How Electroconvulsive Therapy Works to Treat Major Depression


sad depressed womanLike many other mental health disorders, depression can widely range in severity. Because of this, a treatment method that works for one person may not have much of an effect on another.

When symptoms of depression become severe and other treatment options have not been successful, your behavioral health specialist might suggest a treatment approach called electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

Signs of Severe Depression

Although feelings of sadness, lethargy and social isolation are some of the symptoms most associated with depression, not everyone who struggles with this disorder experiences those same symptoms. In the case of severe depression, you might experience:

  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Feelings of hopelessness or constant dread
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Hallucinations or delusions

If you’re struggling to cope with these symptoms of major depression and other treatments haven’t worked, you may benefit from electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

What Is Electroconvulsive Therapy?

ECT is considered to be a safe and effective treatment method when other treatments for depression don’t work.

ECT is a procedure that is performed under general anesthesia in which controlled electric currents are carefully directed through the brain. This affects the chemicals in your brain that are linked with symptoms of depression. Generally speaking, ECT produces the best results after a series of treatment sessions, and the occasional maintenance treatment may be necessary to keep that same outcome.

Although there are some mild side effects of ECT, including headaches, muscle pain and temporary memory loss, this treatment has become much more advanced than when it was first introduced in the 1940s.

If you need help coping with depression, the first step is to work with a mental health specialist to accurately diagnose your condition and recommend the most appropriate treatment option.