Electroconvulsive Therapy

For people with mental illnesses such as severe depression, schizophrenia, or suicidal thoughts, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a proven way to help manage brain chemistry to help the patient feel more at peace. ECT is known as a highly effective method for treating these kinds of problems, recording a success rate of between 60-90%. The practice’s endorsements include the National Institute of Mental Health, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, and the U.S. Surgeon General.

Electroconvulsive therapy has been used to treat:

  • Severe unipolar or bipolar depression
  • Mania
  • Catatonia
  • Schizophrenia
  • Other psychotic illnesses

How electroconvulsive therapy works

With the proper long-term therapy and hospitalization, ECT can be a viable solution to severe mental health problems. Unlike how it is conveyed in TV and movies, ECT is not the highly dangerous and volatile prospect some think it can be.

Patients who undergo the procedure receive:

  • General anesthesia – Patients are given a muscle relaxer that helps their bodies tune out any sensations.
  • Steady electrical current – Electrodes are placed on the patient’s head and then conduct a controlled current that induces a brief seizure. The anesthesia given prior prevents these seizures from causing bodily harm.
  • Regular therapy – ECT treatments will take place around twice weekly for up to four weeks. It is important to note that these procedures must accompany therapy and proper medication to be as effective as possible.

Following treatment

Studies have shown ECT to cause brain-changing effects similar to antidepressants more quickly. Patients often have to continue treatments following the initial procedure, though less frequently. Learn more about ECT by clicking here to read UMC’s ECT Patient’s Guide.