Is ECT an Effective Treatment for Depression?

Question by Mike: Is ECT an effective treatment for depression?
Are there any irreversible side effects?

Best answer:

Answer by Fridays
ECT MAY be effective in helping treat illnesses such as depression and schizophrenia, but it tends to be used as a very last resort, if all other interventions have failed.

ECT can cause both temporary and permanent irreversible side effects. Memory loss is the biggest potential permanent side effect, and many people have experiences large gaps in their memories that they have never regained. As with all treatments, one has to weigh up the potential risks versus the potential benefits.

Answer by M
I had about three years of ECT for major depression. I started with three treatments a week, then twice a week, then once a week, then every ten days, then every two weeks, then every three weeks. I stayed on maintenance treatments every three weeks for about three years. (Not every patient does the maintenance treatments.) It was as if the ECT would jolt (pardon the pun) me out of my depression for a few days, then it would return, and I found myself counting the days until my next treatment. The doctor said I couldn’t have it any more frequently than every three weeks because of the effects it would have on my memory. And it did affect my memory!
I used to have a very good memory, both long and short term. Now I struggle with both. Large chunks of my memory are just gone, and sometimes my husband will say, “Remember when we did this…?” and I won’t remember. I have trouble with phone numbers now, when I used to keep my phone book in my head. I also have trouble with names and faces. For instance, I might meet someone at church, and see him the following week and not be able to remember his name. (This never used to be a problem for me.) I have gone to this same church for twenty-three years.
I’m not sure if it’s the depression or the ECT, but I have felt a change in personality as well. I used to be a very outgoing, never knew-a stranger, could-do-anything type of person. But now I am very reserved, almost to the point of timid. If given an assignment at church, I worry to death about being able to fulfill it, whereas these things used to be second nature to me. Something else that was second nature to me was praying in front of a group. Now the very thought of this nearly gives me an anxiety attack. I am withdrawn and tend to sit by myself.
The ECT didn’t keep me from falling into a suicidal depression about 2 1/2 years ago. I was still on my meds throughout the ECT. I had a date, a plan, and a note written. Then my doctor happened to prescribe Abilify for me, and it was like someone reached into that dark hole of depression and pulled me out of it. Within a week I was feeling better. I was more energized and on-task–not in a manic sense, but I was able to focus better and attend to things that had been neglected for a long time–including cooking, cleaning, and laundry. The doctor increased my dosage, and I continued to improve. I hadn’t left my house in months, and I started making short trips out and re-connecting with the world again. After six weeks, I discontinued the ECT because I felt that much better. I haven’t had a treatment in 2 1/2 years.
Knowing what I do now, I wouldn’t have done the ECT. I would have pressed my doctor for more options in medicine first. I was the one who had asked for the ECT, because I had taken so many meds and none of them had worked. I was on Wellbutrin, Lamictal, Topamax, and I also take Ritalin for ADHD. We didn’t know that just adding Abilify to the mix would help so much. I’m still not 100%. I don’t know if I ever will be. But I’m functioning well and living a reasonably happy life–much happier than when I was on meds and doing the ECT.
Bottom Line? ECT is a safe treatment for depression, and effective for some patients. There is the potential for memory loss. You may wish to explore all medication options first.
ECT is also expensive. $ 8500-$ 9000 a session, not including the anesthesia, which runs about $ 500.

'Painless' treatment a lifesaver
The 56-year-old former senior nurse said though she does not have children, if she had a teenager with severe depression who needed the treatment, she would not think twice about giving her consent. She said ECT was straightforward and painless, and a …
Read more on The West Australian

Find More Ect Depression Treatment Information…