If you’ve tried antidepressants, you are making healthy lifestyle choices, you are involved in therapy, and none of it works, your physician may consider you a good candidate for electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
During an ECT treatment you’ll receive a stream of electric currents to the head that go into the brain and induce a short seizure. The result is changes in your brain chemistry that may reignite lagging or malfunctioning communication processes.
An ECT treatment is like rebooting a computer that’s not working properly. When you restart the system the system reboots (restarts) and in many cases the problem goes away when you turn the computer back on.
Does ECT hurt?
It sounds seems like crude treatment – zapping your brain with electrical currents – but it is highly effective for some people. And the newer treatments use better equipment and technology so it’s much safer than it used to be. Early treatments involved extremely high doses of electricity that were given without pain medications or anesthetics. This resulted in major issues such as fractured bones and neurological problems like memory loss.
Today, patients are given multiple treatments instead of one giant one. They receive the treatment under general anesthesia, so it is painless. The patient is asleep for most of the treatment. When they wake up they may experience some side effects – like brief memory loss and confusions. Most side effects are short term and will go away within one or two weeks.
In general, ECT treatments are administered two to three times per week for three to four weeks. Most patients receive somewhere in the range of six to 12 treatments. The number of treatments depends on the severity of your symptoms.