Q & A Library
Shock Treatment for Mild Depression?
What is your opinion of using electroconvulsive therapy for treating mild depression (meaning not suicidal and without weight loss) in a patient who cannot tolerate the side effects of antidepressant drugs?
Answer (Published 7/9/2004)
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), popularly known as shock treatment, is absolutely not indicated for mild depression. It is a drastic treatment with significant side effects that should be reserved for a subset of people with severe depression. If severe depression doesn’t respond to antidepressant medications or psychotherapy and is characterized by suicidal or homicidal thoughts, intractable insomnia, or significant loss of weight, ECT may be indicated. It can also be used for severe mania that doesn’t respond to medication. Common side-effects of ECT include temporary short-term memory loss, nausea, muscle aches and headaches. Some people develop longer-lasting memory problems.
The seizures that ECT triggers are believed to help the severely depressed by releasing neurotransmitters that improve the function of brain cells and, in turn, enhance mood.
I recommend the following treatments for the symptoms of mild to moderate depression:
In addition, experiment with acupuncture. The World Health Organization recognizes it as effective for treating mild to moderate depression.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
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