Can Electroconvulsive Therapy Treat Depression?

Playing Is Electroconvulsive Therapy Making a Comeback?

The Doctors welcome psychiatrist Dr. Domenick Sportelli to discuss electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), where small electric currents are passed through the brain casuing a small seizure, which can potentially treat mental health issues like depression.

Dr. Sportelli explains that ECT has changed in recent years and in the past, it was overused and improperly used on patients. He says the use of ECT was vastly evolved in the last century. He explains that it is used with patients who are severely depressed and often in cases with people who refuse to take other medications first. He says patients who undergo this treatment are not conscious and are under general anesthesia and only asleep for just a few minutes.

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We also welcome Julie, who has used ECT to treat her depression. She tells us she first tried psychotherapy and medication, but those were not successful.

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"I was spiraling downward and completely lost my zest for life," the wife and mother of two shares, revealing that she attempted suicide 3 times. She says she experienced some short-term memory loss and confusion from the ECT. To combat the depression from overtaking her life again, she says she is vigilant about taking care of herself in other ways including getting proper sleep, exercise, and nutrition, along with staying connected to her support system. She also tells us she uses a low-dose medication to also treat her depression.

Dr. Sportelli says the treatment has an 80 percent response rate, is FDA-approved, and is usually covered by most types of insurance. He also says that ECT is available at many hospitals and anyone undergoing the treatment would first get a full medical workup.