ECT is used for the treatment of severe depressive illness and it may be life-saving, because it acts more quickly than drug treatments. The greater the number of typical features of depression, the possibility grows for a good response to ECT. It is particularly effective in treating depression with psychotic features. It is also used in the treatment of certain types of schizophrenia and in mania. It is essential to continue drug treatment with anti-depressants after a successful course of ECT.
It is considered a very safe method of treatment. There are no absolute contra-indications to its use. There is no evidence that it causes brain damage or permanent intellectual impairment and the risk of death is similar to that of general anaesthesia for minor surgical procedures (2 deaths per 100000 treatments).