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The Use of Electroconvulsive Therapy in Eating Disorders

A Systematic Literature Review and Case Report

Pacilio, Rachel M. BS*; Livingston, Robin K. MD; Gordon, Mollie R. MD

doi: 10.1097/YCT.0000000000000599

Objective The aim of this study was to determine the potential for safe and effective use of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) in treating eating disorders (EDs) in patients with and without comorbid psychiatric disorders.

Methods A review of the literature pertaining to the use of ECT in patients with EDs was performed through PubMed, PsycINFO, and MEDLINE. Search terms included “Electroconvulsive Therapy,” “ECT,” and “Electroshock” each combined with “Anorexia Nervosa,” “Bulimia Nervosa,” “Binge Eating Disorder,” “Eating Disorder,” “EDNOS,” and “OSFED.” Additionally, a case in which ECT was used in treating a patient with anorexia nervosa is presented.

Results Eighty-nine articles were reviewed, and 11 were selected for inclusion. These articles detailed 14 patients with active EDs who received ECT during their course of treatment. Of these patients, 13 were noted to have shown improvement in disordered eating after receiving ECT, and no adverse medical outcomes were reported. Our case detailed an additional patient who benefitted from ECT.

Conclusions There are limited data supporting the use of ECT in treating EDs; however, there is evidence to support that ECT is safe in this population and has been effective in cases of patients with AN with and without psychiatric comorbidities as well as binge eating disorder. More research is needed for treatment guidelines.

From the *School of Medicine

Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Baylor College Medicine, Houston, TX.

Received for publication December 11, 2018; accepted February 22, 2019.

Reprints: Rachel M. Pacilio, BS, 1 Baylor Plaza, Houston, TX 77030 (e-mail:

The authors have no conflicts of interest or financial disclosures to report.

Online date: April 23, 2019

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