A retrospective case series of electroconvulsive therapy in the management of comorbid depression and anorexia nervosa

Tal Shilton*, Adi Enoch-Levy, Yanai Giron, Amit Yaroslavsky, Revital Amiaz, Doron Gothelf, Abraham Weizman, Daniel Stein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Major depressive disorder (MDD) is common in anorexia nervosa (AN), associated with worse outcome and greater suicide risk. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is highly effective in the treatment of MDD refractory to antidepressive treatment. We describe a case series of female adolescents with AN receiving ECT for MDD resistant to treatment and/or with severe suicide risk. Method: We retrospectively analyzed the files of all 30 adolescent females hospitalized in our department because of AN between 1998 and 2017 and treated with ECT. Severity of eating disorder (ED) and depressive symptoms was retrospectively assessed using the Clinical Global Impression-Severity Scale. Results: Patients were severely depressed and suicidal on admission. All were resistant to antidepressants. A significant deterioration in depression, with severe suicidality, occurred from admission to pre-ECT, with concomitant improvement in ED symptoms and increase in body mass index (BMI). Significant improvement in depressive and ED symptoms and increase in BMI occurred following ECT, continuing to discharge. Adverse effects were mostly minimal. Fifty-three percentage of the patients were rehospitalized within the first year after ECT, mostly because of deterioration of depression and attempted suicide. Several years after discharge, 46.6% of the patients had no evidence of depression, suicidality, and ED-symptomatology, and another 23% had only evidence of ED symptomatology. Discussion: ECT is safe and well tolerated in AN with severe comorbid treatment resistant MDD and/or with increased suicide risk. Many AN patients undergoing ECT may be remitted at long-term follow-up.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)210-218
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2020


  • anorexia nervosa
  • eating disorders
  • electroconvulsive therapy
  • major depressive disorder


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