Electro Convulsive Treatment

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I have recently become quite interested in psychiatry. One of the mainstays in treatment resistant depression has been a practice called ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy) which has received quite a battering in the media eg: films such as One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. How exactly does ECT work to cure treatment resistant depression?

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No one knows how it works. “[Despite decades of research, the exact mechanism of action of ECT remains elusive.](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electroconvulsive_therapy#Mechanism_of_action)”

Since it’s high-risk and has a history of unregulated misuse, convincing people to do studies on it is going to be tough.

It got a lot of negative press back in the 1960s-‘70s, not just in *Cuckoos Nest* but also in *The Bell Jar*, by poet Sylvia Plath.

But more recently it’s actually totally accepted and done a lot on people and we’ve had a number of famous people speaking very positively about it helping them. They’ve improved the technique immensely, using much lower amounts of electricity, and giving people drugs so they’re unconscious and relaxed, to minimize side effects. If you’re awake when it’s done, it’s agonizing. But if you’re unconscious, then you feel nothing. One thing they can’t get away from is the memory loss.


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