Electro-convulsive Therapy (ECT), termed shock therapy in the 1940s and 1950s, is a type of treatment used in cases of resistant or severe depression. It is often the last resort following a line of treatments (medication, talk therapy, etc.).
ECT is the induction (or encouragement) of a seizure using an electrical stimulus (or electrode) applied to the scalp to create shock-like waves to the brain. Anesthesia or a muscle relaxant is used and a device is placed between the teeth to prevent loss of teeth.
Many patients also awake unable to remember anything, often suffering from memory loss. Historically, broken bones have resulted in addition to persistent depression in rare cases. In historical cases, patients have not only lost teeth but had experienced cracked or chipped teeth.
ECT has become a very controversial treatment for mood and psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. The controversy stems from two sides:
- People who believe the treatment is helpful, and
- People who have experienced the treatment and believe it is devastating
Controversy is also found among mental health professionals and neuroscientists who believe in or totally reject the treatment as a “cure.” Many studies claim that ECT can be a helpful option for people with severe mental illnesses so long as they return for repeated treatments or utilize medication and ECT as a combined treatment. As a result of so-called safer practices, there has been a resurgence of interest in ECT. Anti-ECT groups state that they would never try ECT or go back for treatment again.
A mental health “advocacy group” in the UK conducted a study on individuals who had received ECT and found that a former patient declared:
There are two kinds of ECT:
- Bilateral: Electrodes are placed over both temporal (or temple) areas of the head. Shocks are administered to both sides of the temple area.
- Unilateral: Electrodes are placed on top of head and one side of temporal area. This “technique” was utilized to reduce the negative neuro-cognitive effects of the shocks.
I encourage you to become informed about ECT before considering it as a treatment. It is a frightening option and quite disturbing to watch. Unfortunately, many are so ill that they roll the dice, while others aren’t too enthused to trust in the induction of seizures to help them.
Know both sides of the argument and give wise consideration to all information. Understand that different sources want to either promote ECT or discourage support of it.
All the best
Wexner Medical Center. (n.d.) Department of Psychiatry: Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT). Retrieved February 17, 2013, from http://psychiatry.osu.edu/patientcare/ect/.