What if I Need More Help?

ECT is an effective procedure for treating severe mania as well as serious depression. Learn how ECT works and the side-effects of ECT.

ECT is an effective procedure for treating severe mania as well as serious depression. Learn how ECT works and the side-effects of ECT.

Gold Standard for Treating Bipolar Disorder (part 20)

If you have exhausted the more traditional bipolar disorder treatments, there are alternative treatments that may offer some relief.

ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy)

Before you read the following section, you may need to let go of the overwhelmingly negative portrayal of ECT seen in movies or sensationalized in books. In reality, ECT is a proven and often used treatment for serious depression and manic episodes as well as for bipolar disorder that has not responded to the more traditional treatments. ECT is a procedure where a short application of electric current to the brain induces a seizure. The patient awakens minutes later, does not remember the treatment or events surrounding the treatment, and is often confused. Some statistics state that this confusion typically lasts for only a short period of time while others show that some people given ECT have persistent short-term memory loss.

How Does ECT Work and What are the Concerns?

It's thought that ECT and antidepressants work in the same way. Antidepressants normalize neurotransmitters and ECT does the same, but much quicker. In terms of safety, ECT is considered very safe by many in the medical community, while others consider ECT treatment very risky because of the chance of severe memory loss (though this is rare). This does not mean that ECT is necessarily dangerous or should not be used. It means that if you're considering ECT, you should carefully read all that you can and know the benefits as well as the risks. Recent research suggests that ECT along with certain drugs may be effective for treatment-resistant bipolar disorder depression. ECT is certainly a treatment to explore with an ECT specialist if you feel you've exhausted all of your options.

What is Vagus Nerve Stimulation?

Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) was originally used for hard to treat epilepsy. In 2005, the FDA approved a VNS device to treat adult patients with long-term or recurrent major depression that has not had an adequate response to four or more adequate antidepressant treatments and/or ECT treatment regimes. At this time, there is no FDA approval for use as a bipolar disorder treatment. As with any treatment, researching the procedure and then talking with a healthcare professional is your best option.

next: Current Research (part 21)

APA Reference
Fast, J. (2009, February 13). What if I Need More Help?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Last Updated: June 2, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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