Electroshock / Electroconvulsive Therapy (ET; ECT; "Shock Treatment")


I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...
Jul 19, 2004
Out of Bounds
Although electroshock treatments have been mentioned many times on this forum, we don't have a thread dedicated to the practice and the controversies surrounding it. It appears a new round of controversy over ECT has emerged ...
Brain damage claim leads to new row over electroshock therapy

It is one of the most dramatic techniques employed in modern psychology. An electric shock is administered directly to the brains of individuals who are suffering from depression.

But electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is controversial among some psychologists and is now the focus of a huge row – which erupted last week – over claims that it can trigger brain damage, that guidelines covering its use are weak and that it is used disproportionately on women and the elderly.

Other psychologists and psychiatrists disagree, however. They say that while ECT induces mild fits and can also trigger significant memory disruptions, it is a valuable tool for treating seriously depressed individuals with suicidal urges and for whom all other treatments and drugs have failed. Alleviation can be induced by ECT which, they point out, is approved by the National Institute for Health Care and Excellence in the UK and by the Food and Drug Administration in the US. ...

ECT was developed more than 80 years ago and its use peaked in the UK in the 1970s and 1980s, when more than 50,000 treatments a year were administered, said Prof John Read of East London University. “Today, the figure is about 2,500,” added Reed, who is a leading critic of the use of ECT.

“We know it causes brain damage,” he told the Observer. “However, we don’t know how much damage is caused, or in how many patients, and until that is the case, there is no ethical or scientific justification for its use.”

However, supporters reject the idea that it causes brain damage. It can lead to memory impairment that can last for months but they insist its impact is not permanent. ...

Both sides also disagree about the efficacy of ECT. Opponents argue that their studies reveal little evidence to indicate the technique works as well as is claimed. “However, when you look at those studies you find they contain major methodological shortcomings and are inherently biased,” said Robert Howard, professor of old age psychiatry at University College London. “There is plenty of evidence to show that ECT is effective.” ...
FULL STORY: https://www.theguardian.com/society...im-leads-to-new-row-over-electroshock-therapy
It's always struck me as trying to reprogram a computer with a car battery and a pair of jump leads.
This 2011 Canadian article provides an overview of the 3 main theories for why ECT seems to have a positive therapeutic effect.

How Does Electroconvulsive Therapy Work? Theories on Its Mechanism
Tom G Bolwig, MD, DMSc1
This article reviews 3 current theories of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). One theory points to generalized seizures as essential for the therapeutic efficacy of ECT. Another theory highlights the normalization of neuroendocrine dysfunction in melancholic depression as a result of ECT. A third theory is based on recent findings of increased hippocampal neurogenesis and synaptogenesis in experimental animals given electroconvulsive seizures. Presently, the endocrine theory has the strongest foundation to explain the working mechanism of ECT.
Can J Psychiatry. 2011;56(1):13–18.

FULL STORY (PDF File): https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/070674371105600104