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Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
What is ECT and how does it work?
ECT is a medial treatment that does not involve drugs. It is generally used
on patients with severe depression, and is a last resort if psychotherapy or
medications are proven ineffective. ECT should only be used if the patient
is at risk of committing suicide or at risk of causing severe harm to
themselves and others. It is used as it is often a lot quicker than using
This type of therapy works by placing electrodes on the temple of the
non-dominant side of the brain (so the left side if you're right handed and
the opposite side if you are left handed), and one is placed on the forehead.
The patient will then be administered with barbiturate, which will knock
the patient unconscious. Then a small amount of electric current (about 0.6
amps) is passed through the brain. This current produces a seizure lasting
around 1 minute, which affects the entire brain. ECT is usually administered
3 times a week.
ECT claims to be an effective treatment that can save lives when
other treatments fail to be effective, especially for those who
suffer from severe depression.
Comer (2002) found that 60-70% of ECT patients improved after
having the treatment.
Sackheim et al (2001) found that 84% of the patients they studied
relapsed within 6 months of having ECT.
Side effects can include impaired memory and headaches. Datto
(200) found that there were also psychological effects. He found
that 30% of patients who had ECT therapy reported that ECT had
resulted in permanent fear and anxiety.
Rosa et al carried out a meta-analysis of 17 papers of patients who
had received ECT, over half of them felt that they had not been
thoroughly explained about the procedure (Debriefing)
In the UK, many patients are made to go through the procedure.
(Informed consent) The Mental Health Act (2007) states the
administration of ECT requires either the patient consent or a second
opinion, unless treatment is deemed necessary to save patients life.