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Electroconvulsive therapy for bipolar disorder

Electro-convulsive therapy, formerly known as the electroshock therapy is a treatment through which seizures are triggered in patients for the sake of treatment. However, it is yet unknown why this therapy is exactly efficient for these purposes. Nevertheless, this form of treatment remains used for the treatment of numerous mental problems such as depression and the bipolar disorder, helping people who have failed to find recovery through other forms of treatment.

The following lines will present electro-convulsive therapy better and provide more information about the risks associated with this form of medical intervention.

Bipolar Disorder and Electro-Convulsive Therapy

In general, this therapy was first introduced by Italian neuropsychiatrists in 1938. Yet, it started being widely used during the 1940s and 1950s.

It is most commonly used for the treatment of people who are suicidal, psychotic or individuals who pose a threat to themselves and the others in any other way. Therefore, bipolar people can certainly find relief through the electro-convulsive therapy. In fact, this form of treatment is effective in about 75% of cases.

Mania and depression, being the two main sides of a bipolar disorder can effectively be treated through the exposure of the brain to electric current, emitted through electrodes placed on certain parts of the skull. However, due to the unknown reasons behind the effectiveness of electro-convulsive therapy, it is usually used as a last resort for treating bipolar disorder, once the patient has failed to react to any other forms of treatment, not responding to medications or any other approaches.

The electro-convulsive therapy involves the patient receiving muscle relaxants and general anesthesia. Once this first stage is done, he/she is connected to the electrodes, usually while lying down and the current produced triggers a seizure in the person. While under the influence of the anesthesia and the medications, the patients usually react to seizures by barely moving their legs and hands. Yet, bearing in mind that they are carefully monitored by their doctors during this stage, these seizures are noticed on time and the treatment is modified according to them.

This completes the therapy and the patient, after the medications wear off, wakes up, not remembering anything related to the process. Moreover, confusion is normal to be felt once the therapy is done. Fortunately, this adverse effect does not last for long. The therapy is repeated about 3 times a week, over the course of two or four weeks.

Today, the electro-convulsive therapy has undergo a great deal of improvement. In fact, many experts consider it to be safer than taking lithium, which is a common scenario for bipolar patients. Therefore, it is a good form of intervention for individuals who cannot wait for their medications to take effect, those who are bothered by suicidal thoughts during their depressive phases, those who choose electro-convulsive therapy over medications , those who are pregnant and choose this therapy as a safer alternative, those who cannot tolerate drugs and patients who are very young or suffering from heart problems.

Researches have shown that the ECT, being an abbreviation for the electro-convulsive therapy, increases the permeability of the blood-brain barrier, leading to an anti-seizure effect, reducing the blood flow to the brain parts which affect the mood negatively.

Secondly, some experts claim that the ECT triggers certain positive hormonal changes in bipolar patients helping them control their behavior and mood better. Others relate it to dopamine production, being the production of neurotransmitters which are related to bipolar disorder quite a bit. Finally, the ECT is thought to stimulate the production and growth of neurons in the part of the brain in charge of memory.

However, there are certain side-effects which all people who opt for ECT for bipolar disorder treatment need to bear in mind.

Electro-Convulsive Therapy Risks

The use of ECT has always been related to controversy and many institutions claim that it is not a safe form of medical treatment. Yet, due to its effectiveness, it is widely used nevertheless.

Some of the most common side-effects related to this form of medical treatment are jaw pain, nausea, headaches and confusion, affecting the patient once he/she wakes up once the procedure is done.

However, in some rare cases, patients who have undergone ECT were reported to have suffered from heart attacks and strokes. Also much less frequently, patients have died during or after these procedures. Therefore, if you suffer form certain heart conditions, make sure you consult with your doctor carefully before undergoing ECT for the treatment of bipolar disorder

All in all, ECT has proven quite effective in the treatment of bipolar disorder. It is a procedure which exposes the brain of the patient to electric current, provoking a seizure in order to stop the symptoms of mood and personality-related conditions such as the bipolar disorder and similar illnesses.

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