What is ECT?

ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) is a treatment designed to ease severe depression, bipolar disorder, and some other mental illnesses. For many patients, this therapy gives significant relief.

In ECT, an electrical energy device sends electric pulses to the brain. This causes a brief seizure in the brain (a period of rapid nerve impulses) that lasts about 30 seconds to 2 minutes. During ECT treatments, you will receive general anesthesia — medication that causes you to sleep through the treatment and feel no sensation. Medication is also used to prevent or suppress the muscle movements that otherwise come with seizures.

While ECT doesn’t work for everyone, research shows it is usually more effective than other treatment methods for severe depression, with fewer side effects overall. Of course, as with any medical treatment or procedure, ECT also has side effects and risks.

Talking with your doctor about ECT

As with many medical treatments, ECT can cause side effects and complications. It’s important to weigh the benefits of ECT against these risks, and also consider the risks posed by not treating your condition. Talk to your doctor to learn more about the most common potential benefits, risks, and alternatives for electroconvulsive treatment (ECT).

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ECT

Learn more about Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) by visiting our Behavioral Health service line site.