Treatment for treatment-resistant major depression – 3: Using electroconvulsive therapy

Depression is one of the leading causes of disability in America, leading to the feelings of hopelessness, despondency or guilt in millions of Americans. People from all walks of life in the country experience some form of depression, owing to factors such as lifestyle changes, prolonged work stress, uncaring relationship, etc. However, depression is not merely about being sad, isolated or distressed over an issue; instead, it is a serious mental disorder that needs immediate medical intervention. Sadly, not everyone battling with depression receives adequate treatment, which has huge implications on one’s physical health, mental health and longevity, in the long run.

Thus, the best approach is to spread awareness about early diagnosis and treatment of depression, as well as safeguard oneself from the unfortunate consequences of the mental health condition. While many people have stepped forward to seek treatment for the mental illness, numerous treatment centers across America are now equipping themselves to provide the relevant treatment to the vulnerable population. Despite the efforts, many people still do not respond to the treatment, which could be a sign of treatment-resistant depression (TRD) or treatment-refractory depression.

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) to treat TRD

Medically, TRD is defined as a major depressive disorder (MDD) that does not respond adequately to the prescribed antidepressants. Since standard treatments are not enough in this case, experts have been developing innovative treatment measures to combat the debilitating symptoms. Lately, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) has emerged as one of the best treatment methods for treating TRD.

Also referred to as electroshock therapy, ECT uses electric current to be passed through the brain to intentionally trigger a brief seizure. This results in significant changes in the brain chemistry, which, in turn, reverses the symptoms of certain mental illnesses.

Although the treatment method is often considered as harsh or cruel due to the use of electric shock on the patients, in reality, the patient’s body receives electric current only after being given a general anesthesia, which results in fewer side effects and risks.

How does ECT work?

Although the procedure requires the patient to stay in the hospital, it can also be done effectively on an outpatient basis. During the process, the patient is first administered with general anesthesia, and then, electrodes are fixed on the scalp through which an electric current is passed. This electric stimulation then reaches the brain to cause seizures, which, eventually, helps in relieving depressive symptoms. The seizures are further controlled with medication to prevent the patient’s body from shaking.

According to an old study, published in the journal Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavia in 1997, of the 39 people suffering from TRD, 71 percent of the patients responded positively to ECT after two to three weeks of the treatment, as compared to only 28 percent who responded to antidepressants after four weeks of the treatment.

Lead a depression-free life is possible

Depression is often neglected as many people consider it as just a phase that goes away on its own. However, depression tends to intensify with time. As a result, untreated cases of depression can lead to severe consequences, including suicidal thoughts and attempts. Therefore, it is important to recognize the symptoms of depression and seek treatment at the earliest.

If you or your loved one is struggling with depression, contact the Depression Treatment Helpline to find the top depression recovery centers in the U.S. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-619-7729 or chat online with our counselors to find the best rehabilitation centers for depression in your area.

Read the other articles of the series “Dealing with treatment-resistant major depression:”

  1. Using tianeptine
  2. Using Dalhousie serotonin cocktail