ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy)


Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a process, which is done under general anesthesia, in which small electric currents are transferred through the brain, intentionally generating a short seizure. ECT is known to cause changes in brain chemistry that could rapidly reverse symptoms of some specific mental health conditions.

ECT usually works when other treatments fail to impress or when the full course of therapy gets completed. However, it might or might not work for everyone.

ECT is much safer today. Though ECT might still cause some side effects, it now uses electric currents provided in a controlled situation to attain the most beneficial results with minimum risks.


Before the Therapy

To prepare for ECT, people would need to stop eating and drinking for a specified time. Doctors might also urge people to alter certain medications. The doctor would assist people in changing their plans.

On the day of the procedure, the doctor would provide people with general anesthesia and muscle relaxants. These medications would assist in preventing convulsions associated with the seizure activity. People might fall asleep before the process and might not even remember it afterward.

During the Therapy

The doctor places two electrodes on the scalp. A controlled electrical current is then passed between the electrodes. The current causes a brain seizure, which is a momentary change in the brain’s electrical activity. The seizures would last between 30 and 60 seconds.

During the procedure, the heart rhythm and blood pressure would be tracked. As an outpatient procedure, people might be allowed to go home on the same day.

After the Therapy

Most people get benefitted from ECT in as few as 8 to 12 sessions over 3 to 6 weeks. Some patients might require it once-a-month maintenance treatment, although people might need a changed maintenance schedule for the same.


ECT has minimum risks involved with it. However, if there are any risks, they might be:

  • Confusion
  • Loss of memory
  • Physical side effects
  • Medical complications


No one knows for sure how ECT helps treat severe depression and other mental illnesses. What is known, though, is that many chemical features of brain function are changed during and after the seizure activity. These chemical alterations might build upon one another, somehow reducing symptoms of severe depression or other mental illnesses. That is why ECT is most effective in people who receive a full course of multiple treatments.


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