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ECT Question: How long between "rx" and treatment??

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Hello! I have a question for those folks who have undergone ECT, and thank you in advance for your replies!

The question: 

Once one's psychiatrist has decided to "prescribe" this treatment, how long is the wait to actually begin treatment? I know it probably differs depending on where one lives,access to providers, etc, but am hoping to glean some general information. I'm at my wit's end with treatment resistant Bipolar Depression, and am considering ECT, with the hope I will not have to wait weeks or months to start it if that's what my psychiatrist decides is best.

Than you for your time and knowledge!


Edited by ZeldaWoolf
grammatical error

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I'm in a similar situation.  Recurrent MDD with psychotic symptoms, general and social anxiety.

I've had this discussion with my psychiatrist and she agrees that I'm not responding to meds particularly well, this is compounded by the fact that I am solely self reliant and must be able to work to support myself.  In our appointment last week, she prescribed a more aggressive (her words) cocktail of meds but we're on the same page:  if there's not an improvement, ECT is the next course of action.

As it was explained to me, referral is the first step followed by a consultation.  It all moves pretty fast after that and I'd need to be able to take 6-8 weeks to proceed.  My work schedule is probably more of a hindrance to proceeding than the actual wait time on their end.

I realize this isn't particularly helpful, I hope someone that has undergone treatment can chime in to discuss time tables.

Best of luck,


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Thanks for the reply sulkingdog. Is FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) something you could look into for getting the time off work for treatment? 

Best of luck to you!

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You need support to drive you to the treatments and drive you back plus stay with you on treatment days to help you out. If you are single or don't have family support I don't know how you would pull it off.

It's a treatment not a cure so you may need maintenance treatments down the road - Don't forget the memory loss also.

Not to burst your bubble but there is no guarantee that it will work in the first place.

Just wanted you to have all the facts, I even considered it a while back but decided not to. I believe it has helped some people but read all the post in this section before you decide to proceed.

Good Luck

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i'm sure it's probably different depending where you live, and what kind of resources are available, etc.  here (in eastern Canada) i've never had to wait in line or anything.  the waiting time required has always been in order to come off meds that cannot be taken while having ECT.  the medication changes are another facet of ECT that is important to consider - you may need time to wean off meds you are accustomed to and maybe start new ones that are "safe".

this is my second time going through the process (i just finished ten bilateral treatments and am now on monthly maintenance) so i'll just share what i know and hope some of it's helpful.  first, will you have to be inpatient or outpatient while having treatments?  if you can stand it (and if it is affordable) being inpatient is easier.  to be outpatient, you need to have someone who can take you back and forth to have the procedure done, as well as perhaps look after you for a little while afterwards (everyone reacts differently to anesthesia, etc., and everyone's recovery time is different).  how many treatments per week will be scheduled (your pdoc will decide)?  depending on whether you're having unilateral or bilateral treatments done, you might be getting treatment three times per week, or as little as once every few weeks.  so you personally may need to take quite a bit of time off, as may your "caretaker" during this time.  before you start, you will agree on how many treatments your pdoc believes may be necessary (with my pdoc we can stop and review this number at any time); so as well, the number of weeks you will need to complete the treatments will be variable.  these are the practical details that have to be worked out beforehand.

at first there's no way i could have been functional on the same day after treatment.  now that i'm used to it, after a long nap it's like any other day.  even less unpleasant than the dentist (to me anyway!).  except for the growing chunk of memory that i leave behind each time.  that's different for everyone, too.  i do know people who go back to work that same day.  i don't work so it's not an issue for me (the running back and forth is just an issue for my husband, who is lucky enough to have a boss that does not mind him leaving anytime i need his help).

it's a lot more trouble than just taking pills every day, but it can be worth it.  and it's not forever (unless it is successful and you choose to have monthly maintenance treatments for an extended period of time - but if it's successful it's worth it for SURE).  i hasn't "cured" me.  not even close.  but i'm not sorry i tried - i might be worse off than this without it.  and when you're treatment resistant and coming to the end of a long long line of failed medication, it doesn't seem like such a huge risk.  plus, meds that don't work before ECT can work afterwards in some cases, so that may happen yet.

best of luck with whatever you decide.



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Thanks, Lysergia, for the helpful information and for sharing your personal experiences with ECT. I share most of your diagnoses, so perhaps your information is even more compelling for me! By the way, I started Latuda for BPII depression in February, 2015, and have foind it to be the most helpful med so far--maybe something worth looking into?

I'm really not scared of the procedure, and I do have a very supportive partner to "caretake", as well as some others who could help with transportation.

My biggest worry is re: the wait time between the decision to try this option, and the beginning of treatment. Like Lysergia said, it's not like people are lined up down the street, but with debilitating depression, every day can feel like an eternity!

Thanks for everyone's feedback!

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I notice a huge difference with post-ECT headaches if they give me Toradol in the IV before the doctor administers the ECT . The headaches are much less severe. Ask for it by name :)

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