What is ECT?
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a useful treatment if you have severe depression, and sometimes it is lifesaving. Many people have a negative impression of ECT from media portrayals based on the way it was used several decades ago, but ECT is now a recommended option for people with very severe depression who are at risk of dying from suicide or through not eating or drinking. It is given in hospitals only.
During ECT, a brief, carefully controlled electric current is passed through the brain using electrodes on the scalp. A general anaesthetic is always given beforehand, so you are not conscious during the treatment, and a muscle relaxant is also given. ECT is usually given two or three times a week, for six-to-14 sessions. You can feel disoriented straight after ECT, and it often causes some short- or long-term memory problems.
Read more about ECT
For more information
- Therapeutic Guidelines: psychotropic. Version 6. Melbourne: Therapeutic Guidelines Limited, 2008. www.tg.org.au/index.php?sectionid=48 (accessed 23 February 2012).
- Ellis P; Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists Clinical Practice Guidelines Team for Depression. Australian and New Zealand clinical practice guidelines for the treatment of depression. Aust N Z J Psychiatry 2004;38:389–407. www.ranzcp.org/images/stories/ranzcp-attachments/Resources/Publications/CPG/Clinician/CPG_Clinician_Full_Depression.pdf
- Sackeim HA, Prudic J, Fuller R, et al. The cognitive effects of electroconvulsive therapy in community settings. Neuropsychopharmacology 2007;32:244–54. www.nature.com/npp/journal/v32/n1/full/1301180a.html