Monday, January 28, 2008

ETC - Electroconvulsive Therapy or Shock Treatments

This Video is an Overview of Electroconvulsve Therapy

The following story has been changed due to confidentiality. Names, situations, certain facts, etc. have been altered. This topic may not be appropriate for children.

My cousin Julie told me a story that scared the crap out of me. She is a C.N.A like me, and works at a psychiatric hospital. She hates it. This is her story...

Awake, you wouldn't believe what goes on there. I took care of a 17 year old girl name Diane. She was attractive, personable, a straight-A student. Her parents are well off, and her mother is a doctor. Diane wants to be an MD like her mother. She has been accepted into a prestigious college. She had everything going for her. Yet, she tried to committee suicide. Diane slit her wrists.That's why I was assigned to watch her.

They started giving her ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy). It uses to be called Electrical Shock Treatments, or Shock Treatments. They just made it better sounding, but it's still horrible! They anesthetize a patient, and shock them with an electrical current, causing a seizure. As a result some patients can have permanent long term, and short term memory loss. It's a modern day Lobotomy. Ok, maybe it's not as bad, but not that far off from it. It's archaic. And Doctors admit that they don't even know how it works!

She only had 2 treatments, and she couldn't even remember what she had for breakfast that morning. And they were scheduling her for 6-12 treatment! Can you believe it?

I've seen this before Awake. Sometimes the patients, (or victims), are better for a short while, but when they start to remember. All the problems come back full force. And some of them never act like themselves again. I believe it can do permanent damage.

I feel so sorry for that girl. I can't help but think that they just ruined her life. When she goes back to high school, she probably will have forgotten most of her studies. She might be delayed, maybe put back a grade. Who knows if she will still have the brain power to become an MD. That's her dream. She wants to be like her mother.

I can tell you so many stories. I have a friend. She had 3 kids, a good marriage. Then she had ECT treatments. Oh, my God! What a nightmare! She couldn't remember much for the longest time. Her kids were in a school play, and she forgot to take them to the performance. She had taken her clothes to a new cleaners. She couldn't remember the name of the cleaners, and didn't know what she did with the ticket. So she lost some clothes. She forgot many things like that. At first her depression was somewhat better. Then with all new problems concerning her memory, she quickly got worse. Her husband soon divorced her because she was a "burden". That was the word he used,"burden". Its years later, and she still has memory problems. And she just doesn't act right.

I could tell you more. But it's all the same. They lose their memory, so they temporarily forget their problems. The doctors say they are better. Then they get their memories back, (IF they are lucky), and back to the same point they were, or worse. Because their memory problems caused missed opportunities, loss of jobs, marriages problems, etc.

Also if you are suicidal and admit it, you can become a "ward of the state". In other words, your ass belongs to the state. They can lock you up. Give you experimental drugs, ECT, whatever they want to do to you. You have no choice! And you can't leave until the state says so!

Awake, you know that I have suffered from depression. Well, I will never tell any therapist how bad I am. When I first started therapy, my therapist asked me if I was suicidal. I lied. I said, "no". She actually said, "good"! Stupid therapist believed me! You would think that someone with a master degrees would be smarter. Truth is, I'm not good, not at all. Maybe I will tell her that I mildly suicidal, just to get some help. But no way will I tell her how bad off I am. There are some things worse then death!

So readers, what do you think? I would be interested in hearing your point of view, even if it is an opposing one. Also I have posted a Pole on this topic.

Feds slam Oregon State Hospital " Norton said...the electroshock therapy was painful, terrifying and "totally unnecessary."

BBC: Use of shock therapy restricted

Psychiatric treatment a human rights issue

The Cognitive Effects of Electroconvulsive Therapy in Community Settings

1st Person Project

Tampa News: Lobotomy: Proceeding Without Caution

PBS Documentary The American Experience: The Lobotomist(Transcript at bottom of page)

Related Posts: Therapy and Me
And: Are You Gay OR Straight? (Part 1)


tom sheepandgoats said...

I do recall a bi-polar woman here in Rochester whose psychiatrist was indignant when he learned she had several times been given electroshock treatment, but never once prescribed lithium. He attributed it all to finances: lithium costs pennies (at the time) whereas electroshock generates huge income for the hospital.

Your friend need not be concerned about being declared a ward of the state for owning up to suicidal thoughts. (at least here in NY) The last thing the state wants is more wards.

Awake In Rochester said...

Welcome Tom,

Yes, I also believe that finances are a factor. Unfortunately money seem to be to be the bottom line these days.

I don't think she will be saying the "S" word to her therapist. It's scary when "patients rights" are taken away.

tom sheepandgoats said...

Confessing to suicidal feelings will not get one's rights taken away. Confessing to imminent suicide plans likely will land you in the hospital for a few days. But the aim in these cases is to stabelize the person (which often takes as long as the insurance money holds out) and have them resume their normal lives.

Awake In Rochester said...

But if the person isn't stabilize, it sound like things can progress rapidly.

tom sheepandgoats said...

No. You are considered stabilized once your health-plan allowed time (often a week) has expired. I think you would have to attempt suicide right there in the hallway to be held against your will. Ability to pay becomes the overriding factor.

I also thought perceptive the comment you made a little while back about screwed up persons you know who became mental health counselers and how, knowing that, it was hard to have confidence in the field. Without actually having evidence, I've long suspected that was true. I do, however, know of some local counselors who are very good indeed.

On the other hand, a screwed up past is not necessarily a disqualifier. Rather, a screwed up present is. I would think a mental health counselor should have empathy, and it is probably hard to acquire that from books. Having experience successfully working through issues is probably not a bad thing. Trouble is, some are "working through" issues even as they proclaim themselves qualified to counsel others.

Yours is an interesting blog, I hope you don't mind if I make that observation. I like the chatty news of Rochester, my home town from birth. My blog has a "Rochester" category, but I can hardly be said to keep up with everything going down.

Awake In Rochester said...

Hi Tom,

Thanks for the complement concerning my blog.

I'm not sure how long the average stay is. It is scary that the patients don't have "patient rights." I believe that they should at lest have some say in their treatment. Some control over their lives. Some options.

tom sheepandgoats said...

"Safety" is the byword here. A eupehmism. "Do you feel safe?" means, not do you have suicidal feelings (which are quite common today, though the one with those feelings usually doesn't think so) but "are you going to act on those feelings?" Only if the answer is solidly affirmative might one be admitted (and it probably isn't a bad thing in that extreme) and then only for a period of short duration. And if anyone detects that you have the strength to resist, maybe based on your case history, then you are not likely to be admitted, even if you are not sure of "safety."

The bottom line is that beds are full, hospitals (and certainly the state) are strapped for cash, and so the situation your aquaintance fears is unlikely to come about.

Awake In Rochester said...

Frankly, I hope that your information is correct, but I'm not sure what you are basing it upon.

I still wish that they would give patients at lest a choice. Example- "Would you like to try a different med, alternative therapy, or ECT." If they are going to take "Patients Rights" away, and force the patient to have a teatment, then I think that they should at least give options. Not just demand that they have some controversial, (so called) "therapy", that may permanently damage their brains. I think that would be a more human way.

tom sheepandgoats said...

I don't consider myself an expert. Nonetheless, over the years, I've interacted with several who are mental health professionals and several who have received treatment, including some who've been hospitalized.

Look, it really only makes sense. Depression, we hear constantly, is epidemic. You can't lock so many away, even if you wanted to. Go see the movie Little Miss Sunshine. One of the main characters has attempted suicide when he is first introduced to us. He's discharged from the hospital although he plainly is still depressed. That's the model that is followed today.

Or one can talk to a mental health professional about it. They'll be above board and open about it.

Awake In Rochester said...

Yes, I see your point. I realize that institutions are overflowing. I have seen more, and more people that are now in nursing homes, hospitals etc, that should be in Psychiatric facilities. I realize that some also end up homeless. I'm sure that in many cases that they are not kept as long as they should be.

On rare occasion I have worked in a Psych wing of a hospital. (a locked unit). One time I was there, a staff member was leading a group of patients in a social activity. One of the patients asked her how long he would have to stay. She replied in a loud voice that they were all there because they were either a "threat to others, or themselves, and no one will be able to leave until they are better". Shall we call her Nurse Ratchet? I'm sure that there is a small portion of patients that are kept beyond the appropriate time, (especially if they are in the care of Nurse Ratchet, or someone similar). I know that one of the patients was scheduled to stay 30 days, but I didn't know his background.

Tom I appreciate your comments! I am new to blogging, and just started this blog about a month ago. Feel free to comment on any other topics that you find of interest. I'm glad that you are visiting my blog. Thanks!

renee said...


i have struggled with major depressive disorder/ptsd most of my life.

recently i had a severe relapse based on another traumatic event. i was seriously suicidal and couldn't function throughout the day.

my anti-depressants weren't working. my doctor offered up ECT as a last option. i had 40 sessions.

yes my memory is funky. mostly it affected the graphing/map portions of my head. hard to explain- but i can't read maps or get directions as well anymore.

but i am better than i have been. it really really genuinely helped my depression.

i am functional and cognitively aware and capable of normal life.

i hope to return to the ect once i get regular insurance again. (i was "released" in April after 7 years with a company)

Awake In Rochester said...

Hi renee,

Thank you for telling me about your experience.

I'm a bit puzzled as to why you would want more etc if it has effected part of your brain. What if next time you have etc it permanently effects your function, or cognitively ability? Please be careful!

That's cold that they released you from a company you were with for 7 years.

renee said...

hi, and you are welcome. :)

i want more ect because it's the only thing that helped my depression. the small amount of cognitive affects are a small trade for how very helpful it was.

i've been in the depression sailboat most of my life. when i find something that works, i don't mind if the wind changes a little.

yes, it was cold. and very hurtful.

Awake In Rochester said...

I hope that something else besides ECT presents itself. I would hate for your mind to get to messed up. Maybe some non-traditional therapy of some kind would help? A therapist here does Reiki with her patients. I have not gone to her, but I guess it helps some people.