Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)

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Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)


Narrator: Many people with depression need only a good therapist. Some, medication. But for others, the answer may be electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT.

Joanne Ericksen: I didn't want to eat, didn't care how I looked, didn't want to shower. It was just very devastating.

Narrator: Joanne Ericksen experienced depression and despair. It would come in cycles, and for three months every year, she felt numb.

Joanne Ericksen: I would stare and I'd realize that a couple of hours went by and I was just sitting there, just doing nothing.

Narrator: There are many misconceptions about ECT, but the fact is it's the gold standard therapy for severe depression. ECT doesn't hurt, it's very safe, and it works faster and often better than most medications, with fewer side effects.

Joanne has ECT every month to stop symptoms from coming back. First, she has a mental and physical exam. Next, she gets an IV sedation that will put her to sleep and relax her muscles. Then, she has electrodes attached to her temples. When all is ready, a small electrical current painlessly runs through her brain and resets broken circuits.

Side effects of ECT include slight memory loss and fatigue the day of treatment. Most people receive ECT three days a week for two or three weeks to stop symptoms, then have monthly maintenance treatments to avoid recurrence.

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Last Updated: 2010-07-08
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