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Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a medical procedure in which a small, carefully controlled amount of electric current is passed through the brain to treat symptoms associated with certain mental disorders. The electric current produces a convulsion for the relief of symptoms associated with such mental illnesses as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, acute psychosis, and catatonia.

Electroconvulsive Therapy ECT has a higher success rate for severe depression than any other form of treatment. It has also been shown to be an effective form of treatment for schizophrenia accompanied by catatonia, extreme depression, mania, or other affective components. There’s been a resurgence of interest in ECT because it has evolved into a safe option, one that works. It can be life-saving & produce dramatic results. It is particularly useful for people who suffer from psychotic depressions or intractable mania, people who cannot take antidepressants due to problems of health or lack of response & pregnant women who suffer from depression or mania. A patient who is very intent on suicide, and who would not wait 3 weeks for an antidepressant to work, would be a good candidate for ECT because it works more rapidly. In fact, suicide attempts are relatively rare after ECT.

The American Psychiatric Association’s Practice Guidelines for the Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders discusses the use of ECT in the treatment of major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Electroconvulsive therapy is administered to provide relief from the signs and symptoms of these and occasionally other mental illnesses. ECT is used routinely to treat patients with major depression, delusional depression, mania, and depression associated with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. It is most closely associated with the treatment of severe depression, for which it provides the most rapid relief available as of 2002. In addition, patients suffering from catatonia, neuroleptic malignant syndrome, and Parkinsonism may also benefit from the procedure.

ECT may become the treatment of first choice for depression if a patient with severe depression or psychotic symptoms is at increased risk of committing suicide and has not responded to other treatments. Although antidepressant medications are effective in many cases, they may take two to six weeks to begin to work. Some patients with mania and schizophrenia may not be able to tolerate the side effects of the antipsychotic medications used to treat these disorders. In addition, some patients may be unable to take their prescribed medications. For these individuals, ECT is an important option. ECT is also indicated when patients need a treatment that brings about rapid improvement because they are refusing to eat or drink, or presenting some other danger to themselves.

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