Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is the most controversial treatment in modern psychiatry. Many people envision “shock therapy” a violent procedure such as the one portrayed in the movie, “One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest.” Today, however, the treatment is safe and painless, although not totally without risk given the possibility of memory loss. Among the people who should consider ECT are the following:
1. Persons who are treatment resistant
ECT is by far the most effective treatment available for depression. It is often used on people who are “treatment resistant,” or who have not responded to any medications. People typically respond to medications 40 percent to 70 percent of the time, which may require several trials of different medications. Of those treatment-resistant persons, approximately 85 percent improve with ECT.
2. Persons who are suicidal or severely depressed
If a person is suicidal or severely depressed, ECT is appropriate to consider since most people feel better as fast as after the first or second treatment. Compare that to medications that can take up to 12 weeks to work. For that reason ETC is the first-line treatment in an emergency, when a person is suicidal, psychotic, not eating, or catatonic.
3. Persons who cannot tolerate medication side effects
ECT is considered for persons who cannot tolerate the side effects of medications, especially elderly and pregnant women. All the typical side effect of antidepressants – nausea, fatigue, headaches, tremors, dry mouth, drowsiness, agitation – are not associated with ECT.
Originally published on Sanity Break at Everyday Health.