Electroconvulsive therapy was originally used in treating schizophrenia. When first introduced, patients remained conscious during the procedure, which consists of an intense current passed between two electrodes attached to the patient’s head, generally lasting approximately half a second. This creates a seizure similar in appearance to that of caused by epilepsy. Before refinement, patients which underwent electroconvulsive therapy would thrash and experience resultant bruising and bone fractures. This has created a stigma many lay-men still consider when discussing contemporary electroconvulsive therapy treatments.
However, patients are now prepared for electroconvulsive therapy by being given muscle relaxants and anesthetics. This reduces overall pain and tempers the wild electroconvulsive therapy induced seizures to slight twitching at most. Furthermore, though electroconvulsive therapy was previously used for schizophrenia, it proved effective in treating depression. Typically, electroconvulsive therapy lasts roughly six to ten treatments during the course of one to two weeks and has proven to treat upwards of seventy to eighty percent of all patients who could not take or did not respond to antidepressant medications but works as quickly as those medications would have.
Though electroconvulsive therapy has proven itself as an effective treatment, utilization remains controversial and limited. One cause for hesitation are the reports of memory loss, which may last months or longer, by those who have received electroconvulsive therapy. Because of novelty and the associated risks, electroconvulsive therapy is generally only used when other treatments fail or when there is a great chance the patient may otherwise commit suicide.
Furthermore, there is no none reason why electroconvulsive therapy brings such staggering results. Psychologists understand that electroconvulsive therapy augments neural pathways and neurotransmitter systems, as well as gene expression, brain protein synthesis, and endocrine hormone secretion. To better realize the ways in which electroconvulsive therapy work, neuroimaging research is being enacted.
Gerow, Joshua R., Roddrick Chatmon, and Don Crews. Basic Psychology. New York: Custom Pub., 2009. Print.