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Electroconvulsive Therapy – Modern Analysis By Owen Manuél

A lot of the controversial arguments of ECT are based on the history, side-effects and the inducement of the therapy. Many claim that physically inducing somebody to have a convulsion cannot possibly a form of therapy. What is to be noted is that the procedure is done in extreme circumstances and not as a punishment. In 1939 when ECT was introduced it replaced the drug Pentylenetetrazol (metrazol) which induced fits into individuals for them to make them better. It has to be said that when the treatment was used back then there was very little research done all that psychiatrist’s and scientists knew were that it works and had a relevant success rate the one research which helped bring ECT about was that Schizophrenics and Depressive individuals seemed to be much better after having an epileptic fit. ECT has little side effects which include; headaches, memory loss and a 1 in 50,000 chance of injury or death due to using the general anaesthetic which is no more chance than when dental anaesthetic is used on an individual. Modern day ECT is very safe you will be connected up to equipment which will monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels etc. and possibly an EEG machine which will monitor your brain wave levels when having the fit. You’re then giving general anaesthetic (needle inserted into hand) and a muscle relaxant which will stop you from having violent convulsions during the fit. You will then be giving an electric current which passes through your brain which is enough to power a 100w light bulb for a second. When the fit is happening it will be done while you are unconscious and because of the muscle relaxants you will not experience violent convulsions. Many just experience a few twitches in the toes. The fit will be induced for between 20 – 50 seconds and after which you should soon wake up and you may experience slight headaches and aching muscles. ECT treatment is usually used between six to twelve times although many patients notice effects after the first session. The reasons critics have on ECT is because they are usually unaware of how safe the modern day procedure is, back in the 1940’s due to muscle


relaxants not being used the fit would usually make the individual have a violent convulsion of which about four nurses will be at hand to restrain the patient to prevent injury all this can seem quite aggressive but back then it had to be done like that. Another major criticism individuals have and this is usually the people who have experienced ECT is the memory loss. Patients have claimed that memory loss can happen for a short period of time to PERMANENT memory loss. However, the side effects are usually only temporary. ECT does not cause brain damage or other physical health effects. ECT is quite rare in modern times, due to the amount of psychological therapies and medicines available in modern society most psychiatric disorder’s can be treated and controlled using these. ECT is used in lifethreatening situations when a patient is at risk of themselves harming themselves or ending there life. This way ECT can be seen as a life saver. If a patient of Clinical Depression who has experienced years of psychological therapies and medicines to no effect would it be so wrong to offer ECT? ECT can also be used in schizophrenia, OCD and other severe psychiatric illnesses. Psychiatrists and professors will admit that they don’t really know why ECT works. The only way I can use to describe this is to imagine a real damaged brain and then think of a MASS of electric currents passing all through the brain clearing out all the bad out and after you have a fresh healthy brain. ECT is a bit like this. It is true ECT can be used at any age to children to OAP’s but the patient will always give consent and permission to undergo treatment. One of my friends experienced ECT two years ago at the age of 24. She had experienced severe depression for five years. She explained to me her referral to the adult mental health team in her local area. After evaluating her a psychiatrist offered various treatment including Counselling, Psychotherapy, CBT and during the treatment medicines including Citalopram, Fluoxetine and Sertraline. After a period of four to six months per the psychiatrist was disappointed with the effects and found SSRI’s proved ineffective for her. A Psychiatrist then prescribed her the anti-psychotic Seroquil (due to other mental health problems). This happened to make her EVEN worse. After all this my friend felt there was no hope. She then got recommended ECT as a last resort. After which she told me after two treatments she felt so much better. It goes to show medicines are ineffective for a small minority of individuals


and sometimes mental illness’s can be so powerful that talking treatments also will not work. I have read various other stories on ECT being a success, etc. From the outset ECT can seem to sound a bit like a medieval type of punishment. But considering it being so safe in modern times and the fact it is rarely used usually only when life threatening, than it’s hard to find any negatives on ECT.

Electroconvulsive Therapy - A Modern Analysis  

A modern analysis of ECT.

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