What Are the Side Effects of Electroconvulsive Therapy?


Quick Answer

Side effects of electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, include memory loss, confusion, headache, jaw pain and muscle ache, reports Mayo Clinic. The side effects are primarily related to incorrect administration, improperly trained staff or misuse of equipment, according to WebMD.

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After an ECT treatment, the patient may wonder where and why he is there. This confusion may last for several days and is more common in older people. Some people may also experience retrograde amnesia, a condition marked by difficulty remembering past events. The patients can also experience increased blood pressure and heart rate, causing severe heart problems.

Only about one in 10,000 people die from this treatment, and this figure is considered much lower than the 15-percent rate of suicide in patients with severe depression, says Healthline.

Electroconvulsive therapy treats bipolar disorder, major depressive disorders, and conditions that cause hallucinations, paranoia and delusion, explains Healthline. Unlike many medications, ECT can relieve symptoms of psychiatric symptoms quickly, and the patient may require only one or two treatments. It is not clear why this treatment is so effective, but some researchers suggest that it corrects an imbalance in the chemical messenger system of the brain. Treatment involves physical examination, blood tests and an electrocardiogram to check the condition of the heart, notes Mayo Clinic.

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