Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) can be seen as quite controversial and it is sometimes portrayed dramatically on TV and in films. It is still used to treat some symptoms of mental illness, but its use has significantly decreased in recent years and it is used far less than medication and talking therapies. This factsheet explains what ECT is and when it is used.

  • ECT involves an electrical current being passed through the brain, causing a fit/seizure. This is done under a general anaesthetic and the use of muscle relaxants.
  • It should only be used for certain conditions – severe depression, catatonia (lack of, or excessive movement) or mania. It should not be used for the general treatment of schizophrenia.
  • It is recommended only in severe cases when other treatments have been ineffective or the condition is potentially life threatening.
  • ECT can have side effects, particularly memory loss. This is usually short-term, but people can experience memory loss for longer periods.
  • ECT should not be given to you without consent and you should not feel pressured into giving consent. This also applies if you are ‘sectioned’ under the Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA)
  • ECT can be given without consent if you are detained under the MHA, but only if it there is a risk to life or to prevent a serious deterioration in your condition.
  • If you are too unwell to make a decision about ECT (known as lacking capacity), then it can only be given to you without consent with the approval of a Second Opinion Appointed Doctor (SOAD).
  • You can make an advance statement on future decisions about treatment. If you have an advance statement refusing ECT, this cannot be overridden unless it is an emergency.

Read the full article here: Electroconvulsive _Therapy _ECT_Factsheet ( selfhelp )

Author: Dr Susan Kriegler