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Suzanne's Story: A Life Restored By ECT

Suzanne* struggled with depression and anxiety most of her adult life. But when she gave birth to her second daughter in 2018, things changed.

At first diagnosed with postpartum depression, she spiraled into a dark depression.

“It kept getting worse and worse until it hit the point that I was in the emergency room," says Suzanne.

Suzanne admitted herself to UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital in February 2019 after having thoughts of suicide.

“Everything was going right in my life. I had two beautiful children, a wonderful husband, a job I loved. I had every reason to be at a great place in my life. But I wasn't and I couldn't pull myself out of it," she says.

Suzanne knew about various psychiatric treatments for depression, including electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) -- one of the most common treatments for drug-resistant depression. So, when her doctor suggested it, she already had an idea of the potential benefits.

Performed under general anesthesia, ECT sends a small electric current to the brain to intentionally trigger a brief seizure. This causes changes in the brain that can quickly reverse symptoms of some mental illnesses, like severe depression.

“I had heard about ECT before. By the time I checked myself into the hospital, my depression worsened to the point where I had tried many medications. But nothing was working for me," says Suzanne.

She began inpatient ECT treatments shortly after her admission to UPMC Western Psychiatric. By her fifth session, she began feeling better.

“It saved my life. I went from having thoughts of suicide to being a functioning adult and mother again," says Suzanne.

She went home from the hospital after two weeks of treatment.

When her depression symptoms returned later that year, she had a second round of ECT treatments.

“I'm feeling the best I've felt in years," she says. “My husband recognizes the big changes as well. You don't realize how much of your life depression affects until it's not there."

For those suffering from severe, hard-to-treat depression, Suzanne has a message.

“When you're living with depression, it can sometimes be hard to realize just how far down you've gone. Depression can be consuming. Everything has a cloud over it. For me, ECT was fast and it was effective. It's made such a difference in my life," Suzanne says.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with the Center for Interventional Psychiatry, please call 412-246-5063.

*We've changed the patient's name to protect privacy.