How does electroconvulsive therapy treat schizophrenia?

Douglas E. Severance, MD
Family Medicine
Scientists do not know exactly how electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) helps people with schizophrenia. According to the Mayo Clinic, ECT changes the brain chemistry in people with schizophrenia. During ECT, a person is sedated under general anesthesia. Electrodes are placed onto the person's scalp, and electrical currents pass through the electrodes into the person's brain. When ECT is performed, the person will have a brain seizure, causing brain chemical changes to take place. Since schizophrenia is caused by changes in brain functioning, ECT can be helpful to reduce some symptoms of the illness in a short amount of time. Over time, and with repeated sessions, ECT can reduce symptoms of severe mental illness.

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