Where do you get ECT?
ECT is given in a hospital. You may be an inpatient (staying overnight) or an outpatient (just coming into hospital for the day).
What happens during ECT?
You will be put to sleep with a general anaesthetic and be given a medicine which relaxes your muscles.
Your psychiatrist will place two electrodes on your head and deliver a short electrical pulse. The treatment takes about 20 seconds. You will be asleep and unaware during the treatment.
You will then be moved to the recovery ward to wake up from the anaesthetic. The whole procedure takes around 10-20 minutes and if you’re an outpatient at the hospital you will be able to go home the same day.
On average around 8-12 sessions of ECT are given in a treatment course, with a few days between sessions. You may need more or fewer sessions depending on your condition.
Who can give ECT?
Only approved psychiatrists with special training should give ECT.
All psychiatrists in Australia and New Zealand follow strict regulations to ensure that ECT is performed safely. These regulations are contained in state Mental Health Acts and guidelines issued by Chief Psychiatrists and Health Departments.
How does ECT work?
The small electrical current increases the level of electrical activity in the brain. Current scientific evidence suggests that ECT may rebalance the chemicals in the brain that cause depression and other mental illnesses.
Is ECT safe?
ECT is a very safe treatment.
The risks are similar to any minor medical procedure given under general anaesthetic.
Will ECT cure depression?
Around 60-70% of people who have ECT for depression say their symptoms clear completely. Up to 80% say they get some benefit.
However, there is a high chance that depression will come back in the weeks or months after a course of ECT.
Follow up medication, psychological treatment (talking therapy) and help for dealing with stress are essential in staying well.