Is electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) used to treat depression?

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Dr. Tarique D. Perera, MD
Psychiatrist (Therapist)

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be used to treat depression when treatments like antidepressants and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) have failed, says Tarique Perera, MD, a psychiatrist with Contemporary Care of Connecticut.

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), a procedure in which controlled seizures are induced under general anesthesia to alter brain chemistry, is usually reserved for patients with severe depression for whom antidepressants have been ineffective or who are considered to be in danger of suicide. Because it is relatively fast-acting, ECT's major role is in "jump-starting" treatment. It often produces a loss of recent memory, which usually resolves over time.

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Practitioner

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is sometimes used to treat individuals with severe depression. These people may be suicidal, anorexic, or psychotic (hearing or seeing things that are not real). ECT may be used by pregnant women with severe depression who are often unable to take traditional antidepressants. ECT is very effective, quick, and can relieve depression within minutes. Normally, it can take several weeks for a person to feel an antidepressant's full benefits.

ECT is not a first-line treatment, such as mood-stabilizing medications, and is used only after all treatments have been exhausted.

Continue Learning about Depression Treatment

Depression Treatment

Depression Treatment

Because it is a multi-faceted condition, treatment for depression is multi-faceted as well. Minor depression can often be treated with therapy and a few simple lifestyle changes, while chronic or major depression treatment can req...

uire medication in addition to therapy. In some severe cases, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be used. It's important to work with your mental health professional to determine which course of treatment for your type of depression is most appropriate.
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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.