Understanding electroconvulsive therapy‐related anxiety: a prospective study

J. Obbels, K. Vansteelandt, E. Verwijk, S. Lambrichts, F. Bouckaert, P. Sienaert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Aims of study: Although ECT-related anxiety is experienced by a significant proportion of patients, it remains understudied. Our aim was to study the course of ECT-related anxiety during ECT.

Methods: 74 patients with unipolar or bipolar depression, referred for ECT, were included. ECT-related anxiety was assessed the morning before each ECT session using the ECT-related Anxiety Questionnaire (ERAQ).

Results: : Female patients reported more anxiety than men (F (1,64.6) = 3.95, P = 0.05). Patients with a psychotic depression were more anxious before the start of ECT (F(64.8) = 4.57, P = 0.04), but experienced a significant decrease in ECT-related anxiety (t (63.9) = -3.63, P = 0.0006), whereas patients with a non-psychotic depression remained stable on anxiety during their ECT course (t (63,9) = 0.76, P = 0.45). In addition, we found a significant correlation between the decrease of ECT-related anxiety and the decrease of depression-severity (r = 0.35; P = 0.04).

Conclusion: There are individual differences in ECT-related anxiety trajectories during ECT. Both female patients and patients with psychotic depression experienced more ECT-related anxiety before the start of ECT. The severity of ECT-related anxiety decreased significantly in patients with a psychotic depression, but remained stable in patients without a psychotic depression during ECT. In addition, patients who showed a stronger decrease in depression-severity also showed a stronger decrease in ECT-related anxiety. A better understanding of ECT-related anxiety-trajectories can help in designing anxiety-reducing interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-140
Number of pages9
JournalActa psychiatrica scandinavica
Issue number2
Early online date31 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2020


  • ECT
  • anxiety
  • depression

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