Posted by prideinmadness
I’ve been wanting to write a blog on electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) since the beginning but I never got around to it (it wasn’t fitting with my flow). I had thought that my research on the topic would show a lot of support on banning the practice but I was surprised to come across a lot of support for it as well.
I’ve been searching all morning (ok, about an hour) for a particular blog that spoke to the individual’s experience with ECT. I had emailed it to myself months ago then stupidly deleted it! The blog made me very upset because they didn’t just speak to their own experience they criticized others with mental health issues who do not support the treatment and those who shared more anti-psychiatry views. I found this extremely rude and I left a long comment. I wish I could find the blog….
I have never experience ECT. If you have please comment with your experiences! I am very interested!
What is ECT?
ECT is a treatment that was first introduced in 1938 as a way to treat schizophrenia. By sending electricity to the brain doctors could induce seizures in an attempt to “jump start the brain” according to some ECT doctors. ECT was found to be ineffective in individuals with schizophrenia but found to be effective in those with major depression and bipolar disorder. Like much of psychiatric medicines no one knows why ECT works. Treatment is usually done 2-3 times a week tapering down to once a month. This not a stand alone treatment (like none should be) and should be used with other treatment options such as therapy.
To simply put it some see ECT as a horrible, barbaric treatment that does nothing but damage the brain and others see it as their live safer. Doctors also cannot agree when is the appropriate time to pursue ECT in the course of someones treatment but the APA and majority consensus is that ECT should only be used on those with persistent depression or bipolar disorder that has been unresponsive to medication. They also cannot agree on the long term efficacy of the treatment with some reporting relapse rates similar to those of antidepressants. Some patients report having been forced into the treatment which is a great ethical issue for the psychiatric industry.
Side Effects of ECT
Depending on who you ask the duration and validity of side effects changes (wow, much like other psychiatric medicines). All of the following are reported as temporary or rarely occur:
- Memory loss (the one most talked about)
- Change in blood pressure
- Heart complications
- Dental and oral trauma
- Physical trauam (ie: fractures)
- Skin burns
- Death (1 in 10,000 but could possibly be related to anesthesia used)
ECT is more likely to be used on women (since they are diagnosed with depression more often) and these individuals are more likely to be older. ECT is rarely used on ethnic minorities. It is believe that access to treatment may be the cause of a predominantly white ECT clientele.
What is my personal opinion on ECT? I remember when I was severely depressed and I saw a show on ECT I considered asking a doctor about it. What held me back was I had not yet tried psychiatric medication and the show had said that ECT was the last treatment to try. After I tried psych meds it never occurred to me to ask for ECT but I was also on my way to getting better (once ending the meds). Seizures are not supposed to be good for you. I know people who have had seizures and have seen a few myself and I can’t imagine making my brain go through that on purpose for any length of time.
When I attended PsychOUT last June I attended a lecture on ECT. The woman who was presenting shared her own personal story of how ECT negatively effected her life. She did report some brain damage. She told us that many ECT patients are older women who are forced by their doctors to undergo the treatment. Every Mother’s Day in Canada she and others protest ECT and ask for the forced treatment to be acknowledge and stopped and also that ECT be removed as a treatment option.
I do think we should be cautious about all types of treatment. We are putting in and doing things to our body and there is always the risk for harm.
I would never pass judgement on someone who has experience ECT. You do what works for you. Don’t go into it blindly and listen to your body. Always know the risks and know that you have the right to refuse treatment. Make sure someone is there that can advocate for you since sometimes doctors don’t care what we think.
Always be safe!