Let’s just give everyone ECT

Okay…that’s not what they said, but several sources that are covering this particular topic is addressing it as though we’re going to give away ECT like free ipods at a baseball game.

For the first time in a decade, the American Psychiatric Association released a new set of guidelines for how to treat depression. This is the first time the medical organization has ever updated its guidelines on the assessment and treatment of depression since 2000; the current guidelines are based on research conducted from 1999 through 2006.

The major changes in the guidelines have occurred  in rating scales, new strategies for treatment-resistance depression, exercise and other healthy behaviors and strengthened maintenance treatment recommendation. In addition to electroconvulsive therapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation, vagus nerve stimulation and monoamine oxidase inhibitors have also been added as potential treatments for patients with severe major depression or treatment-resistant depression.

The guidelines also recognize that regular aerobic exercise or resistance training may modestly improve mood symptoms. This is such a great addition to the guideline, because we somehow need to get our butts off the couch or whatever seating element and get moving. And the thing is, this is the cheapest form of treatment for depression! And who wouldn’t want to save a little money these days?

But, as expected, this move to see ECT as a more acceptable form of treatment has angered a lot of people writing in comments. As the subject of electroconvulsive therapy becomes more ‘popular’ to talk about, does it become my responsibility to say something? Or will I immediately  be labeled as some ‘shock treatment advocate,’ which I don’t think I am.You don’t hear of other people who’ve had open heart surgery cheering for others to have it. Just like that, making a choice to have ECT is an intensely personal choice—and all I have to offer is my own experience, and no one else’s. As talk of ECT gets bigger, I also do not want to be labeled as some victim, having had the procedure. If I were such a victim of those evil brain-sucking psychiatrist just wanting to experiment on me, I would have shut up and have never written such detailed account of what goes on.

Cancer survivors can proudly proclaim that they’ve survived! And there’s public celebrations for surviving through cancer. For those of us that went through ECT, who do we become but random targets of opinionated people that claim that these ECT patients were coersed and tricked into ‘getting their brains fried.’ I’m frankly tired of this conception that I didn’t know what I was doing when I had ECT.

Is there a group/organization out there that brings together ECT patients, current and past?  Maybe I should start something like that…..any suggestions?h

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One Comment to “Let’s just give everyone ECT”

  1. Very interesting observation. We do seem to celebrate cases that we hear about in which patients ingest toxic chemicals (chemotherapeutic drugs) – even experimental ones. Given that ECT has documented results in treating a different yet equally serious disease state, why is there a much different perception among the general public? I suspect that much of the opinion generated in both cases stems from Hollywood. I’ve maintained that should I ever be diagnosed with cancer, I would only consider chemotherapy an option if the cancer was the only terminal disease state being treated and if I had a good chance of maintaining a high quality of life post-treatment (assuming successful treatment). People often seem shocked that I would opt to not go through chemotherapy if I was 85 years old and also had congestive heart failure. Likewise, I’m surprised that so many would scoff at ECT.

    Good to know about these guidelines now including information about additional therapeutic benefits of CV exercise, too. If I don’t find more time for the gym I’m going to have to get a second job to pay for all new clothes!

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