Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), also known as electroshock, is a well established, albeit controversial, psychiatric treatment in which seizures are electrically induced in anesthetized patients for therapeutic effect. Today, ECT is most often used as a treatment for severe major depression which has not responded to other treatment, and is also used in the treatment of mania (often in bipolar disorder), catatonia and schizophrenia. It was first introduced in the 1930s and gained widespread use as a form of treatment in the 1940s and 1950s; today, an estimated 1 million people worldwide receive ECT every year, usually in a course of 6–12 treatments administered 2 or 3 times a week.
Electroconvulsive therapy can differ in its application in three ways: electrode placement, length of time that the stimulus is given, and the property of the stimulus. The variance of these three forms of application have significant differences in both adverse side effects and positive outcomes. In a study, ECT was shown clinically to be the most effective treatment for severe depression, and to result in improved quality of life in both short- and long-term. After treatment, drug therapy can be continued, and some patients receive continuation/maintenance ECT. However that study is contradicted by other studies referenced in this article. The American Psychiatric Association and the British National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence have concluded that the procedure does not cause brain damage in adults. Certain types of ECT have been shown to cause persistent memory loss, whereas confusion usually clears within hours of treatment. Informed consent is a standard of modern electroconvulsive therapy. Involuntary treatment is uncommon in countries that follow contemporary standards and is typically only used when the use of ECT is believed to be potentially life saving.
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