How To Treat Depression with ECT


Depression is more than the occasional blues that go away after a couple of days. When feelings of sadness take over a person’s entire life, making it difficult to function normally, is when depression occurs.

It’s important for people diagnosed with depression to work with a doctor and to follow a treatment plan that works best for them in order to overcome this serious mental illness.

Treatments for depression may include a prescription antidepressant medication, a combination of more than one medication such as an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication, and/or psychotherapy, which is commonly referred to as "talk therapy." For some people with severe forms of depression, these standard treatments may not work. For these people, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be an effective treatment option.

What is ECT?

Formerly referred to as ‘electric shock therapy’ or ‘shock therapy,’ this type of treatment once had a very bad reputation. However, in recent years, ECT has improved, allowing people to overcome depression when other treatments have failed.

How does ECT work?

Prior to undergoing ECT, a patient is given a muscle relaxer and put under anesthesia for approximately one hour in order to sleep through the treatment. The patient does not consciously feel the electrical impulses that are delivered to the brain.

How often is ECT used?

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, a patient is usually treated with an antidepressant medication as well.

Are there side effects related to ECT?

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 regarding these types of side effects.

Source: National Institute of Mental Health


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