Electroconvulsive therapy

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a treatment for a range of mental health conditions including depression, bipolar disorder and other psychotic disorders. We support you through your treatment to help you return to a full and balanced life.

What happens during ECT

An anaesthetist, psychiatrist and treatment nurse are present during the procedure.

During ECT a carefully controlled electrical current is passed through the brain. This affects electrical activity in the brain, producing an improvement in depressive and psychotic symptoms.

ECT has proven to be helpful with people who do not respond to medication or counselling.

It is a very safe treatment and has been shown to be the most effective antidepressant for severe depression, as the treatment works by returning complex electrical and chemical processes in the brain – which are affected by mental illness – to normal.

What to expect on the day of treatment

Before treatment you are given a short-acting general anaesthetic and muscle relaxant to make the procedure more comfortable. The procedure only lasts for a few minutes and you will wake up shortly after.

Are there any side effects with ECT?

ECT involves several treatments spread over a few weeks. As with any treatment, ECT may have side effects ranging from mild to more severe.

A common and significant side effect is memory impairment. Many people report difficulty with memory, sometimes lasting for some weeks after treatment. A small number of people may feel disorientated and confused on waking after ECT. These effects settle within a few hours, particularly with help and support from nursing staff.

Side effects are more common after the initial ECT treatment and usually subside with subsequent treatment.

Benefits of electroconvulsive therapy

  • Fast acting relief from symptoms.
  • Suits people who can’t take medication for their condition.
  • Improves mood.

These benefits depend on your particular circumstances and require you to fully participate in necessary care and management. You should consult a specialist in this area before deciding whether treatment is suitable for you.