Electroconvulsive therapy is a treatment of last resort for severe clinical depression, mania and catatonia. It uses electrical current to induce a series of seizures in the patient. Although once widely questioned as a form of therapy, and often abused in the past, its clinical effectiveness has been well established even though its mechanism remains unknown.
ECT is usually used together with anti-depressants as using ECT alone is generally ineffective. It also tends to have a temporary effect, often lasting no more than six months.
ECT does have severe side effects, including memory loss and possible loss of cognition over time.
Because of its limited benefits and adverse effects, it will not be given to patients who do not provide informed consent and is never given involuntarily.