What is electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for schizophrenia?

Douglas E. Severance, MD
Family Medicine
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may sometimes offer rapid relief for some people with schizophrenia. For instance, if a person with schizophrenia is actively suicidal, ECT may reduce this tendency. It can also help to reduce symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions. ECT is a therapy used to alter the chemistry of people's brains. In decades past, ECT caused injuries, brain damage, and other serious side effects. Today, ECT is considered safe and offers help for some people when no other treatments are working. ECT does come with some risks, including:

• Loss of memory
• Nausea and vomiting
• Aches and pains
• Confusion
• Other medical problems, like increasing heart rate and blood pressure

People who receive ECT are usually unconscious, under general anesthesia. After two or three treatments that last less than 15 minutes each, many people with schizophrenia notice an improvement in their symptoms. 

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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.