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how long to ECT?


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So I have had about 11 ECT sessions --  9 initial sessions for what my pdoc calls the initial phase, and 2 sessions for the maintenance phase. The impression I get is that the "maintenance" phase continues indefinitely, with sessions more widely spaced out as the depression appears to be held more at bay.

 

My question is this: does anyone really continue to undergo ECT indefinitely?  My pdoc might recommend it -- but can anyone personally attest to having experienced years of successful ECT sessions, perhaps once every month or two?

 

I have not experienced greatly troubling side effects -- headaches and some very small memory issues, but I have heard of people occasionally experiencing greater chunks of memory loss. Is this a real risk I undergo every time I have one of these treatments? How much memory loss am I risking, seeing it hasn't been such a problem up until now? 

 

What I'm trying to do is assess the risks vs. the benefits of undergoing these treatments on a regular basis. I wonder if it might be more prudent to "quit while I'm ahead", and hold off on the ECT until (if and when) my mood slips again, and whether or not my pdoc would even agree such a strategy would be wise. I suppose the best thing to do would be to voice my concerns with him.

 

Any feedback or personal experiences from you all would be welcome.

Edited by LemonHead
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It's tricky to try to answer this, as everyone's experience varies, as can each ECT treatment experience. I had a successful round of 11 treatments 3 years ago and did not do maintenance ECT. This past Fall, I had 8 more treatments and was urged to have maintenance ECT. I, unfortunately, experienced ECT delirium, which was literally the scariest thing I have ever been through. I was hallucinating, unable to form complete sentences and completely nonsensical to those around me. It lifted after a few days, but I made the decision to never have ECT again. Apparently, about 12 percent of ECT patients experience delirium-I wish someone had told me that was a possible outcome. While searching for the source of the 12%, I came across an article that says the delirium is far more prevalent, at least in geriatric patients:http://jgp.sagepub.com/content/5/3/149.abstract.

 

As far as when to get maintenance ECT, I think your idea of getting it when your mood starts to slip is a good idea. That was the plan with my ECT doc, when I still thought I would continue with ECT. Other people simply do it on a schedule. Talk to your doc and see what plan makes sense to you.

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I'll talk to my ECT doc. For now, I think I ought to stay the course with regular ECTs, as my mood is still bumpy. 

 

Yes, there are risks with ECT, but I think wallowing in severe suicidal depression is my greater risk right now.

 

Thank you for your perspective.

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  • 1 month later...

I had 12 ECT treatments in winter/spring of 2012 and found it to be amazingly helpful.  I don't know if it was ECT, meds, or a combination of the two but something got rid of my 5 year ordeal with persistent auditory hallucinations and paranoia. Meds alone had never worked previously. My mood slipped a little in the summer of 2012, so I investigated getting more ECT. I had to wait until Oct 2012 to start, but I'm glad I did. I had ECT 3 times a week for awhile. I can't recall how long. Then I cut back to once a week. Then I was cut back to every other week. I've been doing once a month maintenance treatment since april or may and the results have been fantastic. It's been almost a year now of ECT, and I plan on doing the maintenance indefinitely. My doctor assures me that it's safe, and I don't have any side effects from the ECT. I was lucky not to have memory loss, but I've always had an exceptionally good memory. My depression is completely gone, and I've been free of psychosis for a year and a half. I've also been in recovery from anorexia for over a year. I started gaining weight on a med I began at the same time I started ECT back in the winter/spring of 2012. I was never open to a med that caused weight gain previously or wouldn't take them at the prescribed doses. I struggled with depression for nearly 20 years before someone suggested I try ECT.

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LemonHead, haven't heard from you in a while. How are things?

 

curious: I'm glad it worked for you. I had 6 ECT's in 2008 and it helped a lot as well, mostly for mood, not so much for psychosis and paranoia.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I'm doing well, system, thanks for asking.

 

I'm working now, and so had my last ECT at the start of September.

 

The ECT seems to have a time-release effect; that is, the benefits seem to continue and in fact improve as time has gone by.

 

I'm fucking determined to stay out of the hospital!

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