By: by Mark Nowak, Director of Marketing & Public Relations at BryLin Hospital
The shock that could save your life
The truth about ECT therapy

by Mark Nowak, Director of Marketing & Public Relations at BryLin Hospital

Recently Dr. Oz dedicated an entire show to Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) in which he discussed The Shock That Could Save Your Life. He wanted people to know that ECT is more common than we realize, and noted that experts are saying it is incredibly effective for treating depression. ECT has also been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, where actress/author Carrie Fisher discussed her struggles with bipolar disorder since being diagnosed in her 20’s.

ECT is an approved, painless medical treatment that uses low levels of electricity to induce a brief seizure in a person. It is administered while the person is asleep under general anesthesia and given a muscle relaxant medication. A total of six to twelve treatments are usually recommended over a period of two to four weeks, depending on severity of symptoms. Many people notice an improvement after two or three treatments but full improvement may take longer. In comparison, response to most antidepressant medications may take several weeks or longer.

Unfortunately ECT has been marred by stigma and misconceptions based on movies like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. As depicted in that movie, years ago ECT treatments used high doses of electricity without anesthesia, causing memory loss, fractured bones and other serious side effects. Carrie Fisher says, “ECT gets an unfair rap from Hollywood. They portray it like it's a punishment, like if you were bad in the mental hospital. If you've been naughty, you're going to get ECT. But the truth is it's done me a lot of good, a world of good."

Today ECT is administered in a controlled setting, under anesthesia, to achieve the most therapeutic benefit with the fewest possible side effects. Sarah Hollingsworth Lisanby, M.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University School of Medicine agrees. Dr. Hollingsworth says, “ECT is the most effective and rapidly acting treatment available for severe mental illnesses and depression. In fact, remission and complete resolution of symptoms is reported by 70-90% of those treated with ECT, as opposed to medication with remission rates at around 20-30%.”

With approximately 100,000 patients receiving ECT in the U.S. each year, it’s quickly becoming a more accepted form of treatment for severe depression, mania or other psychiatric disorders. ECT is usually considered a treatment option when medications aren't tolerated or other forms of therapy haven't worked. However, ECT is far more valuable than just an intervention of last resort. “It is a safe and effective treatment option for patients and we have seen rewarding results in patients of all ages,” says Corinne Anzalone, Director of ECT Services at BryLin Hospital. The fact is, significant clinical improvement is often more certain with ECT today than with many other mental health treatment alternatives.

For more information, please visit or call BryLin Hospital’s ECT Department at 886-8200.

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