Electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) is the most controversial treatment for Bipolar Disorder in modern psychiatry today. It is also the most misunderstood form of therapy for patients with the disorder, mostly due to lack of knowledge; in fact, many patients incorrectly believe that electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) is comparable to the electric chair—that the patient feels the electric shocks as they are passed through his/her body.

In electro-convulsive therapy (ECT), an electric current is passed through the patient’s brain to produce a seizure. The goal is to relieve the severe depression experienced by the patient with Bipolar Disorder. The patient, in reality, experiences absolutely no pain; in fact, they are under general anesthesia and feel nothing, as they are put to sleep before the treatment and do not wake up until they are in the recovery room.

Electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) is believed in highly by many psychiatrists who are convinced that it is the last-line therapy for patients with Bipolar Disorder for whom all other therapies have failed. When seriously depressed bipolar patients, for whom no other treatment is effective or available, have consulted the psychiatrist, electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) is suggested as the 'last hope' for these patients.

Critics of electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) have described it as a crude tool used by psychiatrists to 'cure' patients with Bipolar Disorder; especially by those critics who still believe psychiatric medication, however high the dosage or whatever the side effects, to be the best line of defense against the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder.

Electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) advocates defend it as an effective, even life-saving therapy, for patients of Bipolar Disorder who refuse high dosages of psychiatric medication, and those for whom electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) is a last resort. They would argue that it is a suitable treatment because of its immediate effects upon the major depressive episodes of Bipolar Disorder.

The purpose of electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) on a long-term basis is the prevention of relapse or recurrence of episodes of Bipolar Disorder. After the initial short-term (several week) course of treatment, the patient may be brought back to the hospital after several months (usually at least six months) for maintenance doses of electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) therapy sessions to continue to stabilize their Bipolar Disorder.

Electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) treatments are done in a hospital setting, Same-Day Surgery, as an out-patient, performed by a psychotherapist or doctor. There are always nurses and an anesthesiologist in attendance as well. Treatments are given over a period of several weeks, every other day.

Electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) side effects are few. The main side effect is memory loss; however, its main effect is short-term memory, and improvement is seen after a short period of time and is rarely permanent.