When the name of “electroshock therapy” is heard, no doubt, some images that are most probably generated from Hollywood come into the mind. Those movies with the therapies like this one in a lot negative way. Probably, all of us have created some image in our mind right now. But I am not going to say that this portrayal is wrong, at least not in the very beginning. As you see, the understanding of the electroshock therapy is driven by a much darker history of abuse in psychology world.

Electroshock therapy from furious scientists to Ethics codes

It may give you some surprise that a lot of the things that we have gathered about memory come from the experiments that were conducted when CIA was trying to figure out how many of the prisoners of war were released from wars overseas, but totally “brainwashed”. This isn’t an intrigue anymore. It is documented. You can read it by yourself but be warned that the information is quite ugly. Once you start to dig into it, you will notice that some names will continue popping up over the decades. The name of psychiatrists will pop up most probably more.

Usually, these stories are horrific in nature. And these stories have shaped our understanding about the therapies such as electroshock therapy which is also known as electroconvulsive therapy. However, the ethical standards and review boards were given birth by these situations which utterly changes the rules. You can never imagine how shocked I was when my friend told me that she has just received electroshock therapy for here overwhelming depression. And I felt more frightened when she told me that if some symptoms arose again, she had to have this therapy more. This conversation was done less than 10 years ago. Obviously, I needed to have more knowledge on it. So now, what actually is electroshock therapy?


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New Electroshock therapy

From the very frightening origins, this electroshock therapy has come along. Even The Mayo Clinic describes, “Much of the stigma attached to ECT is based on early treatments in which high doses of electricity were administered without anesthesia, leading to memory loss, fractured bones and other serious side effects.” Now, this therapy is performed under general anesthesia and with muscle relaxers. The electrodes are placed onto the patient’s scalp in order to pass small currents through the brain to intentionally trigger a short seizure. Seemingly, this action and effect change the brain chemistry in such a way that can quickly reverse some mental diseases symptoms. However, ECT is much safer than it was in the old days.

Need for an Electroshock Therapy:

I put this treatment into the same category for the record as all the medical data that come from the Holocaust. The ethical dilemma ultimately rose: do these ends justify the means? As far we know that this therapy has been used for the good, as in my friend’s case who received this therapy for her overwhelming depression. Even a lot of unbearable, cruel and lethal experiments were done by people with this ECT, and what was learned and experimented at that time is now used to help people in getting better as well. For instance, patients suffering from severe depression who haven’t found any benefit from using the medications are more likely to benefit greatly from electroshock therapy. In fact, our psychiatrists must refer this therapy to the patients with severe depression and psychiatric disorders like a severe mood disorder. Catatonia, severe mania, agitation and aggression have also been listed by The Mayo clinic in people with dementia.

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They also add that when medications are not tolerated or some other forms of therapy haven’t worked on the patient, ECT may be a good option for him or her then. ECT is used:

  • During the time period of pregnancy, when medications can’t be taken because there are chances that they will give harm to developing the fetus.
  • In case of older people who are unable to tolerate the side effects of drugs.
  • For those people who prefer to take ECT treatments as compared to taking medications.
  • When ECT treatment has been successful in the past.

If some other illness like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome or chronic pain makes you suffer from depression and mood swings as well, then it is probably not a therapy to be considered. However, you should tell your psychiatrist about these conditions if you haven’t told him before. Your treatment also involves ongoing psychotherapy as well. We can search for a lot of stories of those people who find this therapy successful in themselves. Keep this in mind that this electroshock therapy is changed now; it is not like how it was used to be. In fact, nausea, headache, muscle pain and jaw pain are the only side effects that we may feel in general now. There are no memory losses, bone fractures or any other issue now.

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