Electroconvulsive therapy offers a safe and effective option for people who suffer from mental illness

Although many individuals suffer through occasional bouts of depression that can be managed by medication or other treatments, millions of people are affected by major depression, a debilitating mental illness that can prevent a person from participating in the activities of daily living.

According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, major depressive disorders affect approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population 18 and older, in a given year. Major depression is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, helplessness, fatigue and worthlessness; suicidal thoughts; and a lack of interest in activities once enjoyed such as going to work, spending time with friends and participating in hobbies.

For people suffering from major depressive disorders, also known as severe depression, everyday tasks such as getting out of bed, eating or taking a shower can seem overwhelming. The good news is that major depression is a manageable and treatable disease.

Time Tested

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a safe and effective form of treatment for adults suffering from major depression and other severe mental illnesses. ECT procedures are conducted in Washington Adventist Hospital’s state-of-theart surgical unit by a highly trained clinical team. During an ECT treatment, patients are given general anesthesia and a muscle relaxant before electric currents are delivered to the brain, causing a mild seizure. The procedure lasts five to ten minutes.

ECT has been used to treat severe mental illness in the U.S. since the 1940s. In the last 70 years, psychiatrists have made significant enhancements to the delivery of treatment and aftercare procedures. Today, ECT is provided to nearly 100,000 people annually. People who receive treatment often include those who have not responded to traditional therapy and medication or those who cannot tolerate the side effects associated with psychotropic medication.

“One of the benefits of ECT is that it provides rapid stabilization of severe depression symptoms,” says Gebrehana Zebro, MD, a psychiatrist and lead for the ECT program. “Many patients often begin feeling relief and resume normal sleeping and eating habits after just a few treatments.”


Before considering ECT, talk to your doctor to determine if you meet criteria for treatment. If your doctor recommends ECT, he or she must provide a complete medical examination, including a physical examination, a neurological examination, an electrocardiogram and blood work, to Washington Adventist Hospital before scheduling the procedure.

What to Know More About This Treatment?

To learn more about electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) at Washington Adventist Hospital call 301-891-5600.