The Truth about Electroshock Therapy


Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) involves inducing a seizure in the brain by passing electric currents through it.

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) involves inducing a seizure in the brain by passing electric currents through it. Electrode pads are placed on the patient’s head and electric current is applied either on one or on both sides of the brain. I know; it sounds graphic. However, modern-day ECT as a treatment method follows strict guidelines and the patient is placed under anesthesia, so they don’t feel a thing. ECT is typically used to treat depression, catatonia, mania, and schizophrenia. However, it is not the first choice of treatment. Oftentimes, ECT is the last resort after a patient’s symptoms have failed to respond to all other forms of treatment. Studies have shown ECT to be superior to a broad range of antidepressants in its effectiveness for dealing with major depression. However, ECT is rarely given alone. It is often used in combination with other treatments like psychotherapy and medication. Why Shock Therapy Appears Scary ECT has a bad reputation for many reasons. Firstly, ECT has a somewhat dark history. In the past, people were subjected to Electric shocks without muscle relaxants or anesthetics, resulting in broken bones or dislocation from violent convulsions induced. I can only imagine how traumatizing that must have been. In addition to this, Hollywood and novelists have often dramatized ECT in scary ways. This has contributed to the negative perception of ECT. Many people are also turned off by ECT because of the memory loss that is a side effect of the procedure. ECT often results in gaps in your memory close to the time of the procedure but sometimes people can lose years of their memory. People typically recover much of their lost memory in the months following the procedure, but recovery is not always complete. Other side effects of ECT include confusion, aches and pains, and the rare occurrence of heart problems  However, especially in cases of severe depression which has failed to respond to conventional treatment, ECT can provide a person with the best possibility of feeling better. No one knows exactly how ECT works to improve mental health conditions. What we know is that it can often bring about incredible results. It can give a second lease on life to people with intractable depression and schizophrenia which had failed to respond to medication and all other forms of treatment. Present Day Alternatives Nowadays, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is often used as an alternative to ECT. TMS uses magnetic fields instead of electric currents to stimulate the nerve cells in your brain. It has fewer side effects and brings about many of the same benefits. As with any medical decision, it is best to talk to your doctor about what is best for you. Don’t feel pressured into making a decision. Ask lots of questions. Your doctor is there to help you find the best answers. Most people do not need ECT and a simpler combination of interventions like psychotherapy, medications and good mental hygiene is sufficient for dealing with their depression, schizophrenia, or mania. Read this article on 5 ways to deal with depression to learn more about what you can do now to help you feel better.

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