What is ECT?
ECT is a treatment used to treat depressive illnesses. It involves sending a small current of electricity through the brain for a few seconds which causes a seizure in the brain. The seizure alters the brain chemistry which helps clear the depression. The patient is anesthetized for about 5 - 10 minutes while the procedure is taking place. It is not painful. Between 6 and 12 treatments are usually needed to be of any help, though some people can respond well to the treatment after 2 or 3.
ECT is often used when patients are in real danger due to the severity of their depression, have not recovered from taking antidepressants, or who have taken a very long time to recover. ECT is often a quick boost to aid the recovery.
The common side effects of having this treatment are:
after waking from the anesthetic some people are confused and upset, some people are simply relaxed.
memory loss, usually the memory loss disappears within a few days or weeks.
ECT does not have long term side effects on memory or intelligence.
For ECT you have to give your consent to having the treatment. Before signing the consent form the doctor should run through the reasons why you are having ECT and what the treatment involves, and should be able to answer your questions about it. You can refuse to have ECT, and even withdraw your consent at any time.
ECT is a very successful treatment. 8 out of 10 patients respond well to a course of ECT. ECT can help relieve the depression but cannot take away your problems. But after a course of ECT you may feel stronger and more able to overcome these problems.