Biomedical Therapy for Depression

Grace Vaughn, Reporter

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a medical procedure, usually done under anesthesia, in which small electric currents pulse through the brain, triggering a brief seizure. Electroconvulsive therapy tends to cause changes in the brain’s chemistry that can reverse the symptoms of different mental health conditions. These chemical changes can build on each other and somehow reduce symptoms of mental illnesses.

ECT works the best when the other treatments are not successful and when the treatment is completely finished. Therefore, it may not work for everyone. Most of the stigma attached to electroconvulsive therapy is based on the earlier treatments, where the doses of electricity are higher and administered without anesthesia. This could lead to memory loss, fractures in bones, and other side effects. 

Electroconvulsive therapy is so much safer today. It uses electric currents in a controlled setting to reach the most beneficial outcomes with fewer risks. It can provide fast improvements in more severe symptoms of many mental health conditions. Electroconvulsive therapy can be used to treat severe mania, catatonia, depression, and treatment resistant depression. 

ECT could be a great treatment option when other medications aren’t tolerated and/or different forms of therapy do not work. Electroconvulsive therapy could be used for older adults who cannot tolerate side effects of drugs, during pregnancy, and in people who prefer it or when it has been successful. Some side effects could include: confusion, physical side effects, memory loss, and medical complications. 

After you are asleep from the anesthesia and muscles are relaxed, your doctor will press a button on the machine. It will cause a small electrical current to pass through your brain, which will produce a seizure that typically lasts around 60 seconds. Since the anesthesia and your muscles are relaxed, you will remain unaware of the seizure and relaxed. Internally, the activity in your brain will increase dramatically. An electroencephalogram records and monitors the electrical activity in brains. A rapid and sudden increase in activity on the EEG indicates a seizure. 

Some people started to notice improvement in symptoms after about six treatments. Though electroconvulsive therapy may not work for everyone, full improvement could take longer. You’ll still need ECT to prevent recurrence. ECT may be the next big thing for helping people with depression and several mental illnesses.