How does electroconvulsive therapy treat bipolar disorder?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

It sounds scary and Frankenstein-esque, but electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a type of therapy that uses electric shock to change your behavior and provide you with rapid symptom relief. During ECT, a shock to your brain causes a small, controlled seizure, which affects how your brain functions afterwards.


There are a couple theories about how inducing a seizure helps treat bipolar disorder:

1. The seizure activity affects the brain’s chemical messengers, called neurotransmitters, including dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, which are implicated in bipolar disorder.

2. The seizure activity affects stress hormone regulation, which (as we all know) plays a role in energy, sleep, appetite, and most importantly, mood.

Continue Learning about Bipolar Disorder Treatment

What should I do if my loved one is bipolar and won't take his medication?
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MDDr. Mehmet Oz, MD
This is a difficult question and one that many concerned relatives all over the world are probably a...
More Answers
How can I stick with my medications for bipolar disorder?
Ruth White, MPHRuth White, MPH
The key factors that contribute to your bipolar medication compliance are patience and hope that...
More Answers
How Is Bipolar Treated?
How Is Bipolar Treated?
Can a Person with Bipolar Disorder Get "Well"?
Can a Person with Bipolar Disorder Get "Well"?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.