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Electroconvulsive Therapy or Shock Therapy

Updated on November 7, 2019

Electroconvulsive Therapy Basics

There comes a time when people suffering from severe depression and nothing from typical counseling sessions to a cocktail of depression medication is having little to no affect so the doctor may suggest Electroconvulsive Therapy better known as shock therapy

The normal procedure is the patient will be explained all of the risks that come along with Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) and there are more than a few including broken teeth and bones plus the possibility of death.

When the day of the first treatment arrives the patient will lay down on the bed and will be put to sleep before the ECT session begins. A mouthpiece is inserted into the patients mouth to reduce the chance of broken teeth or biting their tongue. One electrode is placed on the temple with the second electrode either place in the center of the forehead or on the opposite temple depending whether or not it is a unilateral or bilateral electroconvulsive treatment

A small bit of electricity is sent between the two electrodes which sends the body into convulsions which last between five to ten seconds in length. Once the ECT ends the patient is removed from the room and gradually wakes back up

A doctor will normally prescribe between five and ten electroconvulsive treatments spread apart over a series of weeks

Electro Convulsive Therapy Photo

ECT From A Patient Standpoint

Electroconvulsive Therapy is a last resort treatment as the odds of it working are slightly better than fifty percent but when you are suffering from deep depression you are willing to try anything to get out of the black hole .

After the treatment is over and you wake back up it feels like you were ran over by a truck, repeatedly. Memory issues are common especially the hours surrounding the treatment but to be honest do you really want to remember it?

Slyvia Plath wrote this about ECT "

Then something bent down and took hold of me and shook me like the end of the world. Whee-ee-ee-ee-ee, it shrilled, through an air crackling with blue light, and with each flash a great jolt drubbed me till I thought my bones would break and the sap fly out of me like a split plant.

I wondered what terrible thing it was that I had done.

Does ECT Work

As mentioned before Electroconvulsive Therapy works about half of the time for people dealing with severe depression. Not the greatest odds but for some it is truly a life saver and that would be the main reason why it is still being used in the 21st century.

I have personally seen people who after five or six ECT treatments are completely different people who have found their happy spot. On the other side I have seen people undergo a large number of ECT treatments with no to minimal change in terms of mental illness

I asked a doctor once how Electro Convulsive Therapy works and he kind of shrugged before replying that they were not a 100% sure on how or why ECT works. He used the analogy of turning a computer on and off in hopes of resetting it and getting rid of the errors


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    • TRG247 profile imageAUTHOR

      Terry Lane 

      3 years ago from Sudbury Ontario

      It is a difficult decision that is for sure. Memory loss typically surrounds the day or week of the treatment. However there is the risk of a much more longer period when undergoing ECT

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 

      3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      We were faced with the decision of whether to have my daughter undergo electro-convulsive treatment when she was in the mental health unit with schizzo-affective disorder. The doctor recommended it, as she was not responding to the drug treatments being given. There was one type of drug, however, that they had not yet tried, and the physical risks associated with it were just as severe as those associated with the electro shock therapy. After learning about both treatments, however, we chose the drug therapy instead as her memory was a strength that helped her in her illness, and we did not want her to loose that.


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