Electroconvulsive Therapy FAQs

ECT Questions & Answers

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), formerly known as electroshock therapy, is a psychiatric treatment most useful in treating psychotic and mood disorders. Find answers to frequently asked questions about ECT treatment below.

Most insurance plans that offer coverage for psychiatric disorders at least partially reimburse the cost of ECT. Contact your insurance provider to confirm your coverage before starting treatment.

Typically, you’ll receive 2 - 3 ECT treatments per week for a total of 6 to 12 treatments. The duration of the treatment depends on how severe your symptoms are and how quickly you respond to the treatment.

Some patients experience temporary confusion immediately following treatment which can last from a few minutes to a few hours. They might also report physical effects, such as headaches, muscle pain and nausea. Other side effects can include minor memory, adverse reactions to anesthesia, blood pressure problems like hyper- and hypotension and heart problems (in rare cases).

Despite their rarity, these side effects add to the controversy of ECT therapy. The National Institute of Mental Health, the American Psychiatric Association and the U.S. Surgeon General all endorse ECT as a valuable tool in the treatment of certain psychiatric disorders and severe depression.

Research has found ECT to be most useful in the treatment of major depression. ECT can produce substantial improvement in 80% of patients with uncomplicated but severe depression. It’s also used for other mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorderschizophrenia and other mood disorders.