How effective is electroconvulsive therapy as a schizophrenia treatment?

Douglas E. Severance, MD
Family Medicine
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) can be an effective schizophrenia treatment for some people. Usually, it is only used for people who have not responded well to antipsychotic medications or for those who cannot take the medications. People with schizophrenia who are violent, suicidal, or completely unable to care for themselves may benefit most from the treatment.

ECT works by changing the way the brain functions. An electrical current causes a brain seizure that affects the chemistry of the brain, reducing debilitating symptoms of the illness. Symptoms may start to subside after two or three ECT treatments. A full course of treatment typically requires several ECT sessions a week for two to four weeks. After the course of treatment is completed, the person may resume medications and therapy or continue with maintenance ECT.

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