Electroconvulsive Treatment

David Z

Age at interview: 44

Brief outline: David had always experienced depression but when he was in his early 40s his depression got much worse and he had a breakdown. He was admitted to hospital and was offered ECT, age 43. David had 20 ECT treatments which lifted the depression in a way that antidepressants never had. He is however still looking for work.

Background: David lives by himself, is currently unemployed and describes his ethnic background as White British.

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David had struggled with mental health problems for a lot of his life. However, in his early 40s he had a breakdown when his depression became ‘very, very deep’ and he felt suicidal. David made a plan to end his life and said it felt ‘very natural and very calm’. At the time he wouldn’t have classified what he experienced as an ‘illness’ but now he says that he does accept it was an illness.

After he was referred to a consultant psychiatrist, it was agreed that he should be admitted to hospital. Although hospital seemed an alien environment at first, David didn’t find it frightening. He felt that the antidepressant medication he had been taking hadn’t really worked and was offered ECT. At the time he didn’t think much about ECT because he wasn’t in a fit state to understand the information he was being given. Before ECT was offered to him, he only had images of ECT from TV and things he had read. David didn’t believe that ECT would work as nothing had worked before (such as psychotherapy or antidepressants). He made the decision to have ECT by himself. 

David said that the first ECT treatment was a ‘bit alien’ because he wasn’t sure what was going on. However he said everyone was nice and the procedure was ‘very calm’. He said that there was a separate suite where the ECT took place and the nurse was very good. The nurse told him what to expect, talked him through the procedure and got his consent before each ECT treatment. David had 20 separate ECT sessions over a period of 10 weeks, and said that by the end of the treatments it became a normal thing to do twice a week. He found that he did lose his memory slightly at the time, and still struggles to recall things. However his long term memory wasn’t affected and he got ‘instant relief’ from the depression after having ECT. David didn’t find out too much detail about how the ECT worked, but he was just happy that it worked. 

When the ECT course finished David, was a bit worried because it had become part of his routine in hospital and worried that the depression would come back. David was given a social worker and a mental health care worker who helped him through the process of being discharged from hospital. David found that for him recovery was a process of ‘getting out and about’ and felt that he needed to work. David said that if ever became that seriously depressed again he would much rather have ECT, as he didn’t have much faith in antidepressants. Although he had had depression for most of his life, the depression got worse with age. David would like to go back to work but to a job that was less pressured than before.

David recommends that people try ECT and that it should give them relief. He found staff involved in ECT treatment highly knowledgeable and the treatment only took five minutes.


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