Advantages and Disadvantages of Electroconvulsive Therapy


Overview: Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) (commonly referred to as shock treatment) is a treatment that sees an electric current sent through the brain of an individual. The aim is to trigger an epileptic seizure, with the ultimate objective to relieve symptoms of a mental health problem. The human body is fully restrained during the procedure, which also involves a general anesthetic. Electroconvulsive therapy is normally a last resort. Yet for some people, ECT can be an excellent type of treatment. Choosing whether or not to go ahead with ECT isn’t an easy decision – in this article we outline the advantages and disadvantages of ECT.


It is well worth being very informed about your choices with ECT


When is ECT Used?: ECT isn’t used frequently. ECT is normally only offered when a patient has life-threatening depression, haven’t responded to treatment (medication and talking treatments), or is in a catatonic state. You will always have to give your consent to undergo ECT. The only exception to this is when the Mental Capacity Act of 2005 or the Mental Health Act of 1983 suggest otherwise. ECT does have a good success rate – with one survey noting a 90% success rate. Success in ECT is generally measured by whether or not ECT has improved their symptoms or not.



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Advantages of ECT: Here are some advantages of ECT.


  • ECT is fast-acting, and is technically quicker than any other type of treatment. On the occasions it does work, it works immediately.
  • ECT is often used when an individual’s depression is life threatening. Therefore, when it works, ECT can prevent death and get someone’s functioning level back to normal.
  • ECT can lift your feelings, which should result in increased happiness in those around you.
  • Having suicidal thoughts is a horrible situation to be in – ECT can help relieve some of these thoughts.


Disadvantages of ECT: Here are some disadvantages of ECT.


  • There are some suggestions that ECT isn’t a permanent solution – and that it isn’t a long-lasting solution.
  • There are some side-effects and risks to ECT.
  • ECT can’t prevent depression from returning.
  • ECT also doesn’t treat the underlying causes of depression.


Should I have ECT?: If you are offered ECT, it is worth making a decision after considerable thinking. Unfortunately, as you will likely be very depressed – you might not be in the right position to make an informed choice. Ultimately, it is your choice as to whether or not you want to undergo ECT. It is worth weighing up all of the advantages and disadvantages listed above.


What Happens in the Procedure?: There will be a range of staff on hand to help. Moreover, wherever you go to have your treatment will need to have met many demands in terms of the facilities on offer. The procedure includes an anesthetic (via injection) and restraints. You cannot eat or drink anything for around six-seven hours before your treatment. No metal should be on your person, or hairspray, or make-up. You should tell the team if you have any fillings or implants. Electrodes will be placed on your temples, while a mouth guard will be placed on you. Finally, the ECT will take place – with around 60 electric pulses delivered per second – causing a seizure. ECT shouldn’t last more than five seconds, and then the subsequent seizure will take place – generally lasting around a minute. Treatments will often last twice a week for a few weeks. 12 treatments is the maximum.


Risks: Despite the positives associated with ECT, there are some side effects and general risks involved. Memory loss is the most common adverse reaction to ECT. However memory loss is usually short-term. It is worth noting that there have been some cases in which memory loss is permanent. In the immediate aftermath of ECT treatment – confusion, headache, sickness and a loss of appetite is common. Drowsiness too, in part due to the anesthetic – is very common. In terms of longer-term risks, there is the chance that depression will return.


Hopefully, ECT can help life become enjoyable again


See Now: Electroconvulsive Therapy Overview