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Dr. Z
Dr. Z, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 10643
Experience:  Psy.D. in Clinical Forensic Psychology with a background in treating severe mental illnesses.
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Hello, I have bipolar I and am currently taking 750mg of lithium

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Hello,
I have bipolar I and am currently taking 750mg of lithium carbonate.

When I was nineteen, I was hospitalised for three months. During that time, I was given several different medications and twenty rounds of ECT (right unilateral and bilateral). I now have long-term memory loss. That is, I have very little memories at all of my adolescence. I have since had ECT - two full courses (six rounds, right unilateral) and one of five rounds (right unilateral) - in the last three years. My memory loss is not as bad as the first time, but I've still lost about two months around each time I had the ECT.

Because most studies show that the memory loss related to ECT is usually short-term and relates to the actual event of the ECT itself, is the memory loss caused by the depression? Am I a poor reactor to anaesthetic? (I had a general anaesthetic to remove all four of my wisdom teeth and experienced no memory loss.) Is is related to the medication? The first time I had ECT (the 20 rounds) I was taking - at various times and various combinations, I'm unsure of the specifics - clonazepam, quetiapine, olanzapine, nortriptyline, and sodium valproate. When I had the two full courses (six rounds), I was taking nortriptyline and sodium valproate - the first time, 150mg nortriptyline and 800mg valproate; the second time 100mg nortriptyline and 200mg valproate. The last time I had ECT I was not taking any medication.

My doctor suggested that I may have experienced memory loss the first time I had ECT because I was depressed and medicated. However, although I was depressed the last time I had ECT, I was not medicated. I am not really concerned about the memory loss so much as curious as to why it has happened.

Smiles,
K.

Dr. Z :

Hello I believe I can help you with your question

Dr. Z :

I am so sorry that you have experienced this level of memory loss, I can understand why you would be curious about this

Dr. Z :

You mentioned that your doctors stated that the depression and medications may have caused your memory loss, which is a possibility as studies show that the duration of the depression can cause Hippocampal deterioration that leads to memory loss.

Dr. Z :

Also though ECT can cause long term memory loss, while it is not common as it once was it still is a possibility

Dr. Z :

Here is a study I want to show you regarding this issue and ECT and the greatest chance for autobiographical memory loss is with Bilateral ECT. Usually though the memory loss associated with ECT is of the world (impersonal memories) and not autobiographical memories.

Customer:

That study is interesting. Thank you for sending it to me. I just had a quick scan of the abstract and background. That seems to answer my curiousity about why I still have strong memories about extremely traumatic events in my adolescence, although it's still weird that other personal events have disappeared. However, I can understand that strong emotional imprints would stay vivid while not-so strong ones would get lost.

Customer:

If it is the depression causing memory loss, does that mean it will keep occurring if I have more depressive episodes?

Dr. Z :

Yes there is a possibility that recurring depression can lead to future memory loss as you get older, but the study typically looked at much older women with years of depression and one of the key issues with the study was that it was not dependent on severity of depression which I thought was a more important distinction because as you mentioned trauma can lead to depression and lead to stress, then stress leads to a build of cortisol which greatly impacts memory function (short and long-term).

Customer:

whoops, sorry

Dr. Z :

Here is a look at a study for memory issues and depression

Dr. Z :

Sorry I did not mean to interrupt if you were typing, I did not see it. I was busy searching for this article in my library

Customer:

That's okay, I accidentally pressed enter.

Dr. Z :

No worries, it happens

Customer:

I'm 24 now - should I conclude that my memory loss is permanent?

Dr. Z :

It is very difficult to say, I would love to give you a firm answer, but the truth is we do not know as much about the mind as we would like to. But I will say this because you are young at 24 years of age, neural plasticity is still very effective for you and there is a strong likelihood that you will regain many of your memories, partial memories, or all of your memories in time. Now when that will happen, I cannot say for certain

Customer:

That's okay. Thank you. It would be reassuring to find out if I do actually have damage to my hippocampus, but obviously you can't do that online, and even if I do, like you say - I'm young enough for my brain to be plastic enough to compensate for any damage. Perhaps I will get my memories back, but then again, it's not so important. I just find it interesting. Thank you for your replies.

Dr. Z :

Anytime, is there anything else I can do to assist you?

Customer:

No, thank you. It was good to talk to you. Enjoy the rest of your day!

Dr. Z :

I am happy that I was able to help you regarding this issue, I wish you the best and I hope you have a good day as well. My goal is to provide you with excellent service, so if you ever have any further questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact me at anytime. Before you sign off though, I would very much appreciate if you could rate my performance in helping you so that I can get credit for this question. Thank you very much

Customer:

I will do. Thank you.

Dr. Z :

You are most welcome :)

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