Electroconvulsive Treatment

John Z

Age at interview: 63

Brief outline: John was clinically depressed when he went into hospital 12 years ago, age 54. He had eight sessions of ECT that lifted him out of depression. He is diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder but now has less highs and lows and is on Lithium, which helps.

Background: John is a professional.

Audio & video

John Z was clinically depressed, in his words “almost catatonic”, when he was admitted to hospital 12 years ago, aged 54. He said that there was no other treatment available to him because he was so depressed. He felt much improved after 8 sessions of ECT. However, he went ‘high’ after these sessions and went “off the scale”. He remembers this high being fun and felt like he could take on the world.

John was a voluntary patient when he had ECT. He remembers being told in detail what was going to happen during the procedure. He explains how he had an anesthetic and a muscle relaxant. John says that he took about 10 mins recovering after the treatment, had a tea and biscuit and then he was able to go off and have lunch. 

After the ECT treatment he felt high and didn’t know at the time he was bipolar. His wife spoke to the psychiatrist and relayed to him that he was spending a lot of money and had got into debt. John says that being high on bipolar is better than being on any drugs and that lows are terrible. Before having ECT he had never heard of the treatment, and feels that films such as ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ present a highly destructive view of what ECT is like. 

John says that people don’t know how ECT works, only that it does work for people who are depressed. He wants to put people straight about the effects of having ECT and feels there is nothing to fear about it. He says that ECT hasn’t affected his memory and his head hasn’t been ‘scrambled’. 

Now John takes lithium every day for bipolar (not depression) and has blood tests to monitor the effects of this medication. He feels that stress is strongly associated with his mental health and that his aunt also struggled with mental health issues.


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