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A Ray of Hope for Severe Depression

By |2023-11-02T13:24:27-04:00October 11th, 2023|Categories: Health A-Z|Tags: , , |

Several years ago, Stephanie Akselsen of Howell faced a “perfect storm” of challenges: physiological menopause symptoms and inadequate sleep; emotional repercussions of three relocations; and her fourth child’s departure for college. She held her emotions in and soon found herself with debilitating depression.

When other therapy and medications didn’t help, Stephanie received inpatient care at a New York hospital and began a life-changing treatment: electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). This safe and precise procedure involves administering a brief electrical current to the brain while under anesthesia. Once discharged, she was able to continue receiving outpatient ECT at nearby CentraState.

“ECT was the main treatment that brought me, out of my depression,” says Stephanie, age 52.“I felt hopeless, and now I’m enjoying life again.”

“It’s been amazing to witness,” adds her, husband, Ken, a local pastor. “Access to this type of treatment close to home has made a tremendous difference for our family.”

Specialized ECT Treatment

Research shows that ECT enhances the function and availability of chemicals called neurotransmitters in the brain. As a result, brain cell function can improve and overpower depressive symptoms.

At CentraState, ECT is carefully overseen by an ECT-certified psychiatrist, ECT-trained nurses and a dedicated anesthesiologist in a modern treatment suite. A typical course of ECT is two or three treatments per week for up to four weeks, followed by fewer treatments to maintain results as needed. It can be very effective in certain patients struggling with severe depression and several other behavioral health conditions, according to Daniel D’Andrea, MD, one of the psychiatrists who provides Stephanie’s ECT treatment.

Throughout the procedure, the anesthesiologist monitors parameters like heart activity, oxygen and blood pressure. Psychiatric nurses Crisann Maher, RN, and Vivian Stanger, RN, combine clinical care with patient education and reassurance. With a combined 24 years of ECT experience at CentraState, they help Stephanie feel comfortable and safe at each visit.

“ECT is considered the gold standard treatment for severe depression, especially when it affects daily activities and function,” says Moustafa Shafey, MD, medical director of ECT services in Centrastate’s Behavioral Health Department.

According to Dr Shafey, with modern medical supervision, the side effects of ECT are minimal. Very few patients experience muscle aches and headaches, which can be relieved with over-the-counter medication. Rarely, some patients may experience short-term memory lapses around the time of treatment, but this usually clears within a few days or weeks. The CentraState team uses the lowest possible treatment dose to be effective while minimizing potential side effects.

Stephanie says the overwhelming benefits of ECT have far outweighed any side effects. Thanks to her treatment, she’s been able to joyfully celebrate family milestones and return to helping Ken run church soccer camps available worldwide. She’s grateful for the entire ECT team and the support and prayers of her family and friends.

“It is comforting,” she says, “to know that there is a treatment like ECT that is available, effective and local.”

Behavioral Health Services at CentraState

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