Electroconvulsive Therapy Experiences

online conference transcript

Sasha, our first guest, suffered from treatment resistant depression and had a positive ECT experience.

Julaine, depression, ectJulaine, our second guest, has a different story to tell. Although her depression has greatly improved, her ECT experience really shocked her.

David Roberts is the HealthyPlace.com moderator.

The people in blue are audience members.

David: Good Evening. I'm David Roberts, the moderator for tonight's conference. I want to welcome everyone to HealthyPlace.com. Our topic tonight is "ECT, Electroconvulsive Therapy Experiences." We have two guests who have undergone ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy), with differing experiences and results.

Sasha suffered from treatment resistant depression and had a positive ECT experience and will be coming on first. Our second guest, Julaine, who will be joining us in about forty minutes, coped with excruciating anxiety and depression, underwent ECT, and had a different ECT outcome.

If you're not familiar with ECT, also known as shock therapy or electroshock therapy, or want more information on it, find here the latest information on Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) for Depression. Both ladies have extraordinary stories to share. They are truly inspiring.

Good evening, Sasha and welcome to HealthyPlace.com. We appreciate you being our guest tonight. Please tell us a little about yourself and your experience with having depression (see: What is Depression?).

Sasha: Hi! I'm so happy to be able to share my experience. Last year, I got married and it was the happiest time of my life.

Suddenly, I began experiencing severe depression and anxiety. I began a new job and we also bought a house. I was very stressed out at work. I'm a teacher and I was crying all the time. I went to the doctor and he told me that I was depressed. He prescribed Paxil for me and everything just got worse. I ended up so severely depressed that I had to leave my job and check into a hospital.

Nothing worked, and I started talking about killing myself almost all the time. I could not function. I thought that my life was over, and I thought about all the different ways that I could die. I was in the hospital for over a month, until finally, a doctor suggested ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy). This was our last hope, since we tried all the medicines and nothing worked.

After my first ECT treatment, I could already feel the difference. It was a miracle. I never thought that I would feel good again. I had six treatments and now I am back to work and leading a normal life. I feel so good and I am so thankful for the ECT. It saved my life.

David: So everyone knows, Sasha is thirty years old. She underwent Electroconvulsive Therapy, shock therapy, about six months ago.

Sasha, when the doctor discussed ECT with you, what did he tell you about it? How did he describe it?

Sasha: He told me that it was a safe procedure and that in Europe it is often the first line of treatment. He said that he has seen many success stories with it and that I should not worry.

David: Were you worried at all? (See: ECT Therapy for Depression: Is ECT Safe?)

Sasha: No, because at that point I wanted to die anyway, so it didn't matter what I did.

David: Please describe for us what it was like getting ECT?

Sasha: It's just like going in for surgery. You get anesthesia and you go to sleep. You wake up and it's done. I didn't feel a thing. I remember that they put something on my head but that is all.

David: So when you woke up, what were you feeling?

Sasha: Sleepy and a little sore on my head.

David: Sasha, you mentioned that you underwent six ECT treatments. Did you steadily feel improvement in your mental condition as each treatment went by?

Sasha:It's routine to do at least six treatments. It is actually a small amount compared to others. After the first treatment, I felt better right away, and I felt perfect after the third.

David: We have some audience questions, so let's get to those and then we'll continue:

jonzbonz: Sasha, did you experience memory loss and confusion?

Sasha: Only during the time of the treatments. I think it was mainly due to the anesthesia.

Steve11: Did you get bilateral or unilateral ECT?

Sasha: Unilateral.

tntc: Are you receiving any maintenance treatments?

Sasha: Yes, I'm on Remeron until January.




David: Are you worried that your depression will return?

Sasha: Yes, but I try not to think about it. I just feel so happy now that I can't imagine that I will ever feel that way again. I just live my life and pray that it will not return.

David: The six ECT treatments you received, over what period of time was that?

Sasha: That would be two weeks.

Tammy_72: Did you experience any aphasia, or seizures afterward?

Sasha: No.

David: You mentioned that you are back at work, what are you doing now?

Sasha: I am a teacher. I went back to the same school!

David: Congratulations! Here are some audience comments:

anniegirl: I had it too, but it just made me lose a lot of memory. It didn't help me.

npcarroll:Hi, this isn't a question, rather a comment. I also suffer from treatment resistant depression. Over the last four years, I have tried almost every medication known to man. When the drug trial became unbearable, I received ECT, thirty in all. They worked the best and I'd like to try maintenance ECT but don't know much about it.

David: Earlier, you said that you had tried many medications, antidepressants that weren't helpful. Did your doctor mention why they didn't help?

Sasha: No, she just said that some people just couldn't be helped with medications.

David: How did your family react to the suggestion that you needed ECT?

Sasha: They were so devastated that I was constantly talking about suicide that they wanted to try anything. My husband was very supportive.

David: I'm glad to hear that it worked for you, Sasha. We appreciate you being our guest tonight. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Sasha: I just want to say that if you are are suffering from depression, and you've tried everything else, please give ECT a chance. It could save your life.

David: Thanks again, Sasha. I hope you have a good evening. Here are a few more audience comments and then Julaine will be joining us.

tntc: I've also just last week finished a six treatment course of bilateral ECT with great success. However, my doctor is going to give me one ECT every other week as maintenance and has taken me off of medications completely, which weren't working that great anyway.

npcarroll: I must, in all fairness, state that I have severe problems with concentration, memory, etc. Although I can't say if it is from the depression, the medication, or the ECT.

David: Good evening, Julaine and welcome to HealthyPlace.com. Thank you for joining us tonight.

Julaine: Thank you.

David: Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and your experience with depression before we get into your ECT experience?

Julaine: I have had major depression with severe anxiety for twenty years, but with no trauma in my background. Just very severe treatment resistant depression.

David: What was it like for you living with that?

Julaine: I could not eat, would pace twenty-four hours a day, and was suicidal.

David: Had you tried various therapies before the Electroconvulsive Therapy and what were the outcomes?

Julaine: Yes, I was first diagnosed in the 1980's. There were very few new antidepressants at the time. I was on Elavil and Doxepin, etc. Nothing seemed to help.

David: Julaine is very involved in the mental health community in Florida, where she now lives. Julaine, how old are you?

Julaine: I hate to say, but I am in my second childhood now :) Forty-six.

David: Still young, I see :)

Julaine: Very much so now :)

David: I have heard many different stories about how the doctors explain ECT to the patient. What did your doctor tell you about it?

Julaine: I was very sick at the time, so I cannot tell you all the exact details. However, I remember that they told me enough and I observed other people in the hospital with me getting better, so I consented quickly.




David: At that point in your illness with depression and anxiety, did it even matter what the doctor was saying to you? Were you at the point that you didn't care?

Julaine: I was dying, so to speak, but I could still understand facts. The fact was, this was my only chance to live.

David: How many ECT treatments did you receive and over what period of time?

Julaine: At that time period, about twenty, over two trials, separated by about four months.

David: What were the side effects of ECT that you experienced? And please be very detailed.

Julaine: During that set of ECTs, I did not experience any sign of memory loss. I did have mild headaches afterwards and drowsiness.

David: I think you also mentioned to us that you had delusions. Is that true?

Julaine: Yes, delusions and memory loss were experienced in later trials of ECT treatments. About twelve years later in Florida.

David: So just to clarify, you had a first set of ECT treatments consisting of twenty treatments, in two trials over four months. Then twelve years later you had another set of treatments. How many and over what period of time?

Julaine: That is a fairly good estimate of numbers and time. The last twenty, or so, were done in 1992 and 1995.

David: Why is it that you needed the second series of treatments? And were you afraid that after receiving shock treatments before that, another round of treatments might result in some permanent damage?

Julaine: I had developed hypothyroidism about the time of 1992 and my medication ceased to work. I was tried on all the newer antidepressants at that time, but they did not work.

David: I'm getting some questions about what ECT, Electroconvulsive Therapy is used for. Sometimes called shock therapy or electroshock therapy, it's used to treat treatment resistant depression, i.e., depression that hasn't responded to other lines of treatment, like therapy and antidepressants. It can also be used to treat mania and so you may hear that some people with bipolar disorder have received ECT.

Were you concerned about any permanent brain damage if you underwent another series of ECT?

Julaine: No, because I had no ill effects from the previous times in the 1980's.

David: How serious was the memory loss that you experienced?

Julaine: I combined reality with unreality. Similar to a psychotic patient. I could not remember recent events as well.

David: You also mentioned delusions. Can you describe those for us?

Julaine: I saw a lamp post outside the window and I thought it was a human being.

David: And how long did that last?

Julaine: The delusions were very short in time, perhaps, a week or so. The unreality/reality lasted a few weeks more, and the memory loss of recent time took longer.

David: Do you still suffer from depression and anxiety?

Julaine: I am recovered and am a grad student in Licensed Counseling today, but I am not cured :) I am looking forward to that day when we find a cure :).

David: I read your story, and interestingly, you don't attribute your improvement of the severe depression to ECT.

Julaine: ECTs, rarely, are responsible for someone's recovery, but they buy time.

David: Here's an audience question, Julaine:

tntc: Did you have bilateral ECT or unilateral ECT?

Julaine: I experienced both. The unilateral ECT was not as effective with me since I was so severe.

backfire1: Was the Thyroid disease responsible for some of your previous symptoms and was it treated first?

Julaine: It could have. Undiagnosed thyroid disease can cause depression or prevent your medications from working properly.

aurora23: Lately, I have been having delusions and losing track of time. It is bothering me, what is going on? Sometimes I can't tell the difference from what's fake and reality, can you give me some advice?

Julaine: Delusions are very complex. They can originate from schizophrenia type illnesses, or take that form because of possible trauma.




David: Here are some Electroconvulsive Therapy experiences, shared by our audience members:

RAH: I had six ECTs in April of 1, two bilateral. My relief from depression was less than one week. The memory loss is still very much a problem. I have lost two months totally and pieces of my life are gone. I still suffer from severe depression and, of course, I am badgered to get a recharge which I refuse. I can get off meds, I can't repair brain damage.

Tammy_72: I had five ECT treatments and they left me physically very ill, and made me much more depressed than I was before. I experienced aphasia and seizures after my treatments ended.

suzieq46: I had ECT and would advise against it, except as a last resort. Such memory is lost, that a doctor or lawyer could no longer practice.

npcarroll: I consider my experiences with ECT successful, even though I am still suffering from depression. I seem to be resistant to medications. I would like to try ECT maintenance and see what happens without drugs.

jonzbonz: I had ECT. Four treatments that were disastrous for me I lost memory for quite some time, I was confused for a long while, and my depression returned within a month.

jamtess: I had ECT treatments over a three week period and it didn't help the depression. Plus I had to deal with the bad headaches, confusion, memory loss and I returned home more of a mess than when I entered the hospital.

ladyshiloh: I had thirty plus ECT treatments many years ago and now suffer from frontal lobe epilepsy that has been directly related to the ECT I had.

suzieq46:Ladyshiloh, I believe that I did not have anything that disastrous happen, but I lost at least a third of my memory from life. We know so little about the brain, and to shock it, I believe, is a dangerous risk. Yet the doctors who perform it are really gung ho and make you feel guilty if you don't have it done.

(Read also HealthyPlace section of ECT Stories: Personal Stories of ECT)

David: Julaine, would you recommend shock therapy to others who might be suffering from treatment resistant depression, based on your experience with it?

Julaine: Yes, I would recommend considering ECT, however;

  1. First the patient and family must be told the full facts.
  2. It would be very helpful to ask exactly who might benefit from ECTs, or who might not, as effectively.
  3. Those who suffer from disorders such as trauma or PTSD should especially ask specific questions.

David: Here are some more ECT experiences from the audience and some comments:

jonzbonz: Two years after I had unilateral ECT, I had a sub-arachnoid hemorrhage of my brain on that side. I suspect strongly that the ECT is responsible for the stroke I had.

npcarroll: I still suffer from quite a few side effects also. I have discovered over the years on how to work around them. Anything to allow me to feel, at least partially function, and last but not least, stop me from slipping back into that deep dark hole I was in, works for me.

RAH: I feel that I was ill informed about Electroconvulsive Therapy. Texas is the only state with a full consent form. The days prior to ECT are lost, so I have no idea what was presented to me and no one is talking. Informed consent is my crusade. If it works, I can't totally condemn it.

katey1: I too, have been on every medication out there, and nothing is working. For the past two years, I have gone through two trials of nine treatments. In the past eight months, I have had serious memory loss, and am still suicidal. In fact, I attempted again two weeks after the last treatment. I am still suicidal and nothing is helping. I am still on about five different medications, and I think about suicide daily. I am diagnosed with major depression and PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I really have given up all hope. I can't get rid of the pain.

suzieq46: Julaine, how much memory loss did you have?

Julaine: During the treatments with bilateral ECT, I had very severe mixed reality with unreality and could not remember much. However, the biggest portion was loss of recent memories and some of them have never returned, but although it took a few months, the important ones have.

David: How are you functioning now, Julaine?

Julaine: Wow, very well. I am a graduate student in counseling and a very enthusiastic mental health advocate. It helped bring about needed reforms in Florida's MH :).

David: One last question Julaine, are you concerned about your future mental health and the return of depression?

Julaine: To deny I am worried about the return of depression would be false, but on the other hand, I must press forward with hope and optimism :)

David: Thank you, Julaine, for being our guest tonight and for sharing your ECT experiences with us. And to those in the audience, thank you for coming and participating. I hope you found it helpful. We have very large Depression and Bipolar communities here at HealthyPlace.com. You will always find people interacting with various sites. Also, if you found our site beneficial, I hope you'll pass our URL around to others http://www.healthyplace.com.

Thank you again, Julaine.

Julaine: Thanks very much and to all: NEVER GIVE UP you are not your diagnosis :)


Disclaimer: We are not recommending or endorsing any of the suggestions of our guest. In fact, we strongly encourage you to talk over any therapies, remedies or suggestions with your doctor BEFORE you implement them or make any changes in your treatment.



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Last Updated: 31 March 2017

Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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