Electroconvulsive Therapy

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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. Electroconvulsive therapy is not something used ubiquitously, instead it is very rarely used. In this article, we take a general look at Electroconvulsive therapy.

 

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Electroconvulsive therapy is generally a last resort

 

History: ECT has been around for many decades. At first, ECT was used heavily. Unfortunately, the treatment was often completed without anesthetic and a lack of consent. Again unfortunately, ECT gets a negative depiction in the media – often being seen as a savage act. Yet ECT has come on a long way, and isn’t used so much in the contemporary age.

 

When is ECT Used?: ECT is only used on occasion. ECT is mainly helpful if someone fits a range of criteria. This includes:

  • Having severe depression that is life-threatening
  • Haven’t responded to a range of medication options
  • Haven’t responded to talking treatments

 

However, it can also be used if:

  • A patient is locked in a catatonic state. This is where they are essentially frozen in a set position, or repeating an endless mantra of words.

 

Or:

  • If a patient is locked in a long-lasting psychotic episode.

 

Does it Work?: ECT may seem scary – but does have a proven track record of working. ECT does seem to effect the parts of the brain that are linked to depression. A survey in 2013 resulted with over 90% of respondents stated that ECT improved their symptoms. However 1% stated it had made them worse.

 

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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. We have an article here that looks at the advantages and disadvantages of ECT. Ensure that you have exhausted all other treatment types prior to having ECT. This includes a range of Psychotherapy and antidepressant options. You will need to sign a consent form to undergo ECT. You will have the chance to change your mind at any point.

 

Who Can Have ECT? Before undergoing ECT, an individual will need a full medical examination. A doctor will ask you questions regarding your medical history, pregnancy status, medication history and allergies. They can then see if you are eligible for ECT. Answering questions truthfully is crucial – as it can help the ECT be tailored to your needs – it isn’t a one-size fits all approach.

 

During 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.

 

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Hopefully, ECT can help life become enjoyable again

 

Mental Health Act Notes: The only time you can be given ECT without your own consent is under the terms of the Mental Capacity Act of 2005 and the Mental Health Act of 1983. This will mainly concern someone who doesn’t have the capacity to give consent.

 

Read Now: Advantages and Disadvantages of Electroconvulsive Therapy

 

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