The most common side effects are headache, nausea, muscle aches, disorientation and confusion. The confusion typically clears within one hour. Patients may develop memory problems such as difficulty in learning and retaining new information and remembering events that have happened before and while receiving ECT.
Memory problems especially ability to learn and form new memories improve in the weeks and months following the last ECT treatment. In some people, the memory problems can be more severe and irreversible. Unilateral ECT, a type of electrode placement, has been shown to have less incidence of memory impairment.