Can ECT make depression worse?

In this guide, we will try to learn can ECT make depression worse. We will do this by understanding what is ECT, the uses of ECT. The guide will also explains the entire procedure of ECT from start to end to make the reader familiar with the treatment. Finally, we will look at the side effects of ECT in order to understand if ECT makes depression worse. The overall guide will show us that ECT does not make depression worse. In fact, it is the only treatment with minimum side effects used when no other treatment is working. 

Can ECT make depression worse?

No, ECT also known as Electroconvulsive Therapy, does not make depression worse. In fact, it is used in the treatment of depression and many other psychiatric disorders. It only causes certain side effects that are mentioned below in the article, but there is no evidence of it worsening the depression. 

What is ECT?

Electroconvulsive treatment (ECT) is a treatment, done under broad sedation, in which little electric flows are gone through the mind, purposefully setting off a short seizure. ECT appears to cause changes in brain structure that can rapidly turn around indications of certain emotional well-being conditions. 

ECT regularly works when different medicines are ineffective and when the full course of treatment is finished, however, it may not work for everybody. 

A large part of the stigma joined to ECT depends on early medicines in which high portions of power were managed without sedation, prompting cognitive decline, broken bones, and other genuine results. 

ECT is a lot more secure today. Despite the fact that ECT may in any case cause some results, it presently utilizes electric flows given in a controlled setting to accomplish the most advantage with the least potential dangers.

ECTs are given in safe conditions—typically in recovery rooms in clinics where clinical experts and equipment are available. An anesthesiologist a professionally trained psychiatrist, and psychiatric nurses give this treatment. 

Shortly after the treatment, the patient wakes up, is checked thoroughly by medical personnel, and is allowed to go back home or to the hospital.

What are the uses of ECT? 

ECT is mainly used in the treatment of depression after other treatments such as psychotherapy and medication do not work. In addition to this ECT is also used in the treatment of: 

Severe mania

A state of intense euphoria, agitation, or hyperactivity that occurs as part of bipolar disorder. Other signs of mania include impaired decision-making, impulsive or risky behavior, substance abuse, and psychosis.


It characterized by lack of movement, fast or strange movements, lack of speech, and other symptoms. It’s associated with schizophrenia and certain other psychiatric disorders. In some cases, catatonia is caused by a medical illness.

Agitation and aggression in people with dementia, which can be difficult to treat and negatively affect the quality of life.


Just as people with depression who are not responding to available treatments may benefit from ECT, those with schizophrenia who are not responding to antipsychotics may benefit from this treatment.

Parkinson’s Disease 

Research has also come to show that with other mood disorders, ECT is used in the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease. 

ECT may be a good treatment option when medications aren’t tolerated or other forms of therapy haven’t worked. In some cases ECT is used:

  • During pregnancy, when medications can’t be taken because they might harm the developing fetus
  • In older adults who can’t tolerate drug side effects
  • In people who prefer ECT treatments over taking medications
  • When ECT has been successful in the past

The procedure for ECT 

Before the process of ECT begins, a person is given: 

General anesthesia: this means that a person has to follow certain dietary restrictions. The intake of food and water to stop completely, in order for the treatment to begin. 

A brief physical exam.  This is basically to check the patient’s heart and lungs.

an intravenous (IV) line: the medical team of doctors and nurses will insert the patients with an IV line. 

Electrode pads placed on the head: these pads are used for safety. Depending on the treatment being bilateral or unilateral the pads are placed on the patient’s head. 

Toward the beginning of the system, you’ll get these drugs through your IV: 

  • A sedative to make you oblivious and ignorant of the methodology 
  • A muscle relaxant to help limit the seizure and forestall injury

Equipment used during the treatment for the monitoring of the patient include: 

A circulatory strain sleeve set around one lower leg prevents the muscle relaxant medicine from entering your foot and influencing the muscles there. At the point when the method starts, your PCP can screen seizure action by looking for development in that foot. 

Screens check your brain, heart, circulatory strain, and oxygen use. 

You might be given oxygen through a breathing device. 

You may likewise be given a mouth watchman to help shield your teeth and tongue from injury.

When you’re asleep from the anesthetic and your muscles are relaxed, the doctor presses a button on the ECT machine. This causes a small amount of electric current to pass through the electrodes to your brain, producing a seizure that usually lasts less than 60 seconds.

Because of the anesthetic and muscle relaxant, you remain relaxed and unaware of the seizure. The only outward indication that you’re having a seizure may be a rhythmic movement of your foot if there’s a blood pressure cuff around your ankle.

Internally, activity in your brain increases dramatically. A test called an electroencephalogram (EEG) records the electrical activity in your brain. Sudden, increased activity on the EEG signals the beginning of a seizure, followed by a leveling off that shows the seizure is over.

A few minutes later, the effects of the short-acting anesthetic and muscle relaxant begin to wear off. You’re taken to a recovery area, where you’re monitored for any potential problems. When you wake up, you may experience a period of confusion lasting from a few minutes to a few hours or more.

What are the side effects of ECT? 

Like every medication and treatment has certain side effects so does ECT. overall ECT is considered to be safer. Certain side effects include: 

Confusion. Following treatment, you may encounter a sense of confusion, which can last from a couple of moments to a few hours. You may not know where you are or why you’re there. Once in a while, confusion may most recent a few days or more. Confusion is by and large more recognizable in more older adults and grown-ups. 

Memory decline. A few people experience difficulty recollecting occasions that happened just before the treatment or in the weeks or months before treatment or, once in a while, from earlier years. This condition is called retrograde amnesia. You may likewise experience difficulty reviewing occasions that happened during the long stretches of your treatment. For the vast majority, these memory issues generally improve within two or three months after treatment closes. 

Physical Health.  At the time of an ECT treatment, a few people experience queasiness, migraine, jaw agony, or muscle throb. These by and large can be treated with prescriptions. 

Unexpected problems. Likewise, with an operation, particularly one that includes sedation, there are dangers of unexpected problems. During ECT, heart rate and circulatory strain increment, and in uncommon cases, can prompt genuine heart issues. On the off chance that you have heart issues, ECT might be more unsafe.

Apart from these, there are no other complications reported after the usage of ECT. therefore, it is in fact safer than any other treatment of depression. 

How long does it take for an ECT treatment? 

A solitary ECT session normally keeps going 60 minutes. This incorporates the time the patient will be in the treatment room (around 15-20 minutes) and the time spent in the recuperation room (roughly 20-30 minutes). 

Ordinarily, ECT (regardless of whether inpatient or outpatient) is offered a few times each week for a sum of six to twelve meetings. A few patients may require fewer treatment sessions. 

These meetings improve depression in 70 to 90 percent of patients, a reaction rate a lot higher than that of antidepressants. 

Despite the fact that ECT is viable, its advantages are fleeting. Thus, patients take antidepressants after ECT or may keep accepting ECT occasionally to forestall backslide.


In this guide, we have tried to learn can ECT make depression worse. We have done this by understanding what is ECT, the uses of ECT. The guide has also explained the entire procedure of ECT from start to end to make the reader familiar with the treatment. Finally, we have looked at the side effects of ECT in order to understand if ECT makes depression worse. The overall guide has shown us that ECT does not make depression worse. In fact, it is the only treatment with minimum side effects used when no other treatment is working. 

FAQs: Can ECT make depression worse?

Can ECT be used in treating  Anxiety? 

No, ECT is not used in the treatment of anxiety disorders alone. It can be used in the treatment of depression in combination with anxiety. But when it comes to anxiety alone, psychiatrists and other researchers believe that ECT might just worsen the symptoms of anxiety. ECT is helpful in reducing the depressive symptoms but can harm the person with anxiety especially obsessional thoughts or panic attacks.

Can ECT change your personality?

No, ECT does not change a person’s personality. In addition, it is not designed to treat those with just primary “personality disorders.” ECT does cause transient short-term memory — or new learning — impairment during a course of ECT, which fully reverses usually within one to four weeks after an acute course is stopped.

Does ECT kill brain cells?

When ECT is properly administered, brain damage does not occur. In fact, research has shown that ECT increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which stimulates brain cell growth.

Who is ECT Not recommended for?

Not everyone is a candidate for treatment even if they believe ECT could help them. For example, 
children under age eleven cannot undergo ECT for mental health disorders. 
People with heart conditions and people who cannot handle short-acting sedatives or muscle relaxers should not undergo ECT treatments.

What medications should be stopped before ECT?

 ECT induces seizure as part of the treatment. Therefore any medications that might raise seizure threshold or impede seizure propagation should be avoided completely if possible. If not the dosage must be reduced. 

Is ECT good for depression?

Yes, extensive research has found that ECT is good for uncomplicated severe major depressive disorder. 


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