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ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy) For Intractable Bipolar II Depression


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I've been in an episode of moderate/severe depression for about three years, and I've tried so many medications - some failures, some partial successes but eventual failures - that my medical team is recommending that I consider ECT. I've always thought of ECT as something for very severe depression. I've luckily never had to be hospitalized, which makes me think of myself as someone who's not experiencing severe depression exactly...

I've also been told that I'd have to stop taking Lamictal, which does make sense, but I've been on it for seven years and haven't had any kind of serious hypomania since I've been on it, so I'm rather attached to it.

Does anyone have experience with ECT as a treatment for intractable depression; depression that isn't responding to medications?

Thanks in advance.

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Hi  I had ECT done last spring.  I didn't have stop my anti-seizure med (trileptal) but before I had treatments I didn't take lithium as it could confusion and delerium waking up from sedation. Over all I think it helped me after first but a word to the wise: I don't know about you but the whole experience made me realize that depression has many more layers than just brain chemistry. I was so enfeebled at the beginning I could barely find way down the corridor to the hospital to find the ECT clinic. As I began to "wake up"  the various aspects of my life that I had been dissociating from due to PTSD I could no longer ignore. And the stress of that made me manic and then I idiotically drank, and became more manic than I have ever been in my life. Anyway, I think it really could help but I strongly suggest you work with a doctor who understands you and your moods, and to keep track of what is happening yourself. So it isn't a total free for all. I think all the stuff about memory is an exaggeration. I did tell stories over and over again. But I remembered what people said and words usually. Topamax (what I'm taking now) is much worse for all of that.

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I have had this suggested for me in a similar circumstances. The family doctor who suggested it had a daughter with BPII and she had one sided ECT and it helped her so much she was able to go to med school after. I told my pdoc I wanted it but she said it isn't indicated unless there is an immediate threat to life and no alternative. I was just kind of languishing in my bed, to tired to hurt myself so...

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@mcjimjam sorry to hear that your pdoc reacted this way to the suggestion - my understanding is that it's indicated for someone who's treatment resistant, which (for unipolar depression) is defined as not responding to adequate courses of treatment with 2 different antidepressants. I suppose it depends on the practice you're at as well as maybe your geographic location...

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I am bipolar and had ECTs for my intractable depression that lasted about 5 years. It was a complete lifesaver for me. I do have to say it came at a cost, I lost significant memory, but there were reasons why it was maybe worse than the usual person. When giving ECTs (bipolar, meaning both sides of the brain were shocked) the doctor did what he called an initial series of ECTs 3 times a week for 3 weeks, a total of 9. This is where most people stop. I felt better and stopped, but in about a month was bad again, so they repeated the initial series and then gradually spaced them out until I was getting one every four weeks which lasted for (not sure about this) about 4 1/2 years, this is unusual and probably wouldn't happen to you. So in a relatively short period of time I had a lot of ECTs. Even before that I had a series of unipolar (shocking one side of the brain) ECTs at another hospital that didn't work.

I thought after they had spaced out to every 4 weeks that I was having no more problems with memory. However, after stoping them last February every month it is like another layer of fog is removed from my brain. Now my mind is more clear than it has been for decades. I did not get back the memory I lost, but my mind remembers things now and works better than it has in decades.

From what I understand unipolar ECTs do not effect memory as much, but they didn't work for me. So you have to weigh the risks. For me, even after losing significant memory, it was well worth it. (The great majority would not lose memory to the extent I did) I would be dead without it and now I am living a satisfying life. I would echo meltymelt that you work with someone as the waking up from depression is not necessarily a clean and easy process. After living in deep depression for years I had forgotten what it was like to not be depressed and it was an adjustment shifting the habits of my mind and body.

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