Electroconvulsive Therapy for Depression


About 24 million men and women are affected with depression each year in the United States, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. It is a leading cause of disability, costing the United States more than $80 billion per year in lost productivity.

It’s important to know that depression is treatable and beatable in many sufferers. The key is finding a treatment plan that works best for each individual.

Depression Treatment Options

Treatment options for depression may include a prescription antidepressant medication, a combination of more than one prescription medication, and/or psychotherapy or "talk therapy." For some people with depression, these standard treatments may not work, and they may have to turn to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

ECT Overview

Once referred to as "shock therapy" or "electric shock therapy," this type of treatment used to have a very bad reputation. However, in recent years, ECT has improved and allows some people to overcome depression when other treatments have failed.

How ECT Works

A patient is given a muscle relaxer and is put under anesthesia prior to undergoing ECT. Patients sleep throughout the entire treatment and do no consciously feel the electrical impulses that are delivered to the brain. ECT sessions typically last for about one hour.

At the start of ECT treatment, a patient may undergo several treatments per week, which typically is then reduced to once a week, and then eventually once a month. While undergoing ECT therapy, a patient is usually treated with an antidepressant as well.

ECT Side Effects

Like any treatment, there are side effects from ECT including memory loss, confusion and disorientation. These side effects typically are short-term, but in some people they can go on for longer amounts of time. It is important to speak with a doctor about any concerns related to ECT treatments.

Source: National Institute of Mental Health


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