Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), also known as Electroshock, is a well-established but rather controversial psychiatric therapeutic option in which electric current is made to pass through the brain to induce a seizure as medical treatment. At its inception in the 1940s, it was used for a wide range of mental disorders and was sadly also used to “control” troublesome patients but today with better insight, it is restricted solely as last line treatment for Severe Depression unresponsive to treatment and Severe Mania. Severe depression can actually be life-threatening with patient now having symptoms like extreme withdrawal, inability to eat, no longer communicates, and is having harmful delusions about themselves or everyone around them.

By placing one or two electrodes on the scalp, an adjusted dose of electricity passes through the brain to cause a 30-50 seconds long seizure. Treatment will require between 6-12 sessions.

Apparently, the concept originated from the observation that people with Depression or Schizophrenia co-existing with Epilepsy used to feel better after having a fit (seizure attack)- yah, so someone figured why not pass electricity through the brain then? In a much customized and pain-free environment by reducing violent muscle contractions to a mere flicker of the fingers with drugs while under anesthesia so the person is asleep during the procedure.

The basic theory of how it works is that the fits somehow joggles the release of certain chemical messengers in the brain which makes the brain cells function better in such patients. Unconfirmed research suggests that ECT has the ability to stimulate the growth of new blood vessels in some parts of the brain.

Its use in present day practice is on the decline overall both because of advancement on drugs for psychiatry disorders, success of psychotherapy (talking sessions), and the memory loss side effects of ECT which may either be Short or long-term.

NEW: Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a new, painless treatment cleared by US Food and Drug Administration that uses magnetic pulses to stimulate brain activity involved with mood regulation for patients suffering from depression who have not achieved satisfactory improvement from prior antidepressant medications. Guess ECT will soon be extinct.


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