Electroshock Therapy: The Hollywood Lie

Electroshock Therapy: The Hollywood Lie

When people hear electroshock therapy, now known as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), it conjures up images of Jack Nicolson writhing around in pain, eyes rolling back in his head, as electric current is repeatedly administered in the cult film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. This iconic scene created a stigma in the public’s view of this psychological treatment that has lasted for nearly 40 years. However, that view is a myth. Back then, the procedure had not yet been refined. Much higher doses of electrical current were used than would ever be used today and often anesthesia was not administered.

While the concept of running electric current through the body in an effort to change or “shock” the brain into functioning in a more practical manner may seem more barbaric than therapeutic, ECT is actually an extremely effective and relatively painless treatment for many individuals suffering with debilitating depression that is unresponsive to prescription medications. ECT is always used as a last resort when drugs are ineffective to help an individual find relief. Many severely depressed patients swear by the treatment and look at it as a miracle cure for a disease that otherwise robs their life from them.

What Is It Really Like to Undergo ECT Therapy for Severe Depression?

During a modern day electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) treatment, a patient is put under general anesthesia so they do not experience any pain that may be associated with the procedure. Electrodes are put in place on the patient’s head and electric current is administered to the brain. The electrical stimulation induces a fleeting seizure that lasts a few seconds. Most patients do experience some level of memory loss, including no recollection of the procedure or the time leading up to it. However, for most individuals, this passes and within several weeks they have full-functioning memory once again.

Is There Any Evidence That ECT Is an Effective Therapy?

There is another false public perception that ECT is an experimental therapy with no research to support its usefulness or safety as a mental health treatment. This idea couldn’t be farther from the truth. There has been much study of the procedure over the last few decades and many in the psychology field believe that ECT is superior to drug therapy in many cases.

The truth is that scientists still are not totally sure how the treatment works and the biological underpinnings of why it is effective, although they theorize that the treatment in essence “resets” the brain and induces the release of neurotransmitters that increase the signal activity between neurons.

If you or someone you love is suffering from major depression, contact us today. We can connect you with effective, evidence-based treatment programs that can help you move from the depths of depression back to a joyful and productive life. Don’t hesitate to find out more about your options. Pick up the phone today.