Electroconvulsive Treatment


Age at interview: 74

Brief outline: Although Enid has always experienced periods of sadness, she only became very depressed after retirement. She was treated with ECT aged 73 and has found it helpful for a short period of time. Enid feels that depression should be considered an illness like any other.

Background: Enid is a retired nurse and lives with her husband and two dogs. She has five children and describes her background as White British.

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Enid felt she had ‘real depression’ in her childhood where she found it difficult to cope. However the worst episode of depression she experienced happened a few years ago when she couldn’t do anything and couldn’t stop crying. In the end she felt she wanted to die because it would be easier. She remembers she was at a friend’s house and was taken down to the GP and then rushed into hospital.

Enid was offered ECT at hospital and feels she was at a stage where she ‘couldn’t care less’ what happened to her. She had been a nurse previously and was aware what an ECT session was like. She had a course of 12 sessions, which she says helped her ‘enormously’. She then came home but found she experienced mood swings and then she had a low patch. Enid then had another period of ECT treatments, but this time as an outpatient. Then she had so called ‘maintenance’, where she had one ECT treatment every month. Later she got unwell and wanted to self-harm and had another 12 treatments. She found that the people in the ECT department were an enormous help and were very supportive.

In addition, Enid did dialectical behaviour therapy but had to stop half way through as she had ECT. At first she thought the therapy was nonsense - the “Americanisms” annoyed her. However, over a period of time she made sense of a lot of things through therapy, and therapy helped her to stay much better than she had been in the past. Now she tries to live in the moment and not worry about things that have happened. She is having ECT once a month and her consultant is reluctant to space it any wider as she had a ‘big dip’ when she was not having treatment. 

When she retired Enid felt life lost a lot of meaning, but didn’t think that what she was experiencing could be described as ‘depression’: she just felt that everything was falling apart. Enid had struggled along and had assumed that it was ok to feel the way she did. Initially she thought that because she had a ‘mental problem’ people would treat her differently and found people reacted strongly to the idea of ECT. Even though she was trained as a nurse, even she wasn’t that familiar with the process of the treatment. Now she feels that depression is an illness like any other and isn’t anything to be ashamed about.

Enid can remember liking the feeling of “drifting off” during the anaesthetic. She says that she feels ‘absolutely fine’ after a treatment, but occasionally finds her memory isn’t good. However she was amazed it worked in a short time. She says that it is always the same people who give her the treatment and that they are friendly. Enid likes the psychiatrist she is being treated by at the moment. Although she thinks that ECT probably isn’t helpful for everybody, she has found it enormously helpful for her. 

Enid has found that many things have contributed towards her well-being such as membership of a church, her husband and looking after her two dogs. She finds that her medication is effective and that she doesn’t get many side effects. Enid says her husband is ‘brilliant at caring’ and she says that she is very fortunate to have him. She is also a member of a support group Hafal. Through God’s loving care, she feels that she can get through even ‘the worst things’.


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