Non-suicidal self-injury and electroconvulsive therapy: Outcomes in adolescent and young adult populations

Kelly Rootes-Murdy, Marianna Carlucci, Michael Tibbs, Lee E. Wachtel, Martin F. Sherman, Peter P. Zandi, Irving M. Reti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Electroconvulsive (ECT) therapy is a highly effective treatment for severe depression. Although the clear majority of patients respond to ECT, not all do, and we still lack good predictors for ECT outcome, especially in adolescents and young adults. One clinical variable that has been associated with reduced likelihood of ECT antidepressant response in adults is comorbid borderline personality disorder. As self-injurious behavior is often a feature of borderline personality disorder, we hypothesized that adolescent and young adult patients with a history of non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI), who were being treated for major depression with ECT, would have a poorer response than patients without such a history. Methods: We conducted a retrospective chart review of 48 patients treated with ECT for depression at The Johns Hopkins Hospital between the ages of 14 and 25. Results: Initial analyses showed that the presence of NSSI was not associated with ECT outcomes. However, sub-group analyses suggested that it was associated with response to ECT and overall remission among female patients. Specifically, the results suggested that in adolescent and young adult female ECT patients, the presence of NSSI was associated with lower odds of response (OR: 0.04; 95% CI: 0.0004, 0.81, p = 0.03) and remission (OR: 0.09; 95% CI: 0.0000, 0.81, p = 0.03), and a greater mean number of treatments (5.83; 95% CI: 0.27, 11.39, p = 0.04) compared with patients without NSSI. Conclusions: Clearly, the finding that NSSI may be associated with poorer ECT outcomes among female patients needs to be replicated. Nonetheless, our data suggest caution when considering an adolescent or young adult woman for a course of ECT.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)94-98
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - May 1 2019


  • Adolescent
  • Depression
  • Electroconvulsive therapy
  • Non-suicidal self-injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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