Electroconvulsive Therapy – Cure or Treatment?

As I am currently undergoing a round of Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) I have been asked by a number of people whether it is a cure for Bipolar Disorder or a treatment that you undergo each time you’re symptomatic (depressed or manic).  The short answer is it is a treatment.  I am currently in a mixed state (mostly depressed with some manic symptoms).  ECT is an appropriate treatment for depression, mania and mixed state.  My understanding is that it is used when medication alone is insufficient.

So what does it do then?  In my experience ECT resets your brain and allows you to think clearly again.  Most often this is achieved within 12 treatments, 3 per week over 4 weeks.  In my case, this time, I have had to go back for further treatments as the 12 were insufficient.  I choose to have my treatments as an outpatient, but many people will stay as an inpatient in the hospital, it is really a personal preference and if you choose to be an outpatient you really need a carer to transport you to the treatments and look after you for the remainder of the day.  In my case I am very lucky to have in-laws that are retired and are willing to do this for me when my husband is unavailable.

Each treatment I have, I become a little more clear headed and my bipolar symptoms diminish gradually.  ECT really allows you to gain control over your depression or mania (or both) and gives you the strength to fight it and get yourself on the road to recovery.  The end of your ECT treatments is the beginning of your recovery.  ECT has placed me on the road to recovery a number of times in the past and has consequently saved my life.  That is why I am doing it again and also why I would recommend others to try it if their medications alone are not controlling their symptoms.  Whilst I can’t say it’s a cure, it is at least a temporary cure in that it returns you to normality at least until next time.  It is also good to note here that some people only have one major episode in their lifetime, while others have many, so for the lucky few it could appear a cure.

Memory loss, migraines and disorientation are definite down sides of the treatment, but in my opinion the benefits outweigh the negatives by far.  If you have any questions just drop me a line and I’ll do my best to answer them.