Answering Jim, professionally and personally – ECT

A few days ago, Jim, from blog, “I Don’t Want To Talk About It,” asked in his comment to my blog post,

What is your educated opinion about this?  A friend of mine is seriously considering this.

Jim was asking regarding ECT – electroconvulsive therapy.

021 Side Effect

021 Side Effect (Photo credit: Jester Jay Music)

Responding to a question that asks me to answer both personally and professionally is a little uncomfortable but this is my best effort.

…Alright, Provocateur Jim, I have been chewing my cheek on this, wanting to say something profound, considered “educated,” 🙂 yet not to turn anyone off with an up-tilted schnoz.

I do love ECT as a treatment option.

ECT is not for everyone of course, as nothing is, but consider it if you are looking for a treatment to work quickly and effectively .

Quickly is important.

  1. Can be life-saving, (“Timing is everything,” they say)
  2. Brain health short and long-term
  • less dementia,
  • less onset of other brain illnesses that come when one brain illness is not fully treated,
  • easier to respond to any future necessary treatments when we get more rapid and full treatment response to current illness episode,
  • ECT (as with medication therapy) that is done earlier in illness episode has a more robust response,
  • relapses are less severe, and we do not drop as rapidly when treatment is obtained more quickly for current illness episode

3. Quality of life,
4. Halt the damage to interpersonal relationships,
5. Diminish financial demise secondary to disability of brain illness,
6. Minimize side-effects,
7. Minimize medications.

Efficacy… do we really need to even say that the goal is to use a treatment that works?  ECT works more often and more thoroughly than any other treatment options.

Furthermore, we suffer less illness relapse when ECT is continued in maintenance.

Treatment response is much more robust when ECT is combined with medication.

Side Effects:

The side effects can only be measured on an individual basis, as qualified by the person going through them.

First off, there is no brain damage done by ECT, as seen in medical studies. This is a common fear.

Neither does ECT go through the body systems, it is not metabolized, and does not touch our body organs.  Yay, right!?  Medication side effects are a huge pill-dotted elephant in the room.  ECT does not touch the body (i.e. It is not a substance ingested or entered materially into the body,) all related potential side effects never happen.

The number one reason for relapse in brain illness is medication noncompliance.   This is due to many reasons, such as intolerable side-effects and the cascade of subsequent related issues.  Even dry mouth can lead to root canals.  We do not think of osteoporosis from serotonin agents.  Not taking our medication daily can be for more obvious reasons, like not climaxing during orgasm.

Zoloft Side effects in women

Zoloft Side effects in women (Photo credit: Life Mental Health)

Plus, it is just hard to remember.  Even the most consistent of us generally miss one to two days of medication a week or a month.  It is tough to be consistent.
ECT is less difficult to remember and maintenance ECT is much less frequent than taking pills every day.  Even when the ECT is combined with medication, if a day or two is missed, at least the ECT will be consistent as it has the support of the community of ECT staff and the transportation person to and from the surgery center.

In these regards, ECT has fewer barriers to treatment compliance that the majority of us suffer with medication therapies.  That is a big deal.

The side-effects of ECT are generally headache and temporary memory loss.

During index treatment, (about the first 3-4 weeks,) it is common to experience difficulty imprinting/recording memories. This typically takes about five weeks after the index treatment to return toward baseline. 80 years of data do not demonstrate that there is other memory loss but there are individual complaints of that.

Headaches are common for the the first couple treatments until the anesthesia becomes customized to the individuals experience. Generally after the first few treatments, the personalized anesthesia medications are able to resolve these from causing too much suffering. Not universally of course, but generally. Then once the maintenance treatments get going, memory loss and headaches are not common complaints.

…Big breath…

Did I do it?  Any questions about this diatribe?  🙂  Thank you for your patience.  I am trying…  Please let me know.  Keep on.

2 thoughts on “Answering Jim, professionally and personally – ECT

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