Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Healing Power of Electroconvulsive Therapy

I received a phone message the other day that was very gratifying to hear and once again showed the amazing healing power of Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT). The message came from a former Cottonwood patient and said "I am well. I had the ECT. It saved my life".

This message was from a patient whom I will call "Maria". Maria is 43 year old married Hispanic woman from San Diego who came to Cottonwood after months of unsuccessful treatment on an outpatient basis for severe agitated depression. The family was at wit's end. She couldn't sleep, she couldn't eat. She was totally unable to function, paced constantly, and would say repeatedly that her life was over. She had no will to live and someone needed to attend her at all times. We treated her with a combination of medications and therapy but to little avail. Medication reduced her anxiety and made it possible for her to eat and sleep normally but she remained fixed and firm in the belief that her life was over and that nothing could be done to help her.

When medication and therapy fails ECT is the treatment of choice. It is often effective for severe depression when other treatments do not work. We do not provide ECT at Cottonwood so we refer patients to other facilities that have the capability of providing ECT. Because of so many misperceptions about ECT and how it is performed it is often difficult to persuade the patients and family to opt for this treatment. It was no different for Maria. She had a tough time deciding but eventually agreed to referral for ECT treatment and as in many cases it was successful. Maria is the second person this year whom we have referred for ECT and both have reported to me a successful treatment.

ECT is associated with a lot of negativity in most people's minds. Healing power are not two words that most people readily apply to ECT. But healing power it has. In my next post I will discuss some misperceptions about ECT and describe how it is used today. I welcome any comments or questions on this often maligned and misunderstood treatment. But for now, I am thankful for Maria and her healing.

Thought for the day

" Take pleasure and rest in one thing only: making your way from one communal duty to another, always remembering God".

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