Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) ECT is mainly used to treat people with severe depression. Some people do not get better when they are treated with anti-depressant drugs and psychological therapy.
ECT is only used when a person is at risk of suicide or is so depressed that they stop eating, drinking, or taking part in routine everyday activities. It is prescribed as a course of treatment by a psychiatrist if the psychiatrist has tried all other possible treatments and these have not worked.
Modern ECT Electrode’s are placed on the side of a patient’s head just above the temples. The patient is given anesthetic injections and a muscle relaxant to stop muscle contractions that can lead to broken bones. A small electric current is passed through the brain.
The electric current produces a grand mal seizure similar to an epilectic fit.
The patient is given a course of ECT usually between 3 and 15 treatments. ECT has the same risks as any minor surgical treatment.
ECT is very controversial. One reason is that ECT used to be dangerous and led to intense seizures that broke bones. Old ECT
Another reason is how ECT has been portrayed in the media One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
Modern ECT is very different but there can still be serious side effects. Modern ECT
Limitations Possible physical side effects of ECT include impaired memory, cardiovascular changes and headaches (Datto, 2000). Psychological effects may be evident as well. The Department of Health report (1999) found that among those receiving ECT within the last two years, 30% reported that it had resulted in permanent fear and anxiety. Source: Psychology AS; The Complete Companion
ECT can save lives ECT can be an effective treatment for life threatening depression. Comer (2002) found that 60-70% of ECT patients improve after treatment. Sherwin Nuland, a surgeon, who suffered from severe depression discusses in this talk how ECT saved his life with no damaging side effects. TED talk on ECT Strengths
Ethics People with a serious mental illness who are at risk of self harm or are thought to be a risk to other people can be sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
This means they can be taken to a place of safety, usually a secure psychiatric unit, and given treatment against their will.
They may not consent to the treatment they are given and may be held against their will.