Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for depression that has not responded to other treatments

Insufficient evidence – there either hasn’t been any research on this treatment option or there is a small amount of evidence with unclear conclusions.

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) involves an electrically induced seizure under general anaesthetic and is used as a treatment for severe, life threatening depression in adults who haven’t responded to other treatments.  

It is hardly ever used to treat children or young people in the UK. It is only recommended for young people whose depression is very severe and hasn’t improved after many other treatments and for young people with life-threatening symptoms such as severe suicidal behaviours or extreme self-neglect (for example not eating or drinking).  

ECT is not recommended for children aged 5-11 years. If ECT is being considered for someone under 18 then the Care Quality Commission need to be contacted (an organisation which oversees healthcare in the UK) and a Second Opinion Appointed Doctor will need to carry out a second assessment. ECT will only be given to someone under 18 years if all these people agree that it’s the right treatment option. This is still the case if you have already agreed to the treatment. 

The main risk with ECT is that it can affect your memory and cause some memory loss. There has been very little research on ECT in young people and it isnt known how ECT affects young people whose brains are still developing.  

Treatments outlined on these webpages may not be available in every local area. It’s important that you discuss with your GP or mental health professional the treatment options available to you. You can also search for services near you on our Youth Wellbeing Directory and find out more about referral processes here.

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