Trying Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
The discussion of mental health treatment may often be centered around psychotherapy and medication. While these treatment methods can be effective for many people, others may find that they don’t impact their symptoms as hoped.
Therefore, becoming aware of other treatments that are available, such as brain stimulation and ECT, may be helpful. One such treatment is called Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT). Although somewhat controversial, there may be benefits to this practice.
What Is Electroconvulsive Therapy?
Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) is a brain stimulation therapy that uses an electric current to treat severe symptoms of depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia, particularly when other treatment methods have not been effective.
ECT is a medical procedure that involves administering electrical pulses to the brain while an individual is under a short-acting anesthetic or a muscle relaxant. It may simulate seizure activity in the brain.
Electroconvulsive therapy may cause changes in brain chemistry and brain function that can significantly alleviate symptoms associated with major depression and other problematic mental health conditions..
How Does ECT Work?
Researchers are still unsure how ECT improves symptoms in individuals with severe mental illness. Several theories are that the electrical activities produced in ECT might trigger new brain cells to develop, shift the activity of current brain cells at the synapses, and increase neurotransmitters such as dopamine or serotonin.
Individuals typically undergo between 6-12 sessions of ECT, depending on how their symptoms respond to the multiple treatments.
Is ECT Effective?
ECT has been proven to be an effective treatment method for individuals with severe mental illness. According to extensive research, ECT significantly reduces symptoms of depression for about 80% of individuals. ECT early treatments may also be considered for people with bipolar disorder who are not responding to other forms of ongoing treatment.
Risks And Benefits
While ECT may be ocnsidered generally safe, it also comes with several significant risks. This is why individuals who take part in this form of treatment are constantly monitored using a blood pressure cuff as well as other standard monitoring techniques. If you decide to partake in this treatment, you may first want to read up on the side effects and potential concerns published by research journals.
Following an ECT procedure, an individual might experience side effects from general anesthesia, including nausea, headache, and confusion. They may also experience memory loss or amnesia, according to information from clinical trials.
Short-Term Memory Loss
One of the medical complications that can occur from ECT is short-term temporary memory loss in some individuals who have trouble remembering events from the weeks or months leading up to the ECT treatment. Many individuals find that their memory problems subside after a few months, while others may experience more long-term challenges with ECT.
Consider weighing these potential risks with the benefits of the ECT treatment. Individuals who don’t experience symptom relief from medications or cannot tolerate medication may want to consider the treatment.
Potential Benefits To ECT
Since ECT and maintenance therapy in a controlled setting has been proven highly effective against treatment-resistant depression, it may be worth trying for those resistant to medications or therapy. ECT treatment may improve symptoms faster than medications, which could take several weeks to work. Also, ECT’s effectiveness is recognized by the American Psychiatric Association and the APA task force. The National Institute of Mental Health also discusses the efficacy of ECT for severe mental health disorders.
You may also find that the treatment aids in other distressing symptoms, such as anxiety, hallucinations, or mania. Talk to your primary care physician and mental health care team provider before deciding. They may help you determine whether the treatment will work for you.
Brain Stimulation As A Last Resort
Typically, ECT is considered after an individual has not seen a substantial improvement in their symptoms from medication or therapy. Therefore, these methods may be recommended first before considering ECT.
If you continue to experience severe depression or psychosis after trying other treatment methods, ECT may be a good fit for helping to manage these.
Therapy As An Alternative To ECT
Suppose you’re experiencing depression and want support but don’t feel comfortable with the risks of ECT. In that case, a mental health counselor may offer resources, personal attention, and support to benefit you during this time. If you’re uncomfortable visiting a therapist in person or find it difficult to leave home, online therapy may be a suitable choice.
Online therapy has been found to be as effective as in-person therapy, and a University of Zurich study found that it can be more effective in the long term. The study showed that depression could no longer be detected in 53% of online therapy users by the end of treatment (compared to 50% of in-person therapy users). At three months post-treatment, this number increased to 57% for those who had used online therapy (and decreased to 42% for in-person treatment).
Another review of multiple studies about online CBT found that the treatment significantly reduced anxiety and depression symptoms and was influential in treating PTSD, panic disorder, and specific phobias. If you feel more comfortable telling your symptoms and experiences in person, you might consider signing up for an online therapy platform such as BetterHelp.
ECT may be effective in treating severe mental illness. However, because it can come with considerable side effects, it may be recommended only for those who have tried other treatment options and didn’t see improvement after a long period.
Online therapy is an effective option for treating depression for many people. Part of this success is due to the virtual nature of online therapy. Studies show that most individuals feel most comfortable at home.
If you’d like to try therapy as a treatment option for depression or other mental health concerns, consider taking the first step by reaching out to a counselor.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
What Mental Illness Does ECT Treat?
Electroconvulsive therapy is a medical treatment mainly used to treat those who live with bipolar disorder or major depression. In most cases, ECT brain stimulation is only used when a person has not responded to previous treatment. Electroconvulsive therapy is administered while a patient is under anesthesia and involves brief electrical pulses that stimulate the brain. This has benefited mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and major depression, and electroconvulsive therapy is generally accepted as a beneficial treatment for these conditions. If you believe this form of treatment may work for your condition and no other treatment options have had success, reach out to a doctor and look into your options for electroconvulsive therapy.
What Is The Success Rate Of ECT?
Electroconvulsive therapy is a highly effective form of therapy that has helped as many as 80-85 percent of patients who experience it. For many, the effects and symptoms of major depression or severe depression disappear for many months after the treatment. This form of brain stimulation is still being researched. Still, it’s widely believed to be effective when reducing the risk of major symptoms from severe depression or bipolar disorder. If you believe this therapy may be beneficial, focus on trying to find a psychiatrist first. However, note that electroconvulsive therapy is a form of treatment that is typically only used when all other treatment methods have failed, due to the nature of its side effects.
What Are The Negative Side Effects Of ECT?
Electroconvulsive therapy effectively treats the symptoms of various mental health conditions, but there have been some reported side effects from this transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Symptoms such as memory problems, confusion, physical side effects, nausea, and low blood pressure have been reported in the past but are not considered common. Find a doctor and speak with them about the risks of bilateral electroconvulsive therapy or unilateral ECT if you wish to understand the potential side effects.
How Long Is An ECT Session?
Most ECT sessions can be expected to last around one hour. A patient is in the treatment room for around 15-20 minutes and then spends the rest in a monitored recovery room. Still, given the nature of electroconvulsive therapy treatment through brain stimulation, a doctor may request you to stay for a little more time to ensure your present health.
Can ECT Change Your Personality?
Electroconvulsive therapy will not change a person’s personality and is not used to treat personality disorders. After undergoing ECT, one may come in for a medical examination by a doctor a few times a week shortly after, but this is to ensure there are no short-term memory problems or other side effects.
Does ECT Kill Brain Cells?
When ECT is administered properly, there is no research to support the killing of brain cells. In fact, some research has shown that electroconvulsive therapy can increase brain-derived neurotropic factors that stimulate brain cell growth.
Does Insurance Cover ECT Treatments?
Most insurance plans will cover ECT costs, but not all.
Under the American Psychiatric Association, ECT is qualified as a necessary treatment for severe psychiatric disorders. As such, it is covered in many cases.
If you are unsure whether your insurance will cover treatment, find a doctor or reach out to your insurance to inquire.
Typically, ECT is used multiple times a week for around three to four weeks to treat psychiatric disorders. In most cases, all this treatment or most of this treatment will be covered by an insurance agency.
How successful is ECT treatment?
Is ECT still used today?
Does ECT harm the brain?
Does ECT reset the brain?
Who should not get ECT?
How many sessions of ECT is normal?
What not to do after ECT?
What are two complications of ECT?
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