Bipolar Disorder and ECT Treatment

ECT (electro convulsive treatment) is a highly effective last resort for patients who suffer from severe depression, psychosis or who endanger themselves or others. It is a greatly refined version of the shock treatments, but it is far less dramatic, painful and dangerous. Despite this increased safety, it is still only used when other medical and psychotherapeutic treatments have failed.

What Happens during ECT Treatment?

Most mental health disorders result from uncontrollable brain activity. Like an electrical system that is overloaded by a lightning strike, these issues overload the brain. To combat this, ECT treatment causes the damaged part of the brain to slow down and relax. Once the flurry of negative activity slows, psychotherapy and medical treatment may become more effective.

The goal of ECT is to create a controlled seizure in the brain, which happens by connecting finely controlled electrical wires to the scalp. The patient is sedated and unaware of the process, so she experiences no pain whatsoever. After this, a series of precise electrical impulses cause the brain to slow down dramatically. When the patient awakens from the procedure, she has no memory of what happened and experiences little discomfort.

Some potential side effects include the following problems:

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Jaw pain
  • Confusion

While these are difficult to endure, they are minimal compared to the possible issues of bipolar disorder.

Risks and Rewards of ECT Treatment

In rare cases, ECT can cause heart attack or stroke. To combat this, medical professionals screen patients to make sure they are good candidates before they attempt the procedure. Another common side effect of ECT is localized short-term memory loss.

However, for most hospitalized patients the procedure provides relief and gives mental health professionals a foothold to help patients. You can find lasting improvement of your psychological symptoms if you reach out.

What Happens Before ECT Treatment

ECT is only considered for people who experience extreme and dangerous cases of bipolar disorder, which means extensive counseling, psychotherapy and medical treatments have all failed. Bipolar disorder involves wide emotional swings from major depression to dangerous episodes of mania.

During depressive episodes, patients may experience emotional numbness, hopelessness, sleep and eating disorders, physical pain and suicidal thoughts, which also tend to be more frequent and longer.

During manic episodes, patients may skip treatment, feel invulnerable, act recklessly, make rash and unwise decisions and they may lash out at others. While most bipolar patients avoid the level of danger required to justify ECT, some certainly need this help.