Many people might be taken aback to find that electro shock therapy is still being used to treat depression in millions of patients today. Numerous people associate this type of therapy with what they know from movies, books and television from the 1940’s and it all seemed so barbaric, like a mind scrambler that left people in a state of uncertainty and not at all as happy people without depression.
When antidepressant medications and talk therapy do not help rid people of the blackness of their depression and despair, a psychiatrist may suggest electroconvulsive therapy. Many people, who can’t stand to live one more minute with their depression, agree to undergo this type of therapy because it seems to be their last hope. In a 2006 University School of Medicine at Wake Forest in South Carolina study, researchers found that the electro shock therapy enhanced the quality of lives for nearly 80% of the patients that received the treatment.
What is even more disarming is that nearly 30% of patients who are prescribed antidepressants do not respond to them. Many depressed patients will keep trying different antidepressants until they come up with the right ‘cocktail’ rather than try electro shock therapy. The reason, most say, is the side effects are not worth it. The biggest side effect from the shock therapy is loss of memory.
Other patients want to know how electro shock therapy works and this is something doctors simply can not tell them. ECT is over 70 years in use and physicians still don’t know exactly how or why it works so well to eradicate depression. The treatment works very fast in most patients and this is a good thing for those with suicidal thoughts.
A former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate’s wife, Kitty Dukakis underwent ECT and recalls feeling better than she had in many years. She had been so depressed and self-medicating with alcohol. The only side effect she experienced was a five day trip to Paris after her treatment was never remembered by her. Other than that, she’s been doing great.
Another celebrity credits electroshock therapy for saving his life. Talk show host Dick Cavett underwent the ECT treatment and later wrote in People magazine that it was a ‘magic wand’ of sorts and ‘nothing short of miraculous’. Mr. Cavett did not suffer any side effects and continued to recover nicely.
But for every story of success there seems to be many more that don’t work out. These differences in success are not uncommon in medicine and psychiatry. Everyone is different and so, too, are their reactions to treatments.
At the other end of the issue are those who believe that this type of treatment is nothing short of ‘brain damage’ and should be banned immediately. Another university study, Columbia University studied patients who underwent the treatment in 2001 and did not have any follow up care. These patients had their depression return 84% of the time within six months. These results point to the need for continued talk therapy, medications and sometimes additional shock therapy treatments.
The American Psychiatric Association is charged with allowing electro shock therapy to be an approved method of treatment for depression, schizophrenia and catatonia. What the procedure does is jolt the unconscious patient’s brain, with an electrical charge, causing a grand mal seizure. This type of shock therapy was introduced in the 30’s and was considered cutting edge. Doctors thought that if they could induce a seizure in a patient’s brain, then they could shock the patient into a well functioning state of mind.
Shock Therapy Makes Quite a Comeback, MSNBC.com, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26044935
Shock Therapy Looses Some of its Shock Value