Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a treatment for severe symptoms of depression, mania and catatonia. This section explains what ECT is, when it is used and your rights to refuse this treatment.
- ECT uses an electrical current which passes through your brain, and causes a fit or seizure.
- Health professionals use ECT to treat conditions such as severe depression, catatonia or mania.
- Doctors may offer you ECT if other treatments do not work or your symptoms are very severe.
- You have to agree to have ECT, even if you are in hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA).
- Doctors can only give you ECT without your agreement in very strict situations.
- If you lack mental capacity and your doctor wants to give you ECT they need a Second Opinion Appointed Doctor (SOAD) to agree.
- You can make an advance decision about treatment you might have in the future. If you make an advance decision refusing ECT doctors have to follow this, unless it is an emergency.
This section covers:
- What is ECT?
- What is ECT used for?
- Are there side effects?
- Do I have to agree to have ECT?
- What should my doctor tell me about ECT?
These pages are created by Rethink Mental Illness' Advice and Information Service in accordance with the Information Standard. Last reviewed in January 2017, next review January 2020.
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