Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a procedure that uses electricity to create chemical changes in the brain that can treat severe depression and other mental illnesses. This procedure is administered by highly qualified and specially trained psychiatrists.

What are the Benefits of ECT?

ECT has many benefits that have the ability to help you or a loved one suffering from mental disorders (bipolar disorder or schizophrenia), or certain illnesses like Parkinson’s disease.

If used properly, ECT:

  • Can be very effective in helping patients return to happy and productive lives.
  • Can provide faster relief. In many cases, ECT can produce faster results than antidepressant medications or psychotherapy. This is useful for patients who need immediate relief.
  • Has few risks and has very few side effects. The strict guidelines for ECT use help to ensure its safety for patients.

Who Should/Shouldn’t use ECT?

Pregnant women and older adults can use ECT. It is often used when antidepressants are not an option. It may not be recommended for patients, including those who have brain tumors, or have had a recent stroke or heart attack.

Facts About ECT to Help You Make an Informed Decision

  • ECT is used to help people, not hurt them. A person must give informed consent to receive treatment.
  • Studies show that a permanent inability to form new memories is highly unlikely.
  • There is no scientific evidence that ECT causes brain damage.
  • During the procedure, the patient sleeps peacefully and feels no discomfort. Some patients may feel nauseated or have a headache when they wake up. These feelings usually pass within 30 to 60 minutes and can be treated with medication, if needed.
  • Many patients receive one series (6 to 12 treatments) of ECT and have no repeat episodes of severe depression.
  • In most cases, body movement is very mild. Muscle relaxants are given to prevent shaking or jerking and muscle strain or other injuries.
  • Patients (or his or her legal guardian) may withdraw consent at any time during the course of ECT treatment.

For more information, contact Behavioral Health Outpatient Services at 714-771-8085.