regarding ECT. The only thing positive I can say about it, is that you as patient might have a positive experience due to the placebo effect, or stockholm syndrome effect. Repeated ECT treatments makes your brain eventually give up, and you end up in a slap happy state similar to stockholm syndrom where captives end up symathiszing with their captures after repeatedly being tortured.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Matt
says:
September, 11 2017 at 3:16 am
Sorry about the bad speling. Got side tracked a few times while writing this.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 11 2017 at 2:57 pm
Matt, I have included here a question and answer segment by Dr. Sarah Lisanby with the National Institute of Mental Health discussing many of the topics you hit upon. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/news/science-news/2016/summary-of-facebook-q-amp-a-on-electroconvulsive-therapy.shtml Additionally, she cites four studies (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19782728
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17548979
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14992989
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8010381) that all conclude that ECT does not cause brain damage. And another four studies that show it actually reverses some of the detrimental effects of depression (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25842202
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17475797
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24967107). Like you, I could go on and on whipping up facts regarding ECT, but I don't think that's the point here.

You had a bad experience. It affected you greatly. And, I'm sorry for that. It is awful when we go looking for help, get our hopes up, and are devastated again with negative results. Of course we get angry.

But, your conclusion that my child's positive experience is a placebo effect or the Stockholm syndrome assumes that 1) I am too irresponsible to research the treatments that I am about to inflict upon my child; and 2) that your experiences are to be honored while my daughter's are to be dismissed as crazy. You are incorrect on both counts.

Both my daughters are severely mentally ill. My oldest tried a well-known, well-respected anti-depressant for her intractable depression. At first, it worked very well. But then my child had both an allergic and dystonic reaction to the drug. Her air-pipes closed down, she began to have seizures, she developed major facial spasms, slurred speech, and other alarming side effects. We ran to the ER with life-threatening symptoms. Clearly, this was a horrible drug for my oldest child and it nearly killed her. After the event, she was home for weeks recovering. And yet, I won't condemn this drug as "all evil" even though it was life-threatening to my child.

Why? Because it has proven to be a godsend for my other daughter. She took the same drug and it nearly completely stopped her depression, controlled her anger, and allowed her to live her life. It did everything it said it would and more.

My point is that we are all different people, with different chemical make-ups and different life experiences. I have no doubt that your experience was traumatic. Clearly, you have felt a need to do years of research because of your bad experience. No one invests that kind of time without a reason. That said, my experience was also life-altering in the best way and it deserves to be affirmed just as much as your negative experience does. To dismiss my daughter's "miracle" as "sympathizing with their captures after repeatedly being tortured" is demeaning and disrespectful. I am not an irresponsible parent, nor am I a fool.

I understand that those of you who had negative experiences with ECT are vocal and passionate. I honor your right to voice your opposition and sound the alarm if that's what you feel you must do. I simply ask that you understand that my experiences are as valid as yours. My daughter's ability to get up in the morning, have friends and work is not some illusion conjured up by an uninformed, ignorant parent.

I will continue to honor your voice and experience. I simply ask that you do the same for me.
Luc
says:
September, 11 2017 at 2:50 am
Once again, this is a false positive!

Once again, if the person feels better, it is thank to the extra-attention that she got for convincing her to risk ECT. That extra-attention goes in line with Open Dialogue Principles.

Why does the person get extra-attention for risking ECT?

Because each series of 10 to 12 ECTs brings some 30,000 Euros to the hospital and psychiatrist...

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 11 2017 at 4:33 pm
Thank you commenting, Luc. Please see my response to Matt on this same subject. You are mistaken in believing my daughter got extra-attention from ECT. In fact, as her life improved, she got less. We'd spent years monitoring her every move to keep her from committing suicide. I slept with her at night, sat with her while she ate, etc. Within days of beginning her treatments, she was able to be more independent and we were able to allow her to be so. Your analysis simply is not supported by our experience. As I said to Matt, you are absolutely allowed to dislike ECT, but attempting to negate my good experience lacks respect for my daughter's life experiences and her facts. I honorably request that we agree to disagree.
Truth
says:
September, 8 2017 at 4:06 am
Why have three of my comments been removed? They were not rude or offensive and they contained information potential consumers should have.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natasha Tracy
says:
September, 8 2017 at 4:49 am
Hi Truth,

I'm not quite sure what happened to some of your comments, however, they have been restored. Please accept my apologies.

- Natasha Tracy
- Blog Manager

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Truth
says:
September, 8 2017 at 8:28 am
Thanks Natasha.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 8 2017 at 2:46 pm
I apologize, Truth. I did not mean to delete any new comments. I was getting duplicates of several comments that you and other writers were posting and attempted to delete those duplicates. I would not purposely silence your voice.
September, 5 2017 at 3:33 pm
Thank you, Nancy. It really was a miracle in our lives and has provided my daughter with a quality of life she hasn't experienced in years.
Truth
says:
September, 4 2017 at 7:57 pm
In 2005, a jury awarded Peggy Salters $635,00 for the brain damage she incurred from bein given ECT that wiped away 30 years of memories and her skill sets as a nurse practitioner. Neurologists like John Friedberg have testified to the fact ECT causes brain damage and the earliest promotors of ECT were not shy in stating that ECTs effect was achieved through brain damage. MRI studies in 2012 showed structural changes in the functional architecture of the brain and reduced connectivity between the frontal lobes and other parts of the brain. Early autopsy studies showed cell death and even Max Fink, granddaddy promotor of ECT stated its effect on the brain was consistent with "craniocerebral trauma". Peter Breggin is a Harvard trained psychiatrist with 45 years experience who has written over 20 books and dozens of articles, several of which clearly state that ECT causes brain damage.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Nancy
says:
September, 5 2017 at 3:35 pm
Truth, please see my response to Andrew. Your interpretation of the 2012 study is incorrect. I would be glad to clarify it with you.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Truth
says:
September, 5 2017 at 4:04 pm
It would be great to have clarification and to touch on the points I made, which are not addressed in your response to Andrew.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Truth
says:
September, 7 2017 at 2:23 pm
Still waiting for that clarification. See nothing contradicting my jury's findings, or the findings of The eminent neurologist and psychiatrist...
Andrew I.
says:
September, 4 2017 at 6:28 pm
Ok Susan but something is missing here. She had over 60? She should be a vegetable by now. People have had 5, 10, 20 and 50 ects and have lost decades of memories, have been emotionally and mentally disabled for life and your daughter was saved by having 60. In order to help people and prevent any one else from being permanently damaged I would ask you if you would be willing to share our bad experiences in your blog. There are like one or two people for every hundred that inexplicably were saved by ect. And these cases are always people who had an immense number of sessions... So I'm wondering if by this logic I should go and have 55 more ects to be saved. I'm glad that your daughter is feeling better but you must understand she could have ended up as a disabled vegetable.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 4 2017 at 7:12 pm
Okay Andrew, her "being a vegetable" relies on the misconception that ECT causes brain damage. But, the literature is pretty clear that it doesn't. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/struck-living/201504/the-shocking-truth-about-ect And your 2/100 people is also an incorrect statistic. As shown in an earlier resource I sent to you over 53% of ECT patients found remission with the process--and that's folks who had drug-resistent depression and had found no relief with any other treatment. Again, I'm sorry your experience was negative. Clearly, it has caused you much distress. My daughter had horrific experiences with most medication out there--they nearly killed her. But, I will not write about the evils of this drug or that because of it. Those same drugs saved my other daughter's life and helped control her severe bipolar disorder. That's the tricky part about mental illness--everyone's needs are individual. Furthermore, my daughter's experiences do not constitute a prescription for you. You need whatever treatments you and your doctor decide are appropriate. Whether my child had 1 or 60 treatments is irrelevant to your situation. Finally, my blog post's purpose was to provide the success story of one individual through ECT, a safe and proven treatment with a bad rap, and provide hope to people who might be considering it and are afraid. You are perfectly entitled to disagree with me and anyone reading this blog will see your statements and my answers. I do hope I have honored your voice, but I stand by my story just as I stand by my decision. Thank you for writing.
Andrew I.
says:
September, 5 2017 at 4:52 am
From personal experience and the experience of many people I have met I can tell you that the brain damaging effects of ect are no misconception. Imagine someone you care about telling you that they feel bad for whatever reason (ect for instance) and you won't believe them cause some logic it article of some sort. It is really terrifying to think about that 53% statistic... That basically means that you flip a coin to define the outcome of your brain's health. It's an irresponsible gamble that parents and doctors perform all the time and for those of us who got permanent damage there's only a "you feel like that because of your illness, not because of ect". I am really glad that your daughter got to be in the half of "miracle ect". Hard to believe that a heavily regulated "treatment" only gives you half a chance of getting "cured" and half a chance of being permanently damaged. Again, not a misconception and pretty sure that the stats are way far from 53%. Imagine buying a plane ticket and the airline telling you the plane has a 53% chance of crashing.
Andrew I.
says:
September, 4 2017 at 6:01 pm
Certainly it is not heavily regulated. Our experience is more valid than any article or law. Just want to understand your daughters supposed miracle experience with ect.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 4 2017 at 6:15 pm
In our case, an over-abundance of caution was exhibited. My daughter was required to have regular physicals; every month she had to see a separate psychiatrist to affirm that she understood the procedure and possible side effects and that she was not being coerced into treatment. We met with the team prior to every treatment to discuss any side effects, reservations or changes in program. While each state has its own regulatory system, here in California, regulation is strict and throughout the country ECT is one of the most heavily regulated treatments available. That said, I understand that it wasn't a good experience for you and I do not mean to diminish your experience at all.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Nancy
says:
September, 5 2017 at 3:24 pm
Andrew, as an ECT professional who has treated thousands of patients over more than 20 years, I have first-hand knowledge that your statistics are wrong. While your experience is valid, there are likely factors outside of the standard of care for ECT that have contributed to your experience. Please don't put out bad information that may prevent people from getting this truly life saving treatment.
Andrew I.
says:
September, 4 2017 at 5:58 pm
Susan, how many ect did your daughter have? And within how much time. Was it bilateral or unilateral?
I'm sure you should have no problem sharing this with us as you also must understand that that reading that something that had caused so much pain and brain damage now suddenly results being a miracle for someone else. It makes sense though... If the brain is suffering you simply destroy it so it stops suffering. Thanks in advance for your honesty.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 4 2017 at 6:09 pm
Hi Andrew, My daughter had ECT 3X a week for two months, 1X week for another two months, then every other week, once a week and eventually monthly. She had over sixty treatments over a year period. By the time she was at every other week, she was able to start working and finished up her college classes for her job. She had minimal memory loss--only for the events just prior and after the treatment. Overall, her memory improved as she was no longer under the cloud of her severe depression. Her health has also vastly improved as she's lost over 60 pounds and begun to eat healthy and exercise. Again, I'm so sorry that this was a difficult treatment for you--but it quite literally saved my child's life.
Truth
says:
September, 4 2017 at 6:49 pm
So I am assuming that the type administered was ultra brief pulse right unilateral?
I can assure you that the protocols in place at your daughters facility are pretty much non-existent in 90% of other facilities.
Consent forms rarely state that the risks include damage, permanent memory loss (decades for some), loss of IQ points (30 is common), changes in personality, a worsening of ones mental health...Dusan Kohlar's latest study shows over 30% of victims suffer permanent memory and cognitive damage and are unable to return to their careers. This is the kind of information consumers need. He added testing and consent are uniformly inadequate in most ECT facilities.
Andrew I.
says:
September, 4 2017 at 11:51 am
I had ect many years ago and it completely destroyed my brain and my life. Please visit ectresources.org for realistic and scientific information about this so-called 'treatment' cause if you're considering having ect then you should be informed of the immense damage that it had caused to people around the globe. What this article is showing does not have enough scientific proof behind it and it's not sending the right message. Please be careful and protect yourself and your loved ones.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 4 2017 at 5:11 pm
Andrew, I'm so sorry to hear that you had such a bad experience with ECT however, I must respectfully disagree with you. First, please understand that this article was not intended to be "scientific proof" of ECT; it was meant to be one person's personal experience with a treatment that brought relief when nothing else would. But, to address your concerns, please check out the research study on the National Institutes of Health which found, "The ECT is still highly effective in severely treatment-resistant patients with major depressive disorder, with more than half of such patients achieving remission.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18580559. The wonder of this day and age is that there are so many choices in treatment versus a few short decades ago when people simply suffered. I did my research before I ever allowed my daughter to receive this therapy and stand by that decision. For her, it was a miracle.
Truth
says:
September, 4 2017 at 11:32 am
You do not say how many ECT your daughter had, the type, the spacing. She may have survived ECT's major effects (permanent short and long term memory loss, cognitive dysfunction, trauma) but most victims don't. ECT destroyed my mind. It made me suicidal.
There is nothing regulating how ECT is administered. It "works" by causing brain damage.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 4 2017 at 4:54 pm
I'm so sorry that ECT didn't work for you, Truth. It is so frustrating when therapies fail us, whether it is medication, talk-therapy or ECT. However, you are incorrect in saying that ECT is not regulated. According to The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatric Law, ECT "while highly effective in the treatment of many psychiatric disorders, is heavily regulated by state administrative codes and legislation" (http://jaapl.org/content/34/3/406). And, while ECT works by "causing" brain damage, my daughter's bipolar swings and manic episodes also caused brain damage, and her deep depression with suicidal ideation were much greater threats to her well-being. I hope you find some therapy that works for you and provides you with the relief you need, but for myself and my daughter, I stand by the "miracle" that ECT brought us.
Truth
says:
September, 4 2017 at 8:12 pm
Thank-you for your detailed, thoughtful, and respectful responses to our comments. I appreciate your willingness to engage in discussion on this topic.
I do want to point out that there is zero evidence that bipolar episodes, mood swings, or mania, or depression cause brain damage. They may cause difficulties with decision making, concentration, or other intellectual functions, but they do not damage the brain.
And there are some rules regarding ECT, but ECT is like a box of chocolates; the patient doesn't really know what he's going to get. Some doctors push high dose BILATERALS, cranking up the power when they don't seem to be getting a response. Too many things can go wrong when someone is electrocuting the most delicate and complex organ in the brain. The thousands of ECT survivors thought they were making a reasonable decision, but many, drugged, sick, desperate, had no advocates and were not truly informed of the risks. Bentall and Read did a massive literature review in 2010 that covered all previous studies. They concluded the use of ECT could not be scientifically justified due to its risk of permanent cognitive impairment and memory loss.
Contrary to what pro ECT proponents statements to the contrary, ECT has never been proven safe or effective.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 5 2017 at 4:00 pm
Thank you also, Truth, for your carefully considered and respectful interactions; I know that this is a topic that stirs your passion. Here is an article touching on the brain damage induced by bipolar https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/struck-living/201504/the-shocking-truth-about-ect. Nancy has also joined the group and would be a good source of resources on this topic. But, here's the bottom line: I know I will NEVER convince you that ECT is safe or effective, but you will never convince me that it isn't. And we can spend the rest of our lives playing my facts against yours--but, it's a useless waste of our time. There isn't a medical treatment on the planet that is without risks--aspirin can cause stomach bleeds. That's just the nature of the beast. But, I am unwilling to outlaw aspirin for everyone just because it harmed (or, in aspirin's case, has even killed) some people. My daughter got her life back. That is the most powerful statement I can make. When I'd given up hope, believed she would never have a job or friends, believed that she'd never move away from home, in fact, was preparing myself for the day she would end it all, I'd given up hope and believed there was no help out there. Then, in one visit, EVERYTHING changed. She finished college. She has a career. She has friends. She's seeing a boy. Do you have any idea how that feels to a parent? It was an absolute miracle in our life and nothing anyone says will diminish the wonder of what ECT did for my child.
Nancy
says:
September, 5 2017 at 3:28 pm
Susan, I am so glad to see you sharing your story with the hope that it may help others. I get to witness your miracle on a weekly basis. I respect your and all of my patient's courage to undergo this underutilized and falsely maligned treatment option.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Nancy
says:
September, 5 2017 at 3:25 pm
Andrew, as an ECT professional who has treated thousands of patients over more than 20 years, I have first-hand knowledge that your statistics are wrong. While your experience is valid, there are likely factors outside of the standard of care for ECT that have contributed to your experience. Please don't put out bad information that may prevent people from getting this truly life saving treatment.
Pete
says:
September, 4 2017 at 11:12 am
ECT is brain damage!!!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Truth
says:
September, 9 2017 at 3:49 pm
Yes, it is. See the latest podcast/article in MAd in America which clearly points out that ECT has no science or evidence to inform its use.

Leave a reply

advertisement