Electroconvulsive Therapy

What is ECT?

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a procedure, done under general anesthesia, in which small electric currents are passed through the brain, intentionally triggering a brief seizure. When other forms of treatment or therapy do not help the patient overcome what he or she is going through, ECT is a treatment option that is sometimes used. This is commonly used for patients with severe major depression or bipolar disorder that has not responded to any type of medication.

The American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, the National Institute of Mental Health, and other similar organizations recognize the effectiveness of ECT when it comes to treating severe mental illnesses. Aside from treating severe major depression and bipolar disorder, ECT can also be used to treat:

List of Severe Mental Illnesses for ECT Treatment

  • ECT for Schizoprenia
  • Many physicians use ECT as a way to treat schizophrenia. ECT eases the condition’s symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized thinking. Even though ECT is mostly done to treat depression or bipolar disorder, it is believed that it is effective in treating psychosis.

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • ECT is used to treat severe depression and one of its symptoms includes suicidal thoughts. Because of its speed and cost-effectiveness, it is actually considered to be a cost-saving intervention. The greater and earlier the prescription of ECT in appropriately selected patients would lead to better mental health outcomes, including fewer suicides.

  • ECT for Catatonia
  • ECT is effective in all forms of catatonia. Some even believed that ECT should be the first-line treatment in patients with malignant catatonia, neuroleptic malignant syndrome, and in all catatonic patients. Early prescription of this treatment is encouraged to avoid continuous deterioration of the patient/s medical condition.

  • Severe mania
  • Severe mania, or extreme elation and high energy, often involve hallucinations, psychosis, delusions, and sleeplessness. ECT is an effective and safe treatment for mania especially for people whose manic episodes have responded poorly to pharmacotherapy.

  • Agitation and aggression in people with dementia
Agitation and aggression are one of the symptoms of dementia. The use of ECT as a treatment for agitation and aggression is described to be successful and effective. Findings from a recent open-label study indicate that acute ECT significantly decreased agitated and aggressive behavior by the third session.

ECT is generally safe however there are risks and side effects that you should take into consideration. These include:

  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Increase in heart rate and blood pressure
  • Muscle ache

Your psychiatrist will help evaluate and assess whether ECT is the treatment you need for your mental illness. If you’re located in southern California and you’re struggling with a mental disorder, it’s time that you give Dr. Herbst a call. He can help you determine the right and effective treatment option for your mental health condition.