ECT Lessons-I’ve-Learned #8: What Memory Loss?

I was looking at the stamps in my passport and noticed that I went to Japan about two months before the first ECT treatment. That must have been nice, though I have no recollection of that trip.

Yes, there is some memory loss with electroconvulsive therapy, but that degree of memory loss varies among people. From my own experience, I only suffered minor memory losses, none of which negatively affected my life……well, except when I lost my ability to speak Japanese for a few weeks (but it came back!). Since starting maintenance ECT, the two major things I had forgotten immediately after treatment were: 1) that my cat was in the hospital and 2) where I went to graduate school (thank goodness the nurse reminded me about both of those before I left for home). But otherwise, it’s only been random, laughable stuff that I couldn’t recall.

I can’t speak for everyone, since everybody’s case is different (apparently, Carrie Fisher lost four-months of memory). But if you’re considering or about to have ECT, don’t panic! This is a part of ECT, but it’s often a small part of the whole process.

Here are some ‘just-in-case’ tips:

  • Write down your passwords to important accounts (e.g. e-mail, bank account, voicemail, etc.)
  • Keep “what to do today” or “what I did today” list (so you can refer back in case you want to know what you did the previous days)
  • Prior to the treatment, tell someone to remind you about certain things after the treatment. You often just need someone to recall things for you once.

Please feel free to ask me any questions or leave any other tips.

read other “lessons”


11 Comments to “ECT Lessons-I’ve-Learned #8: What Memory Loss?”

  1. I think this may frighten me the most when I consider the option of ECT. I have trouble enough recalling memories as it is… if I were to consider ECT, would I lose even more of my children’s lives? So much precious time that I have spent with them is unavailable to me as my memory fails me due to medications, fibromyalgia and bouts of depression.
    You are very brave and I thank you for continuing to share your experience.

  2. Amy, I was definitely scared about the memory loss prior to starting ECT. It’s definitely easier to say ‘don’t panic’ afterward.

  3. Do you have any hints about dealing with the physical pain after treatment?
    My husband has only had one treatment however starting Monday it will be three times a week. When he finished treatment he didn’t have the classic memory loss or headache; he had jaw pain enough to keep him from sleep and calf soreness that was deep muscular and finally a pretty nasty bite on his front gum even with mouthpiece. When we arrived home he took a bath and I massaged his legs but there was nothing to do to relieve the jaw pain other than Aleve. This time he had a week between treatments but starting this week it will be every other day and I worry about the cummulative results. By Friday will he be too sore to want to carry on? Any experience or advice would be so greatly appreciated!

  4. Sherry, I’m not sure I can give you advice, but from my experience, I’ve been prescribed hydrocodone/APAP (Lortab) in order to control any pain that I have afterward. He should definitely let the doctor know the after-effects. Perhaps s/he could offer some suggestions or prescribe a pain med to help with them.

    Hope all goes well. And please keep in touch!

  5. Just stumbled across your blog… Wish I had seen it before my ECT’s for some of your tips. It’s nice to see someone not completely bashing ECT’s – although maybe you do and I just haven’t gotten that far yet. :)

    Take care!

  6. Hello, fetus valentine! Thanks for finding my blog. No, I have really no reason to bash ECT, so hope you enjoy reading the blog. I just try to write how it is.

    Have a good day!

  7. I was lucky and never suffered any memory loss, but I only had unilateral ECT. Not sure if there is a difference. But what I will say in my case was ECT saved my life. So if I lost a little memory it is worth it for one reason only, it made the pain go away.

  8. Thus far this is the only thing I’ve read on your blog. I know I’ll read more, but I can’t say when. My experience was so profoundly different. The short version is 16 rounds of RUL, nearly two years ago, d/c due to cognitive impairment, resulted in a severe worsening of my depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, psychogenic non-epileptic seizures, and profound memory loss – as in years of complete blankness – and a laundry list of other neurological issues which I won’t detail here.

    I’m not “bashing ECT,” I’m just stating the facts of how things happened for me. Most days I can be positive – not about the treatment, nor the circumstances surrounding it – but about me and my future. My perspective is ECT is one thing I can never undo, not like weaning off of a medication and knowing the side effects will remit with time (in most cases). What’s the use in being angry over it? But then I’ll get hit out of nowhere with an intense dose of PTSD. . .

    I apologize. Really what I meant to say was that this makes me happy for you. Like I said, I will definitely read more of this once I have worked through this particular episode. I want to know your story, I’m always so happy when someone has found their “magic bullet,” whether it comes in the form of a pill, a shock, or something else altogether. Keep well.

  9. Steven, thanks for the comment. I’m glad ECT worked for you the first time around. I hope all goes well with you with your upcoming ECT treatments.

  10. Ruby Tuesday, I really appreciate your insight into this topic. I hope it comes across that I’m not trying to put ECT on the pedestal with this blog; I’ve just been chronicling what the experience has been like for me. I hope that my posts aren’t coming across as some endorsement for the procedure. As much as I appreciate what it has done for me, I don’t consider it a ‘magic bullet,’ though I sometime do wish it had worked that way. You make a good point that you can’t take back the experience, good or bad, with ECT.

    Thanks, also, for finding my blog. I wouldn’t say that this post is a good reflection of the rest of the blog, but I hope you’ll have a chance to read some of the other posts, too.

    Anyway, thank you for sharing your experience. Hope we keep in touch.

  11. Hi yumers. Sorry it’s taken me a bit. I have to be honest, I haven’t read anything else you have written yet. I’m in a very reactive place right now, so I don’t think it would be good for me yet. Having said that, I would never judge you based solely on one post. I know that if you read one post on my blog, then a different one, and still a different, you would almost feel as though you were reading posts by completely different people, especially lately (PTSD, urgh).

    You can thank my very dear friend Always for me finding your blog. You two communicated initially about being in much the same situation, although ECT wasn’t really a good thing for her, either. But I think she was trying to help me through this patch and give me perspective. And I know it will be good for me, I’m just too easily triggered at the moment. Keep well and keep in touch.


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