Electro Convulsive Therapy
ECT (Electro Convulsive Therapy) is a treatment for severe episodes of major depression, mania, and some types of schizophrenia. It involves the use of a brief, controlled electrical current to produce a seizure within the brain. This seizure activity is believed to bring about certain biochemical changers which may cause your symptoms to diminish or to even disappear. A series of seizures, generally 4-12, given at a rate of two or three per week, is required to produce such a therapeutic effect. Sometimes a smaller or larger number may be necessary.
ECT works by affecting the same transmitter chemicals in the brain that are affected by medications. As more effective medications have been developed, the use of ECT for the treatment of depression has decreased. Although there have been many advances in the treatment of mental disorders in recent years, ECT remains the most effective, fastest and/or safest treatment for many cases, particularly when alternative treatments, usually medications are either not effective or not safe, or when a person is very likely to commit suicide. Your doctor will discuss with you why ECT is being recommended in your case and what alternative treatments may be available. ECT is most effective in major depression, where it has a strong beneficial effect to patients. Still there is no guarantee that ECT, or for that matter, any treatment will be effective.
All treatments have risks and side effects; however, not treating your depression also carries potentially significant risks. Prior to ECT patients will undergo a careful medical, psychiatric and laboratory evaluation to make sure that the treatments can be administered in the safest, most effective manner possible. Medications may be adjusted to minimize the risk and maximize the effectiveness of the treatments. For most patients the side effects of ECT are relatively minor.