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Q:   My wife was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 5 years ago. Apparently she had self-medicated with alcohol for many years.

She is currently hospitalized for the 4th time in as many years. She is undergoing her second series of ECT treatments right now.

They donít seem to be helping but it is still early in the treatment cycle.

My question is, if the ECTís donít help and none of the combinations of drugs have been effective, what is next?

Dear J,

     At the risk of sounding evasive, there are new medications and therefore combinations of medications coming to the market all the time as well as occasional new alternative treatments.  If you are satisfied with your wife's present treatment/doctor(s), the best thing to do is pose your questions directly to them; if not, you certainly have every right to a second opinion.  ECT is typically considered when a person has not responded adequately to mood stabilizers or antidepressants and is incapacitated by depression, psychosis, or suicidality.  These days, ECT is a safe and effective treatment that is fairly routine in its administration.

Recommended Reading:  The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide, David Miklowitz, 2002.

David Schafer, M.Ed.
Staff Psychologist

Published July, 2006

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