Depression - Other Treatment
For cases in which medication and/or psychotherapy does not help alleviate a person's treatment–resistant depression, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be useful. ECT, formerly known as "shock therapy," once had a bad reputation.
But in recent years, it has greatly improved and can provide relief for people with severe depression who have not been able to feel better with other treatments.
Before ECT is administered, a patient takes a muscle relaxant and is put under brief anesthesia. He or she does not consciously feel the electrical impulse administered in ECT.
A patient typically will undergo ECT several times a week, and often will need to take an antidepressant or mood stabilizing medication to supplement the ECT treatments and prevent relapse.
Although some patients will need only a few courses of ECT, others may need maintenance ECT, usually once a week at first, then gradually decreasing to monthly treatments for up to one year.
ECT may cause some short-term side effects, including confusion, disorientation and memory loss. But these side effects typically clear soon after treatment.
Research has indicated that after one year of ECT treatments, patients showed no adverse cognitive effects.30
What efforts are underway to improve treatment?
New potential treatments are being tested that give hope to those who live with depression that is particularly difficult to treat, and researchers are studying the risk factors for depression and how it affects the brain.