ECT Treatments for Medication Resistant Depression

I have Bipolar Disorder 1 with medication resistant depression. At one point, I was taking up to five different medications just to control my Bipolar Disorder. It was horrible. I’d take a medication for a few months, then have to have the dosage increased or even worse, have the entire medication changed as my body rejected it. In the mean time, the depressive episodes would make my life miserable. My most recent episode in March put me in the hospital for ten days. It was there that my doctors determined that I was a good candidate for ECT treatments.

ECT or Electroconvulsive Therapy has been around for a long time. It’s a process that generally is considered a “resetting” of the brain. For me, I liken it to resetting my iPhone or iPad to factory settings.

According to WebMD, “Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a procedure used to treat severe depression. It may be used in people with symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, or suicidal thoughts or when other treatments such as psychotherapy and antidepressant medicines have not worked. It is also used for other psychiatric and neurological conditions, such as schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease.”

Per Wikipedia, “It was first introduced in 1938 by Italian neuropsychiatrists Ugo Cerletti and Lucio Bini, and gained widespread use as a form of treatment in the 1940s and 1950s.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a procedure in which electric currents are passed through the brain, intentionally triggering a brief seizure. ECT seems to cause changes in brain chemistry that can quickly reverse symptoms of certain mental illnesses. It often works when other treatments are unsuccessful.”

ECT Treatments are usually reserved for those patients with an intolerance of anti-depressant medications, which have severe major depression or have another condition like catatonia.

Personally, I’ve seen a catatonic patient go from total catatonia to completely functioning after several treatments. It was truly a miracle to see the change in this person.

There are risks with the treatment; the biggest is possible memory loss. I haven’t experienced any memory loss during my treatments. I’ve had eight thus far. I do have a history of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and have experienced night terrors and severe anxiety and panic disorder from the ECT treatments. According to my doctors, there is nothing they can do about the night terrors and I’m told they should disappear once the ECT treatments are completed. However, I am being medically treated for the panic disorder and severe anxiety.

If you’ve never experienced ECT treatments before, it’s a lot like having surgery. You are given a gown to change into and wheeled into a surgical area. An IV is placed in your hand and you are connected to various machines to monitor respiration, heart rate, blood pressure, and other various bodily functions. When it’s time for your treatment, a nurse anesthesiologist administers a muscle relaxant and a short-acting anesthetic. You’re asked to breath deeply while the medications take affect. Once you are out, the treatment commences. You are given a controlled seizure, which is carefully monitored by the doctors at your bedside. Once the seizure is over, the medications are reversed and you begin to wake. After you awaken, you are carefully monitored and all vitals are tracked. Once you’ve recovered, you are returned to your room, you are once again monitored. Your IV is removed. You’re given juice and a snack if you desire. Once you’ve recovered sufficiently to go home, you are allowed to dress and leave. You’re wheeled out to your car in a wheel chair and asked to rest when you return home.

The one thing that has been consistent with my treatments is the horrendous headache that occurs afterward. During the IV, the nurses provide you with a Tylenol drip. This is to help alleviate the headache. It does nothing for me. I take Fioricet when I get home, which does a much better job at keeping most of the pain at bay.

I rest for the remainder of the day, sometimes napping, sometimes not. Depending on how prevalent the night terrors are afterward.

As a side note, I did go through twelve sessions of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) for my PTSD, and I’m sure if I hadn’t, these night terrors would be much worse.

My Panic and Anxiety was at a level fifteen before my psychiatrist started treatment, and I’m currently at a nine or ten. So, there has been some progress. At least I’m on the chart now.

I’ve been tracking my progress with my ECT treatments at my blog at You can read more about my personal experiences there.

You can read more:

What to Expect from an Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) Treatment

Electroshock Therapy

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