Skip to Content

Electroconvulsive Therapy


Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a treatment that sends a small electric current to your brain to cause a seizure. The seizure affects the chemicals in your brain, which may make your brain cells work better. ECT is used to treat certain conditions, such as depression, that do not get better after medicines or other therapies have been tried.



  • Antidepressants: You may be given this medicine to help decrease or prevent symptoms of depression.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him of her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Memory loss and headaches:

  • ECT may cause memory loss and confusion. Your confusion may go away in a short time, such as 1 hour after your treatment. You may lose your memory for 1 to 3 weeks, and some memories may be lost forever.
  • You may also get a headache after an ECT treatment. These headaches usually only last a short time. If you have a headache after ECT, ask your healthcare provider for medicine to make it go away. If more ECT treatments are planned for you, ask the healthcare provider to give you medicine before the treatments to help prevent headaches.
  • There is a greater chance that you will fall after ECT treatments. Ask someone to help you when you want to stand up or walk. Ask your healthcare provider for more information on how to prevent falls.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have severe pain in your back or neck.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have a severe headache that does not get better, even after you take medicine to treat it.
  • You have a stiff neck or trouble thinking clearly.
  • You have feelings of guilt or hopelessness, or thoughts of hurting or killing yourself or others.
  • You have shortness of breath, chest pain, or a fast heartbeat.

Ā© Copyright IBM Corporation 2018 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotesĀ® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.