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Electroconvulsive Therapy As An Alternative Treatment For Depression

Posted on August 15, 2011 in ECT Therapy

Depression is described as a form of mental disorder that involves tremendous mood swings, sadness, and feelings of despair, loneliness, insecurities, and physical pains caused by unknown source. Until this day, there is still no absolute answer to what really causes depression. However, experts say that it may be caused by a combination of a person’s biochemical environment, his personal experiences, his genes and other psychological factors.

Accordingly, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) has revealed that the brain of an individual suffering from depression appears dissimilar to the brain of an individual who doesn’t suffer from depression. The part of the brain that relates to sleep, thinking, appetite, behavior, and mood do not show to function normally. The neurotransmitters, the chemicals that human brains use to communicate, also seem imbalanced. Unfortunately, MRI was not able to show why depression happens in the first place.
The fact that there is a great chance that a person will develop depression if a member of his family suffers from depression, suggests that there is a genetic connection. The risks of depression are manipulated by numerous genes working together with the surroundings and other factors.

Treatment for Depression

It is good news that depression is extremely treatable no matter how severe. The sooner depression is detected, the more effective the treatment will be. It is proven by studies that immediate treatment minimizes the recurrence of depression.

Since some medical conditions and medications can cause similar signs as depression, it is best that a doctor should determine the other possibilities when undergoing a physical test and complete diagnostic evaluation. If a person is diagnosed with a certain form of depressive illness, possible treatments will be offered.

There are several ways of treating depression and the most common are psychotherapy and anti-depressant medicines. However, records show that anti-depressants cause numerous side-effects such as:

  • The feeling of nausea, although it goes away after a while.
  • Headache right after taking the medication and then this too will go away.
  • Feeling of agitation and jitters.
  • Difficulty in finding sleep that may run for over a week.
  • Decrease in libido both for men and women, which makes it harder to attain orgasm.
  • Some may experience constipation and drying of mouth.
  • Blurring of vision and daytime drowsiness that goes away after some time.

Electroshock Treatments – Alternative Treatment of Depression

Most experts say that psychotherapy is a good form of treatment for those with mild to moderate depression. However, those patients with severe depression need a combination of psychotherapy and medication. But, due to the side effects of some medicines, it is not advisable to always use this form of combination treatment. Therefore, many doctors recommend Electroconvulsive Therapy or ECT as an alternative depression treatment.

ECT, a way of stimulating spasm type seizures by electric shock in order to treat depression, was developed in 1938. During its early stage, this procedure was commonly called depression electroshock therapy. ECT treatments results showed considerable success rates both in old and young patients. It has been popularly used for treating major forms of depression.

ECT and Depression

ECT has been proven as a safe alternative in treating depression. However, there are still a number of side effects; some are due to the electroconvulsive shocks, the muscle pains are due to anesthesia, slight amnesia, and headaches. Even though several side effects from ECT happen, these do not prevent its use for treating depression. Actually, ECT is generally considered safe for a patient with numerous other medical conditions. The only possible contraindications are for patients with heart disease, hypertension and intracerebral masses.

Brain tumor is considered a contraindication to ECT, but there are some patients with brain tumors that underwent ECT and were no worse. This is similar to some patients who suffered from hypertension and heart disease, but still were successfully treated using ECT for their depression. Over-all, it is imperative that an analysis on the trade-offs involving the benefits and risks for each patient should be done. The family of the patient and the patient should be well-informed of the possible complications and side effects of ECT.

How ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy) Works

Very little is known about how ECT works. A study used PET (Position Emission Tomography) to observe what happens to a patient before and after the administration of ECT. The study found out that a number of regions in the individual’s brain had reduced glucose metabolism. This means that the reduction of glucose may cause an antidepressant and anticonvulsant effect, but the observation was denied later after proving that the potency of some medicines are not affected.

The cost of electroconvulsive therapy might be more higher than other forms of treatment, but for major cases it is still the best form of treatment. Therefore, the value of the cost is justified by the benefits of ECT treatment provided to the patient.