Is Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) Effective?

Philip Hickey, PhD
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ECT, or shock treatment as it’s sometimes called, is a controversial topic.  Adherents describe it as safe and effective; opponents condemn its use as damaging and ineffective.  But it is still widely used in the US and in other countries.

The treatment consists essentially of passing sufficient electricity across the brain to cause a seizure.  Clients are anesthetized during the process.  It is used primarily in cases of severe depression.  Typically, shock treatment is administered twice a week until the depression remits or until no further improvement is noted in two successive sessions.  Most courses of treatment involve about eight sessions.

After shock treatment, some clients do appear to be less depressed, but this phenomenon has been interpreted differently by ECT’s proponents and opponents.  Proponents claim that the ECT treatments have clearly alleviated the depression.  Opponents claim that the apparent improvement is an example of post-concussion euphoria, and that the effects are short-lived.

The subject is vast, and an enormous volume of material has been written on the topic.  I Googled “electroconvulsive therapy” and got just over one million hits.  There is a growing body of writing from survivors who state that they were harmed by the process, but one can also find occasional reports from people who say that ECT was helpful to them.  In former years the psychiatric community claimed that there were no significant adverse effects on memory associated with ECT, but today there appears to be a general acceptance that memory loss can and does occur.

ON THE PRO SIDE

Steven Novella, MD, is a neurologist, and works as an Assistant Professor at Yale.  He’s active and influential in the skepticism movement, and has his own blog as part of the New England Skeptical Society:  Neurological blog: Your Daily Fix of Neuroscience, Skepticism, and Critical Thinking.  On March 22, 2012, he posted How Electroconvulsive Therapy Works, and he opens the article by stating:

“There is no real controversy over whether or not ECT works for depression – it is highly effective.”

This statement is linked to the abstract of a study by Diercks BG et al:  Efficacy of electroconvulsive therapy in bipolar versus unipolar major depression: a meta-analysis which appeared in the journal Bipolar Disorder, 2012.

This meta-analysis combined the results of six earlier studies, and concluded:

“ECT appears to be equally effective for both bipolar and unipolar depression and the remission rates are encouraging, especially for bipolar depression.”

The first thing to note is that the Dierckx et al study was not designed to answer the question:  is ECT effective?  but rather to assess its effectiveness for bipolar depression versus unipolar depression.  This is a significant issue, because the only way that one can adequately assess the effectiveness of a procedure like ECT is to compare its use to a placebo.  None of the studies collated in the Dierckx et al meta-analysis were studying effectiveness as such.  But the authors did state that “…the remission rates are encouraging…,” and presumably that is the finding on which Dr. Novella is basing his claim.

I was able to find, and examine, all of the six base studies used by Dierckx et al:

  1. Medda P, et al, Response to ECT in bipolar I, bipolar II and unipolar depression. J Affect Disord 2009; 118: 55–59.
  2. Grunhaus L, et al, Response to ECT in major depression: are there differences between unipolar and bipolar depression? Bipolar Disord 2002; 4(Suppl. 1): 91–93.
  3. Sienaert P, et al, Ultra-brief pulse ECT in bipolar and unipolar depressive disorder: differences in speed of response. Bipolar Disord 2009; 11: 418–424.
  4. Bailine S, et al, Electroconvulsive therapy is equally effective in unipolar and bipolar depression. Acta Psychiatr Scand 2010; 121: 431–436.
  5. Daly JJ, et al, ECT in bipolar and unipolar depression: differences in speed of response. Bipolar Disord 2001; 3: 95–104.
  6. Sackeim, HA et al, Length of the ECT Course in Bipolar and Unipolar DepressionJ ECT 2005; 21 (3): 195-197

All six of the base studies used questionnaires and rating scales to assess depression.  The Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression was used in all cases.  Other scales used included Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS); Clinical Global Improvement (CGI); Beck Depression Inventory (BDI); etc.

Follow-up periods after the end of treatment were:

  1. Medda P et al:             1 week
  2. Grunhaus L et al:        no follow-up
  3. Sienaert P et al:           1 week and 6 weeks
  4. Bailine S et al:             no follow-up
  5. Daly JJ et al:                1 week
  6. Sackeim et al:              no follow-up

Only study number 3 – Sienaert et al – assessed for cognitive side effects.  They administered the Mini Mental Status Exam before treatment and at one and six weeks post treatment.  The results show a small but consistent improvement in scores across time (i.e. from pre-treatment to post-treatment).  However, the Mini Mental Status Exam is not sensitive to the kind of cognitive deficits generally associated with ECT except in the period immediately following the ECT.  The Sackeim et al 2007 study The Cognitive Effects of Electroconvulsive Therapy in Community Settings,  for instance, found on average no persistent deficits in Mini Mental Status Exam scores associated with ECT, but did find significant and persistent deficits in “…memory for autobiographical events.”  This is precisely the area in which survivors of ECT have been reporting problems for decades.

DISCUSSION

I have written on the subject of ECT before, here, here, and here.  In my opinion, the evidence is clear:  ECT has no overall superiority to placebo in the treatment of depression, except in the period during and immediately after the treatment, and, in at least some cases, does a good deal of damage.

My purpose in this article is to examine the evidence that Dr. Novella adduced to support his claim that ECT “…is highly effective.”  This is important because Dr. Novella presents himself as a debunker of pseudoscience, and routinely characterizes those of us on this side of the psychiatry debate as unscientific “deniers” (e.g. Mental Illness Denial – Part IV)

People reading his sentence:  “There is no real controversy over whether or not ECT works for depression – it is highly effective,” with a link to  the Dierckx et al study would, I believe, assume that the Dierckx et al study provided some evidence for this conclusion.  In fact, this is simply not the case.  Neither the meta-analysis nor any of the base studies were designed to address the question of general efficacy.  In addition, only one of the studies (Sienaert et al) had follow-up assessment beyond one week, and none of the studies controlled for the placebo effect.  Only one of the studies (Sienaert et al) addressed the question of adverse effects, which, I suggest, must be considered in any assessment of general efficacy.

On the other hand, the evidence from randomized placebo-controlled trials is clear:  apart from some short-lived lifting of mood, ECT is not effective as a treatment for depression.  A comprehensive review of the efficacy evidence can be found in Read J. and Bentall R, The effectiveness of electroconvulsive therapy: A literature review, under the heading Comparison With Simulated-ECT For Depression (p 335).  Read and Bentall concluded:

“These placebo controlled studies show minimal support for effectiveness…during the course of treatment …and no evidence…of any benefits beyond the treatment period.” (p 333)

The authors also state:

“Since the 2004 review [Chapter on Electroconvulsive Therapy, in Models of Madness, by Read, Mosher, and Bentall, 2004] there have been no findings that ECT is effective, but significant new findings confirming that the brain damage, in the form of memory dysfunction, is common, persistent, and significant, and that it is related to ECT rather than to depression.

Few of those exposed to the risks of memory loss, and to the slight but significant risk of death, receive any benefit even in the short-term.  There is no evidence at all that the treatment has any benefit for anyone beyond the duration of treatment, or that it prevents suicide.  The very short-term benefit gained by a small minority cannot justify the significant risks to which all ECT recipients are exposed.”

And yet ECT continues – a tribute to psychiatry’s faith in its dogmas, and its enduring resistance to any evidence that challenges these beliefs.

PSYCHIATRY AND PSEUDOSCIENCE

On November 14, 2013, Dr. Novella, in an article titled Is There a Pseudoscience Event Horizon? provided a list of “typical behaviors” of pseudoscientists:

1 – Hostile to criticism, rather than embracing criticism as a mechanism of self-correction
2 – Works backward from desired results through motivated reasoning
3 – Cherry picks evidence
4 – Relies on low grade evidence when it supports their belief, but will dismiss rigorous evidence if it is inconvenient
5 – Core principles untested or unproven, often based on single case or anecdote
6 – Utilizes vague, imprecise, or ambiguous terminology, often to mimic technical jargon
7 – Has the trappings of science, but lacks the true methods of science
8 – Invokes conspiracy arguments to explain lack of mainstream acceptance (Galileo syndrome)
9 – Lacks caution and humility by making grandiose claims from flimsy evidence
10 – Practitioners often lack proper training and present that as a virtue as it makes them more ‘open’

With the possible exception of numbers 8 and 10, this list seems to me like a very accurate portrayal of psychiatry.

As mentioned earlier, Dr. Novella’s article of March 2012 opens with the claim that ECT is “…highly effective.”  The article then goes on to address the question: how does ECT work?  For this issue, Dr. Novella refers to another study, Electroconvulsive therapy reduces frontal cortical connectivity in severe depressive disorder, Perrin et al, 2012, which performed fMRI scans on nine individuals before and after ECT.  This study found that “…functional connectivity was considerably decreased after ECT…”

Given that ECT causes significant and persistent memory loss, which, incidentally, Dr. Novella acknowledges, it seems to me that the most parsimonious way to interpret the Perrin et al results is that the reduction in functional connectivity, which actually means the breaking of circuits, might be the cause of the memory loss.

Dr. Novella ignores this possibility, however, and, following the lead of the researchers, suggests instead that the individuals who received the ECT had:

“…overactive connectivity between that part of the brain that generates the emotion of depression and the part of the brain involved in cognition and concentration. In these patients, therefore, their depressed mood has a significant effect on their thoughts and ability to concentrate. ECT appears to reduce this hyperconnectivity, which should significantly reduce the symptoms of depression.” [Emphases added]

The “logic” here could be summarized as follows:  ECT alleviates depression; ECT breaks neural circuits; therefore it is these “overactive” neural circuits that caused the depression in the first place.  I suggest that this is an almost textbook example of the second item of Dr. Novella’s list of typical behaviors of pseudoscientists:

“Works backward from desired results through motivated reasoning.”

Despite the evidence of damage and ineffectiveness, psychiatry clings tenaciously to ECT.  For years, they denied that it caused memory loss, claiming instead that any such deficits were the result of the depression or, in at least one case (Fink M Psychosomatics, 2007), somatoform disorder!  (In other words, the memory loss was “all in their heads.”)

As the evidence mounted, they conceded that ECT entails some memory losses, but insisted that these were minor and/or transient.  Today they acknowledge that sometimes the memory problems are significant and persistent, but they claim that the impact of these problems is balanced by ECT’s “efficacy” as a treatment for depression.

How much longer can they continue this travesty?

* * * * *

This blog was posted simultaneously on Philip Hickey’s blog;
Behaviorism and Mental Health

108 COMMENTS

  1. I saw a teen girl given ECT come back in a zombie like state combined with this like permanent smile stuck on her face. Before she went for it she liked to yell “I hate this hospital and want to go home”. She looked like she was retarded or had brain damage after that ECT treatment. The same doctor was busy poisoning me with Zyprexa in that ‘hospital’ after first getting me addicted to Clonopin and screwed up on Dexedrine and Remeron.

    This doctor of course is highly respected in the community by people who are clueless about all the ruined lives he is directly responsible for.

    Anyway this girl wanted to go home and goto some important party one of her young friends was having and did not want ECT, was not sat down and told the risks and never asked “do you want to try this”.

  2. IMO, ECT works the same way any assault would work. You could probably get the same result by dunking someone in ice water twice a week.

    In my case, it did appear to help with my very severe depression. However, the costs were enormous (catastrophic memory loss and epilepsy) so ECT didn’t pass the risk/benefit test for me.

    From a consultation report dated June 30, 2010:

    “If [Francesca] is unable to refusing to go to ECT, I recommend the next step is that she have a direct admission to the hospital on the Step Down Unit where she will receive involuntary ECT.”

    And this passes for consent!

  3. Not depressed. Caregiver exhaustion and bereavement-related insomnia. Took a benzo. Benzo withdrawal syndrome not recognized. Given an antidepressant. Akathisia not recognized. Given an antipsychotic. Steady decline. Treated aggressively with 35 drugs in 8 months. Driven insane. Drug side-effects and adverse effects recognized as proof of escalating mental illness.

    Went to psychiatric facility for help with withdrawing from drugs. Forcibly detained. Considered to be demented. Considered to have a ‘psychotic depression.’ Too many labels to be listed here. Considered ‘an excellent candidate for ECT.’ Forced to undergo 25 anesthetics and 25 bilateral electroconvulsive ‘treatments.’

    Informed of requirement for maintenance ECT for the rest of my life and drugs for the rest of my life.

    Stopped going for maintenance ECT and tapered myself off all drugs after my husband collapsed with heart-related issues. He had never missed a day of school or a day of work because of illness. I have been his caregiver for the past 9 years.

    Twenty years of my life are totally missing and the last 10 are iffy. Not making new memories. Had spontaneous seizures for years. Nightmares. Diaphragm-related breathing difficulties – damage during ECT. Continue to have tremors in my legs.

    My story widely published – anonymously – as ‘Iatrogenic Insanity’ and ‘ An Open Letter to Doctors.’ (Check the internet.)

    Of the 12 women institutionalized with me and receiving ECT, at least 3 dead. Two suicides, one heart attack.

    Spontaneously and miraculously recovered from all diagnoses and labels. The remaining psychological and physical damage is profound. The only acceptable label for me is anti-psychiatry activist. Book in the works.

    I’d like to see a comment by David Healy. (I do promote RxISK – non-stop.)

    • I’m sorry for all the horror you’ve went through and happy you’ve stayed strong and were able to fight for your loved ones and against the system.
      “Took a benzo.”
      Benzos also cause memory loss but differently than ECT – they do not target existing (consolidated memory – retrograde amnesia) but prevent formation of new memories instead (anterograde amnesia). You basically become permanent Henry Molaison-like patient. Of course when I challenged the psychiatrists at the hospital about my memory loss and why nobody noticed they didn’t even bother to address the issue, simply stated that I’m mentally ill and should follow treatment and if I feel worse after they stay in their awesome institution it’s my fault.
      Anti-psychiatry sounds about right.

  4. I know two people who got better with ECT, however they were both in locked wards and I know what those places are like. I don’t expect they had a lot of care and attention while they were there. If they had proper care they might well have recovered anyway.

    I heard about another woman who recovered and was manic but whose mood then collapsed again.

    The studies I am aware of are by Bental an Read, which basically said ECT was placebo but dangerous, and Lucy Johnstone which found 30 – 40% of people felt very damaged by it.

  5. All I know is this; the psychiatrists ruined the woman I once knew as my beloved grandmother through their use of ect and thorazine. After goodness knows how many ect “treatments” she came home a total and absolute zombie who barely recognized her husband and her grandson. She never got back huge sections of her memory and lost the person she was. She not only barely recognized us but she didn’t know who she was. And the psychiatrists and staff at the state hospital where she was held talked about “how much better Mrs. Jones was after all of her ect treatments.” Pure hogwash. They destroyed my grnadmother and her life and all of her relationships and she was never the same until her death. And they patted themselves on their backs for doing such a great job! It makes me so angry and disgusted.

    ECT has no use other than to destroy brain cells and memories and relationships and lives. If other people choose to have it for themselves that’s just fine, let them by all means. But don’t ever come around me talking about what a great “treatment” it is for depression. You will not like what happens at all.

    • Btw, that’s partly why I don’t believe these studies which show effectiveness of this or that anyway – all they do they apply some arbitrary checklists, just as with the DSM labels, and based on that decide if someone is “better”. It has little to do with people actually getting better and a lot to do with people faking it to get out of the nightmare or psychiatrists liking a good zombie over an actual human being with god forbid opinions and emotions.

  6. I had four ECT “treatments” in early 2010. I was having severe suicidal depression from tolerance withdrawal from Klonopin and ended up in the psychiatric hospital. They did manage to keep me from killing myself. It seemed as though they wanted the pleasure of ending my life rather than let me do it myself. Of course, they had to torture me first in multiple ways.

    The evening I was admitted (Friday), the doctor on staff simply “picked” an anti-depressant for me to be on till Monday when my own doctor would evaluate me. So, I spent the weekend sick in my stomach, shaking, and endlessly pacing the hallways from the akathisia from the Wellbutrin. On Monday, my staff doctor decided that clomipramine was the way to go. That made me even sicker.

    During my three weeks there, I was taken off 4 mg Klonopin (which put me into acute withdrawal), and I was forced to attend 12-step meetings and participate in group ”therapy” sessions. I would sit there and shake and try to speak.

    Since I was not responding well to the medications, they convinced me that I needed ECT. I was told it was my only hope. I gave my consent. In between ECT treatments, they made me do what they called a ”mini-withdrawal” from the Ativan I was taking. In all of the torture I was subjected to, that was the absolute cruelest. I felt like I would have a stroke at any moment. They obviously did not care. They took my blood pressure every morning, and the machine would flash and beep because my blood pressure was typically 240/120. They would then take it again. The flashing and beeping would start once again. Then I would be told to go to breakfast.

    Immediately before and after each ECT treatment, I was tormented with some kind of “test” to measure my memory, cognition, and mood. I was so whacked out from all the meds and cruelty that I could barely fathom what the tasks and questions were, and I tried very hard to answer them. I was desperate to feel better.

    Society simply does not want to take the time to understand what has happened to individuals who are depressed, anxious, and so on. Instead, for those who can’t seem to “get it together,” our society hands them over to a system of torture and calls it “medicine.” It’s the “out of sight out of mind” approach. It is cruel and unusual and won’t change until people of compassion and understanding take the time and make the effort to help these individuals (and there are getting to be more and more because of the current system). That leaves out probably 95% of those currently in the “mental health” profession.

    I did manage to stumble out of that torture chamber barely alive – even though I was praying for death. Once I realized that I was deathly ill because of (rather than in spite of) the treatment by the “mental health” system (with its ECT, drugs, cruelty, and brainwashed therapists), I managed to escape the system and heal. I never was “mentally ill” for a single day in my life even though their “treatment” made me appear so to everyone including myself.

    • “It’s the “out of sight out of mind” approach.”

      That is so unfortunately correct.

      There’s this WRONG idea that we go behind closed doors in the “fix me workshop” and eventually emerge like a ray of sunshine. People cross their fingers and hope so but in the end, they really don’t “give a shit” anyway. Team Dilligaf.

      I see it through the eyes of The Labyrinth, how the baby will be turned into one of Jareth’s goblins … “one of us, forever”.

          • Some people find it helps them. And I think patients should be free to choose whatever route to recovery that they want without judgment by us. Always acknowledging, of course, that consent has to be both informed and uncoerced.

            Hey, if the campaign was against forced electroshock, I’d support it in a heartbeat. It’s not though and they should say so upfront.

          • I’m glad that you are against forced electroshock. I respect that. I am against all electroshock and I said so up front. I am also against all “psycho-surgery.” I don’t feel that any civilized society should sanction these practices. This carries no “judgment” aimed at “patients” who might find these things desirable for themselves. It does carry a judgment – mine alone – that these practices ought to be illegal everywhere.

          • Gee, uprising – I’m surprised. Here’s you saying the same thing I said (ban ECT) yet you agree with Francesca in calling me “authoritarian” (which, I happen to be) so, what I am authoritarian, but you and nick aren’t – when the three of us are saying the same thing?

            Well, I stand by what I said.

            Where assisted suicide is NO SUCH OPTION, I say ECT should also be NO SUCH OPTION.

            I still want my assisted suicide while so many others get their brains fried and spend the rest of their lives dealing with it and trying to change the world.

        • “I thought the whole purpose of the psychiatric reform movement was to provide choice. Why are you willing to take away an option that a person might want?”

          I want assisted suicide. It isn’t any different from abortion. There are too many people who oppose it and so, it remains no such option.

          I think ECT should be no such option.

          • Not quite sure what you’re saying here. Abortion is legal and the powers that be are at least starting to talk about assisted suicide. I am pro both of these, BTW, but ECT strikes me as quite different from those two things.

          • This is the point:

            1. an option that a person might want
            2. remains no such option

            People want choice, right? But we don’t always have a choice.

            An informed choice is the best choice. With ECT, are people informed that they run the risk of MANGLING, rendering them utterly stupid? Who needs information when an ECT brain can’t make sense of anything anyway.

            You really want the choice and option for something so destructive, for yourself AND others? Other people do NOT want ME to have the choice to pass away in a humane (and, EFFECTIVE) way but they’re all for it if I want to fry my brains and become an invalid for the rest of my life. That’s what what I call mentally retarded (stunted growth).

            I’m all for the banning of ECT, no matter who on Earth says they want it. I want to see no person trained in how to perform the evil act – ban the education of it. Ban the training.

            And take classes instead from Angel Dr. Kevorkian.

        • People talk all the time about everyone having freedom of choice to have things like ect. However, all of this choice business is based on the idea of true informed consent. There is no such thing or animal running around in the system where I work. People are coerced into having things done to them without once ever being told what the end results may and probably will be. They are never informed about anything other than that if they want to get out of the hospital they’d better comply or else the psychiatrist will take them to court and get their nice little stay at the hospital extended 45 to 180 days, and they will keep going back to court until the person gives in. I watch it happen every day. The one psychiatrist in the entire place that I consider even worth saving never gives people any informed consent and his excuse for not doing so is that his so-called “patients” are not capable of understanding so he has to make the “best” decision for them. Talk about paternalistic! At this point I’m all for taking freedom of choice away where it concerns ect because people are not informed about what it does to them. I heard one psychiatrist say that the electricity only kills the “bad brain cells” in a person’s brain! Someone asked him how the electricity knew the difference and of course got no answer. The psychiatrist stated that he knew what is best for his “clients!” So, this is what we’re allowing people freedom of choice about??????

          • No, this is not what we mean by freedom of choice! As I have stated numerous times now, one of my goals is to have the concept of consent enshrined in law as both informed and uncoerced. I also support the abolition of some forms of psychiatric treatment altogether, including forced ECT.

        • Francesca,

          Choice is important, and certainly needs to be defended.  A problem arises, however, because ECT has no proven efficacy and is dangerous.  The psychiatrists won’t acknowledge this, however – even to themselves.  Instead, they continue to churn out poor-quality research demonstrating “efficacy.”  For consent to be truly informed, they would have to tell the client that ECT has no proven effectiveness and can be very dangerous and destructive.  But once they’ve said it in such blunt (and true) terms, they actually can’t ethically go ahead with the procedure.

          There was an interesting set of tweets today from Lucy Johnstone, PhD, @ClinpsychLucy.  She was quoting a neurologist (her reference was hashtagged ECT):

          “Assuming consent, it is well to affirm the individual’s right to pursue happiness through brain damage if s/he chooses. But we might…well ask whether we as doctors sworn to the Hippocratic oath should be offering it.” John Friedberg, neurologist 1977.”

          • “But once they’ve said it in such blunt (and true) terms, they actually can’t ethically go ahead with the procedure.”

            With that said, why on Earth doesn’t everything come to a screeching halt?

            This is what I call ignorance (ignoring). People will continue to ignore that which is already known. And they’ll “tolerate” and “carry on” and “endure” — needlessly.

            If what you said is so true, why on Earth wouldn’t everything just abruptly STOP.

        • Great, and what if I want to have my hand cut off or my nose removed because I’m a special kind of a masochist – should that be legal for a doctor to do? Everyone is allowed to do to their own body what they want but medicine is supposed to be evidence based and not to practice harmful treatments. If not then why don’t we bring back lobotomies and insulin shocks, I’m sure there will be people who will sign on for these out of desperation and misinformation.

    • That’s true. It wasn’t done to me, fortunately, but I did find out it’s still in use after reading N. Klein’s book “Shock doctrine” and going to the internet for some more details. I was totally shocked to find out it’s still used and that even INVOLUNTARILY. I thought it was long dead together with lobotomy.

  7. Great article, Phil and it’s nice to see your face (I’ve been posting Phil’s blog on FB). I’m hoping we get as many ect survivors to add their stories here as we can. My story repeats what has already been made a clear pattern. Depression hit me like a two by four. Like the good doobie I was, I went to the shrink. I had a “chemical imbalance” which safe and effective drugs for life was the answer. Hypomanic reaction to prozac, every drug on the market at the time for my “Unmasked Bipolar Disorder”, became a suicidal maniac and ECT was “medically necessary”. Lost years of memory.My children taken from me. My career shattered. What I find insulting to my intelligence is that these so-called studies rely on self reporting,and I keep asking,how about a study that interviews people who knew someone who had ect before they were assaulted? The person who really sticks in my mind was someone I met a few years ago. She drove around in a van filled with stuffed animals, lived in a trailer (nothing wrong with either) and did her level best to get me hospitalized “for my own good” because of my activism. I later learned that she had a PhD in Literature/Philosophy from Columbia University. That person was gone. The fact is, as you quoted from the textbooks, ECT is brain damage. ECT does not “reduce frontal cortical connectivity in depressive disorders” because depressive disorders are not people. Human beings who are electroshocked, one and all, are victims of closed head trauma. Each of us has our own unique brain injury brought to us directly from those sworn to do no harm. To the person who wrote that ECT is no longer being advertised; look again. ECT is being rebranded. Duke University has mounted a disinformation campaign pushing it (among many others) and think about it for a moment. Put on you Evil Thinking Cap. This past year there has been movement in exposing psychiatric drugs. What better time to push a “non-drug therapy”?? Phil, thanks again for your continuing presence in these dark, dark times.

  8. “There is no real controversy over whether or not ECT works for depression – it is highly effective.”

    What a joke. That’s why I’ve spoken to three different ECT survivors and been told that not only did it not work, it caused them irreparable brain damage as evidenced as memory loss, and furthermore that it was used on them AFTER they became “treatment-resistant” to drugs, which they later realized was code for the fact that their problems were by that point mostly iatrogenic ones.

    It should be banned for that reason alone. Too many people are being led to believe they are “mentally ill” who actually have drug injuries and they aren’t being told that is the reason, nor has ECT ever been studied (I cringe at writing that, as I don’t think it’s appropriate to subject people or animals to torture methods in experiments) for iatrogenic problems. It’s a hell of a good way to muddy the waters when drug injuries occur. Try suing someone who injured you with a drug after having ECT.

  9. Only in America can someone fall in a yoga class, be prescribed an antidepressant for pain, and end up having ECT for drug adverse effects. She’s now a recluse who can’t remember what she reads from one page to the next. She used to be a government policy writer.

    • There is no true informed consent going on so therefore I believe that these things should not be allowed to be done to people, even if they beg for them. They are not informed of what the effects will be. They are coerced into having it done, sometimes in very subtle ways. Until there is true informed consent taking place on the part of psychiatrists these things should not be allowed. I lost my grandmother to ect; she was destroyed as a person and never became the person we knew before she went off to become the guest of the New Mexico State Hospital. After they’d damaged her beyond repair they congratulated themselves on how much they’d helped dear Mrs. Jones!

        • Hey, I’m with you. I’m just totally frustrated because of what happened to my grandmother and becaues of what I see happening every day to people that we say we’re providing “good treatment” for. It’s all just a big game and it’s done to control people with issues so that we don’t make the “normals” uncomfortable or anxious. I cannot believe that the staff where I work can look at the damage that they’ve done to people in their care and not see the disconnect. But somehow they come to work each and every day and support and carry out all of thees things that are clearly detrimental to people.

          I see people come through the Admissions department who are vibrant and alive; saying things that mamy people don’t want to hear or deal with; and then I watch them over the months be turned into obese, shuffling, blank facsimilies of the people that they were when they arrived here.

          • Yes, our current system is appalling. ECT is a drastic treatment and harmed me greatly. I don’t think memory loss and epilepsy were a good trade for situational depression. Nevertheless, some people are informed and they do want it. I hope I’ve made it clear that I believe ECT should never, ever be done involuntarily. Too invasive, too risky and too permanent.

  10. Francesca Allan, I appreciate your support for informed consent and personal choice, but the oath of a physician is not to harm. To confuse recovery with brain damage is the old lobotomy justification. Recovery according to whom and by what definition?
    Before the movie “Cuckoos nest” I heard many people justify lobotomies. Brain Damage. “Oh she’s much happier” people would say, and what it really meant was that suffering was out of sight and people were relieved. Imagine how you would feel if you could not remember the births of your children, the day you got married, the people you loved whose faces are vaguely familiar. Wouldn’t it be worth the arduous task of facing fear, oppression, and trauma and come out on the other side of hell with an expanded consciousness? Is it fair to a mother’s children that a physician changes the very identity of their mother? Do they get to be informed and sign consent? No, this torture must be stopped and physicians must be required by law to tell the truth that HOPE is real, anguish is not disease, and brain damage is not a “treatment”.

    • I so much agree with you Nancy! After harm is done, there is no way back. Harm should be avoided at all costs. Isn’t it so that nature needs time to heal us? A small cut needs a week, a flu 2 weeks, those are standard times. Nature works that way and if not hindered it will always heal. Some, mostly natural, things can speed it up a little, but nature needs time.
      If we are depressed or psychotic or whatever may be the case, then there will be a reason for it! Psychiatry and medicine have lost interest in finding reasons that include body, mind, spirit and soul. Only psychopaths can be cruel and insensitive and heartless enough to damage the brain to heal the inner emotions and feelings of a fellow human being. If society can forbid the simplest of things, why not stop psychopaths hurting others.
      I can’t agree with Francesca, sorry to mention it here, but it saves me time to have to write another comment.
      Chemotherapy is in almost no case necessary. There are natural therapies that can heal cancer nowadays very well and better than medicine does, but medicine keeps damaging and killing people with chemo and fighting and ridiculing such therapies. Medicine and psychiatry have become systems with protocols. Well, protocols make people do things that are not felt and fine-tuned to the individual and thus are they prone to be psychopathic in nature too.
      The great late Canadian scientist dr. Hulda Clark interestingly changed the Hippocratic Oath to: you should never give a medicine/therapy or even an advice to someone else of something you haven’t tried or woulsn’t use yourself. Well, if that rule would be followed, I am sure ECT immediately would stop to exist!
      With love,
      Valentine

  11. Nancy, thank you for not writing me off entirely. I find a lot of people just will not tolerate dissent or any discussion unless it’s to be in total alignment with their viewpoint.

    By “recovery,” I’m referring to people genuinely saying their depression lifted as a result. For them, just knowing ECT is an option is immensely reassuring to them.

    The “do no harm” thing makes a good point but, again, you can always find an exception, e.g. chemotherapy certainly does harm yet it doesn’t violate the Hippocratic Oath.

    For myself, I will never agree to ECT again (and often, I wasn’t given the opportunity to agree or disagree) under any circumstances and I have been quite clear on this with my family, friends and care providers.

    The long-term results were horrendous and the awful thing about it is that environmental factors (or, more accurately, environmental causes) of my depression weren’t even considered so we rushed to what should have been a last-ditch effort.

    Consent needs to be enshrined in law as both informed and uncoerced but banning ECT altogether is a non-starter.

    • Well, I’m pretty sure a lot of people did get better on snake oil and if you sold it today you’d make a good buck. Medicine is about providing treatment that works and not about giving away random chemical substances or physical assaults with no regard for their effectiveness and side effects. Doctors have the responsibility to “do no harm” and giving people treatments which don’t work and can cause severe side effects. Chemotherapy works, ECT doesn’t. Chemotherapy is given for real illnesses that lead to a painful death roughly 100% of the time, ECT is given for something that may or more likely will not lead to suicide.
      Again, if I go to my doctor and tell him I want to be beaten over the head until I collapse (physical assault can cause similar effect as ECT) because I think it will help me with my depression should he be allowed to go for it with a baseball bat?

    • This isn’t complicated.

      “In general, aren’t we agreed that more choice is a good thing?”

      No. We aren’t agreed. I don’t think anybody should ever “choose” ECT, regardless of information (“informed consent”). Just as OTHER PEOPLE think I should not “choose” assisted suicide (and I can’t choose it anyway — it isn’t an option), I say ECT should NOT be an option. Ever.

        • But it’s not up to other people to decide what they will not allow me to choose.

          See how that works? It’s called equality. You say it isn’t up to me to decide for another and I say it isn’t up to another to decide for me.

          Now, back to REALITY, where assisted suicide ISN’T AN OPTION (because OTHER PEOPLE say so).

          I say ECT should also be NO such option and in order to ensure that it is NO such option, I’d go so far as to ban and prohibit education and training in how to perform the evil act.

          And yes, authoritarian is a property in my qualities. And no, I wouldn’t allow anyone to charge me with a “crime” (because it isn’t a crime) for having such property. I state (like a statesman would) very firmly – meaning what I say and saying what I mean.

          I say, ban that ECT. My right to say it and my right to mean what I say.

  12. I hear you Francesca, but I have to disagree with your example of chemotherapy. Anaesthesia is poison too, but who would want to go through surgery without it? You have a point, but in this case Ernest Hemmingway best described the effects of ECT when he said, “The operation was successful but the patient was lost”. The other thing is that I’m more than unconvinced that people who say they”benefitted” have had the opportunity to assess. If I had been interviewed a couple years after ECT I could easily have been(and maybe was, I don’t remember) someone who said I “benefitted”. But if you had asked my children they would have told a different and very tragic story. Yes, imagining that there’s this harmless procedure that will take away your pain may hold out some appeal to people who don’t understand what’s at stake, but it’s a lie. Like the chemical imbalance lie. I happen to agree with you that suicide should be legal. Having a government force you to be alive is something at which our American founders would have recoiled. The issues of conscience here on Mad in America are many, but I can’t go with you on your statement that banning ect is a “non-starter”. Banning ECT would not be very different from banning slavery. I went to high school half a mile from Stonewall Jackson’s headquarters and I have heard racism in its’ purest form. Travel back in time (or just visit Mississippi) and you can hear people saying that ending slavery is a “non-starter”.

    • A lot of people blame ECT for Hemingway’s suicide. In fact, he had very serious mental health issues before ECT.

      I think it’s up to the individual to decide what they want to do with their body (same as with assisted suicide).

      I really don’t think ECT (except for forced ECT!) can be compared to slavery. There was no such thing as voluntary slavery.

    • The suicide theme is a difficult one!
      First of all, the urge to commit suicide is often dependent on the moment or period in life. There is no way back and things in life could change (for the better)later on (and mostly will).
      Suicide could mean: I can’t endure no longer and then death can seem a solution out of the depression or out of a fearful situation or state of mind. But is it really a conscious choice even if “they” would allow you to choose?
      A conscious choice is when you know the consequences of any of the possible outcomes.
      But what do we know about life after death? Things could get worse! I’m not referring to what religions say about it, but what the reality could be. You can kill a physical body, but we are much more than that! You never can kill your spirit or soul.
      From my own experience I know life after death exists (and that it is different from that what religions want us to believe).
      And be honest, in the moments we think of suicide we are in a certain (mostly confused) state of mind and not really ourselves.
      Sometimes it are even voices that force the person to commit suicide, but later the person often regrets to have even listened to them. In this case the person wasn’t him or herself either.
      We should be educated about life after death first and the whole meaning of life. Do you know why you are here?
      Do we really have freedom of choice if we are conditioned to believe that death could free us of our problems and feelings, where it probably will not? (and I know, it will not.)

      With love,
      Valentine

      • If I could choose assisted suicide, I most definitely, most absolutely, would choose it.

        For me, it would be nothing less than pure joy and bliss. Bye!

        I expect only very few people to truly understand it. I think it is hilarious that within my family, we have morticians and a grave digger. Hilarious.

        I’m not offended by death and I don’t fear it. If I had the choice, I’d be gone (says the person who survived self-immolation. And in a court of law – they called it “an act of god” that I survived).

        I’m quite very serious. If it was an option, if it was a choice, I wouldn’t hesitate.

  13. Uprising, you said “I’m glad that you are against forced electroshock. I respect that. I am against all electroshock and I said so up front. I am also against all “psycho-surgery.””

    I think the issue should only be informed and uncoerced consent. Some epileptics, for instance, have surgery that they know will have profound negative effects because the benefits (getting rid of the seizures) outweigh the risks. We can’t take that away from people.

    “I don’t feel that any civilized society should sanction these practices. This carries no “judgment” aimed at “patients” who might find these things desirable for themselves.”

    But in fact you are making a judgment. You are judging consenting patients as being unable to make a good decision. You are deciding for them. That is infantilizing them. That’s exactly what’s wrong with psychiatry, remember?

    “It does carry a judgment – mine alone – that these practices ought to be illegal everywhere.”

    You’re not alone; lots of people feel that way.

    • I agree that the real issue is informed and uncoerced consent. What I’m saying, from experience gathered where I work is that there is no such thing at all!

      An intern doctor challenged the one good psychiatrist, who is also a teaching psychiatrist at our hospital, about this very issue and the psychiatrist’s respnose was, “Look at who you’re talking about and then ask me about informed consent. They’re not capable of making these kinds of decisions.” And he’s one of the few “good” psychiatrists that we have.

      It is not happening.

    • Francesca,

      I said the judgment was “mine alone” in order to underscore that I was speaking only for myself. *Of course* there are lots of people with the same opinion.

      Yes, you are correct that I am making a judgment. (I did in fact say so, after all.) I am making a judgment that people who think shock-treatment will help them are gravely mistaken. This is not the same thing as saying that such folks are “unable to make a good decision.” I do not see how it is infantilizing anyone. (I make mistakes all the time. In fact, it is something of a specialty of mine. That does not mean that I’m unable to make a good decision. In addition, I once thought that the psych drugs I had been taking were helping me. If you had asked me then, I would have told you so. Now, however, I know that they were in fact killing me. This present awareness does not mean that my former drugged self was incapable of making good decisions. It is not infantilizing my former self.) There is just no evidence that shock-treatment is either safe or effective, and LOTS of evidence that it causes people permanent physical damage.

      I am not persuaded by this hollow freedom of choice refrain. If you believe, for example, that a rat poison smoothie will make you feel better, then you can make one yourself. But a doctor certainly shouldn’t be allowed to give you one and call it treatment. The fact that I hold this opinion does not make me an authoritarian (as you have elsewhere accused someone else – with whom I agree, on this subject – of being.)

      I am not familiar with treatments for epilepsy. One thing I do know is that epilepsy seems to be a legitimate medical condition, unlike the fictional diagnoses in the DSMs. It makes sense to me that a person might opt for a high risk medical procedure to address a condition that actually exists (and I would never want to “take that away”). It does not make any sense to me, however, for a doctor to damage a person’s brain for no reason. This is why I used the word “psycho-surgery” instead of the phrase brain surgery. (I hope that is the correct distinction.) Put another way, in case it’s not clear, I fully reject the biomedical model of psychiatry, and all its claims.

      You said, “I think the issue should only be informed and uncoerced consent.” As long as ANY medical intervention IS legal, informed and uncoerced consent should be mandatory. I disagree with you, however, that this should be the only issue with regard to electroshock and “psycho-surgery.”

      • “The fact that I hold this opinion does not make me an authoritarian (as you have elsewhere accused someone else – with whom I agree, on this subject – of being.)”

        I don’t see anybody obeying my supposed authority, do you?

        I’ll take my assisted suicide the very first day that it becomes an option. Any idea how many people are STANDING IN MY WAY?

          • “I was trying to say that wanting to ban shock-treatment is in no way an authoritarian position.”

            I’m not the only one who has experienced injustice by the over-reaching, hands-turned-claws of “authorities”. That, in and of itself, in addition to many other factors, has contributed to the development of the “authoritarian” in Me. I don’t think my participation on this page should be reduced to the fact that somebody doesn’t like the way I stated my “case”.

            It seems there are many sorts of ECT being discussed:

            1. personal choice (with various levels of informed consent)
            2. involuntary / forced ECT

            I introduced a basis for comparison into this discussion but in all honesty, the way it is for me, right now, the conversation stops at this PRIZE SENTENCE:

            “For consent to be truly informed, they would have to tell the client that ECT has no proven effectiveness and can be very dangerous and destructive. But once they’ve said it in such blunt (and true) terms, they actually can’t ethically go ahead with the procedure.”

            I think, at this point, ALL PEOPLE need to stop, and realize and recognize what has been said.

          • “I don’t think my participation on this page should be reduced to the fact that somebody doesn’t like the way I stated my ‘case’.”

            I don’t think so either, mjk. Nothing that I wrote was ever meant to suggest such a thing. Not at all. I’m sorry if my writing has deteriorated so badly as to leave such impressions.

            And I agree with you completely about the “PRIZE SENTENCE.”

          • The misunderstanding was mine, I do believe.

            At first, I read it that you agreed in this authoritarian thing. But then I read it that you were saying you agreed with banning ECT.

            I got heated (and impulsive) by the authoritarian thing. I’m over it.

  14. There is an issue here. I am against forced ECT. If people want it then I would agree it is their decision. But then how much should or can we rely on the doctor’s ‘expert’ opinions? Do we all have to become medically trained? This is not just a subject for psychiatry. Early this year, after a bad fall, I was misdiagnosed by 4 GPs until an MRI scan (which I had to fight for) revealed that I had suffered a spinal compression injury in my neck which had affected my ability to walk. Having spoken to my neurologist, I did a search on the internet and within 30 minutes of wiki and youtube had discovered the neurological tests, symptoms and prognosis for my injury which my previous 4 doctors were unaware of. I know it is difficult, but I do expect my highly trained and well paid doctors to help guide me in my decision making on health matters. Some say ECT works, some say it causes brain damage. How am I, as an lay person, supposed to decide?

    • Nick ,Ask at least 12 people who have had ECT . I’ve had a forced series of 15. How do I feel about it? If I could get away with it I would have every psychiatrist in the world who administers any forced treatments grabbed against their will held down and either tasered or forced to swallow at random a psych med like thorazine or some other of their poisons.Then we would have a counseling session on the subject of reparations. After receiving a tattoo across their forehead “torturer” they would be sent home to train for a new job that causes no harm prepared to donate 50% of their salary to their previous victims.

      • Fred, Many people post-ECT no longer have salaries. They have disability pensions. And later they have only their government pensions. I doubt that any psychiatrist who has been force-fed a selection of psych drugs (in my case, 35 in 8 months – starting with a benzo for insomnia) and then forced to submit to at least 25 bilateral electroconvulsive ‘treatments’ would be in a position to be retrained for a new job – certainly not a job that paid anything other than a survival wage.

        I function with a wall of sticky-note reminders. I cannot assimilate new information. I have become inarticulate. I have a history of academic excellence. Wasted.

        The psychiatrists do need a dose of their own medicine. ECT is barbaric.

      • I totally understand your rage. I didn’t have ECT, thankfully, but the “treatment” I received from the “good professionals” also makes me sometimes want to use demonstration on them to speed up the learning curve. although I don’t think in practice I’d be able to commit such cruelty.

  15. This is an exciting, informative exchange which should be sent to the FDA. In Jan. 2011, several avid advocates, critical of ECT braved a snow storm to testify before the FDA Neurology Scientific Advisory Com. Though there were pro ECT testimonies contending that the ECT machines should be down graded to category II level (the same as a syringe), the Advisory Com. voted to keep ECT machines classified as category III devices (their classification during the last 25 years). FDA still has not given its final ruling. As a category III device the manufacturers of them would need to prove they are safe and effective. To date, as Dr. Hickey points,out the evidence is that ECT is unsafe and ineffective when compared with placeboes. I urge readers to pressure the FDA to follow the advice of its Advisory Board, and confirm that the ECT machine is a category III device, and it’s use should be suspended until it is proven to be effective and safe

    • MD Kelly Brogan’s current MIA article ‘The Taper’ in which she mentions energy medicine, acupuncture, chiropractic, and homeopathy gave me the courage to tell the rest of my story. My ‘Iatrogenic Insanity’ story has circulated on the internet for a few years. I have never included spiritual stress as my true reason for taking a benzodiazepine.

      I have always had a ‘knowing’ about things, frequent precognition, and precognitive dreams. I ‘saw’ my mother’s death in a dream. She was not ill – in three weeks she was gone. I’d had these death dreams for years – very accurate and very stressful for me. I took a benzodiazepine for sleep. When I stopped the benzo a few months after my mother’s death,I started shaking. Doctors considered this shaking to be agitated depression. I didn’t think I was depressed – neither did my husband. I was translating academic papers, taking courses, seeing palliative clients – but doctors soon convinced me that because I’d had a traumatic childhood, I was depressed. The shakes were bad, I accepted the antidepressant – and was medicated to insanity. Why did I accept the drugs? I would have done anything to stop the agitation – I now know it as akathisia. So – in 8 months – 35 drugs, 25 rounds of forced ECT.

      “What the hell happened too you!!! You were a totally healthy person. Doctors have turned you into a piece of shit. They should all be jailed. You couldn’t sleep because you have a thyroid problem (because of stress.)” Those were the words of an elderly intuitive healer. He went on to say: “There are nine holes in your energy field – all caused by drugs.”

      I had tapered myself of most of the drugs, but the benzo-like drugs were difficult. I had been given sleeping pills three times a day and once at night to control agitation. The intuitive worked out a tapering schedule for me.

      He also made a medical intuition ‘scan’ of the women who were incarcerated with me and having ECT. Almost all had been misdiagnosed. Thyroid issues, nutrient deficiencies – like B12, an inner ear infection, a kidney not filtering properly, a childhood had injury, gluten intolerance (lots), toxic chemical exposure (work-related) – these were all good reasons for prescribing antidepressants. And adverse reactions to antidepressants were all good reasons for administering ECT.

      Can I prove it? No, but other intuitives have arrived at the same diagnoses. Oops, did I write ‘diagnoses’- sorry only doctors are allowed to diagnose.

      A healer, one of the best known names in energy medicine, commented: ‘You have a very beautiful field. But you look as if you have been shocked.’ We were passing each other in a doorway at an energy medicine conference a few years back. The ECT was 10 years ago. I didn’t explain – she knew. Others who have also ‘known’ have said: ‘This is tragic.’

      ECT damage is visible in the human energy field.

  16. The FDA is filled at a leadership level with people from the cartels its supposed to regulate like in revolving door.Much better strategy to birth the healing we need out of ourselves with help from the best Traditional Naturopaths,Homeopaths,Energy Healers,Body Workers,and Friends we can find. At the same time staying away from those who do not take “FIRST DO NO HARM” as a serious primary directive .Psychiatrists volunteered in numbers high enough to constitute 40% of Adolf Hitler’s fanatical SS psychopathic murderous elite, eager to do Genocide . That today ‘s psychiatrists use life shortening poisonous overdosing drugs engineered with specially inserted addictive substances, and electricity to the brain and G-D knows what else to pound the human being into submission is hardly a surprise. What would Madame Defarge,The Outlaw Josey Whales,and Malcolm X say and do in response to the problem psychiatry creates especially for our children ? Are we mad enough in America yet? Whats the difference between a child molesting priest and a psychiatrist ? The psychiatrist wants to molest and abuse and pound into submission everyone .And why ? because they themselves are the real meaning of insanity.

  17. Just posted this in another ECT group…looks like it belongs here.

    Sorry it has been so long since I have put anything down. I have been dealing with some major swings. I have stopped the ECT. Let me see if I can this all correct. Writing has become a chore. Amazing…I think I used to love to write. I was reading my last post and am somewhat amazed at what is written. I am still at home with the spouse and kids. I had a total of 13 ECTs before I fired the Dr. If my memory serves me correctly, and that is a long shot these days, I saw the Dr. that prescribed my ECT a total of 2 times. The first time was to convince me to do the ECT and the second time was right before I was knocked out for my ECT. I am pretty sure I told the nurse I wanted to talk to my Dr. that day. I sort of recall I was waiting for her to show up when the anesthetist guy showed up. I remember telling anesthesia “Oh here it comes.” Then looking up, seeing the Dr., and saying, “oh Dr. Aznurova.” Then I was waking up and being loaded in the wheel chair to go home. I am pretty sure I was out before any conversation was had. We , the spouse and I, spent the next day trying to get a hold of the dr. Come to find out she was getting ready to leave for holiday and would not be back until after Jan 6. My work papers ended on Dec 29th. I am sure there was a back up plan for me to get a release but I sort of panicked and we said I needed a release. She signed the release paper work. Sending me back to work with no restrictions in 2 days from the sign date. Wow, I was magically cured and get right back in the swing of things……NOT!!!!! Thank God my work is understanding of my situation. I have been back for 1/2 days and I see my new dr. today. He is 70yrs old and Menniger trained. I am sure my spelling on that is not correct. Mennigers used to be located here in Topeka, KS but has moved to TX. It is world renowned for there treatment of mental and addictions. I was told the new Dr. is not a fan of ECT. What else can I tell you. My memory stinks. I have days that I feel like I am in somebody else’s body. I flip words alot. I have started stuttering again. I loose focus frequently. My mood swings are constant and extreme.

  18. I received 23 ECT treatments 15 years ago. For me, they were very beneficial when nothing else was. I had very severe depression and was non-responsive to medication. I eventually became suicidal. That is when I chose to receive ECT. Since the ECT treatments, I have not been clinically depressed again. Sure I have bad days still, but nothing compared to the magnitude of what I experienced before the treatments. I am personally not against it, as I know firsthand it can work. I am not saying it does not have its downsides. I have lost 22 points on my IQ. I also have a memory gap for approximately 5 years before the ECT. Since the ECT, I can tell you that I am not as intelligent, it is harder to learn knew information, and I have a very hard time remembering faces. However, I just graduated nursing school so school can be done after ECT. Just for me, not as easily. In Summary, receiving the ECT was worth it. I would gladly any day take the cognitive consequences that I now experience over the depression I once did.

    • I guess that is your choice and if you feel better I’m happy for you. Personally, I would not like someone to steal years of my life and make me into someone else by shocking my brain. I am just afraid that all the people who say “I’ve tried everything and nothing helped” were never really offered anything other than drugs and maybe occasional talk therapy. Not mentioning that depression is there for a reason in most cases…

    • I wonder if you were offered any other options besides medication and ECT? I recall working on a crisis line and talking to someone who had been trying different antidepressants for over a year, with no improvement. She was on the verge of panic. I asked her if she was aware that there were other things she could do. She suddenly stopped, calmed down, and said, “No…” No one had ever told her about therapy, support groups, meditation, peer support, exercise, or any other option – as far as she knew, if the medication didn’t work, she was completely screwed.

      Your story sounds very similar to many positive ECT stories. There is sometimes a benefit, but always a cost. And you are very fortunate that it worked out the way it did for you. Many others pay the cost without the benefit you’ve experienced. Try to imagine losing 22 IQ points and forgetting 5 years of your life, and feeling the same or worse than you did before.

      I also wonder if you were told about the trade-offs ahead of time? Were they honest with you?

      Good for you for persisting and getting the nursing degree! And thanks for honestly sharing your story – it is one of the best non-sensationalized descriptions of the long-term effects of ECT that I’ve yet seen in print.

      —– Steve

  19. I have been receiving bilateral ECT since February for bipolar depression. Medications were not working and antidepressants are not an option for me, as they trigger mania in me. I was going to begin to taper off treatments in May and go on maintenance, but I lost my insurance, so I had to stop abruptly. Since stopping like this, my mood has not remained stable, despite a cocktail of meds and talk therapy. I have been struggling with a depressive disorder. The treatments took my memory away from most of last year through may of this year. I don’t remember my grandmother’s funeral. The thing is, I felt much better, and, according to family, I was more productive and stable than ever while on ECT. I’m starting again next week, and I’m relieved. I think it worked for me.

    • Dear Robin1018, I urge you to read “medication Madness” by Peter Breggin. I could easily have written what you have, before I began to understand that the “cocktail” of drugs CAUSES what it is purported to treat….and worse. In fact, I’ll be thinking about you (even though I don’t know who you are). Electroshock is brain damage and you are being badly, badly misled. It is also very frightening to imagine that your family prefers you damaged. Unfortunately, I am not surprised because my family did the same thing. Looking back, safe and truly loved for the person I am, my family’s failure to value me and protect me is a betrayal of massive proportions.

      • i belive i got induced major depression by psychotropic drugs and got now to non functional level because of 19 ects. i do not now what to do anymore? i got mislead by doctors and victimized pretty well.
        What else can be done to improve my functions if you have any suggestions Nancy? Jana

  20. “post-concussion euphoria”
    Well, why don’t we call hitting someone over the head with a baseball bat “treatment”? It can also induce positive feelings, I have first hand experience of that after hitting myself with a hard object and collapsing. One of the best feeling in the world.
    Some narcotics also create short-lasting feelings like that and yet they’re illegal.
    This is madness…

  21. “8 – Invokes conspiracy arguments to explain lack of mainstream acceptance (Galileo syndrome) (…) With the possible exception of numbers 8 and 10, this list seems to me like a very accurate portrayal of psychiatry.”
    Well, actually 8 fits perfectly – psychiatrists are poor, misunderstood folks, ridiculed by anti-psychiatry fanatics who take money from Scientology.

  22. Hi Everybody, In reading this wonderful thread I want to address the misconception that lobotomies are no longer done. They are. And they are now being rebranded as “Psychosurgery”. Insulin shock is not gone either, and when we advise people (I work for PsychRights) on filling out Advanced Directives we include both. People need to understand that because “mental patients” have no rights, anything goes.

  23. I had forced ECT without anaesthesia but with curare, in January 1962. To keep this brief, I’ll just say that the round consisted of two ECTs per week, for four weeks. I am now a retired university teacher of philosophy, with specialism in mathematical logic and later neuroscience. Last year I read the article by Perrin et al, quite carefully, together with a highly critical and sharp logician. He came to the same conclusion I did: that if Perrin et al’s descriptions are correct, brain damage results. Lobotomy might not be the best way to describe it; I suggest pre-frontal neuronal connectivity loss (most likely permanent).
    This brings me to several remarks and questions.
    1. I was not depressed when I had that ECT.
    2. What is the current status of the hyperconnectivity hypothesis that Perrin et al base their
    reasoning on?
    3. If that hypothesis is correct in any sense, and if the writers’ interpretation that reduced
    connectivity relieves depression is true, *then* a non-depressed person (e.g. me)would most
    likely experience no valuable effects.
    4. If the hyperconnectivity hypothesis is false, then the conclusions of Perrin et al are not
    warrented.
    5. Finally, note that 3 and 4 do not concern people with any sort of depression.

    These points comprise our conclusions, after having read the article. Any comments would be most helpful. Thank you.

    • You are right. Lobotomy may not be the most accurate description but the functional effects are going to be similar (of course depending on the amount of damage). Frontal cortex is important for higher cognitive functions and long-term memory storage.
      Lobotomy was pretty “effective” against “mental illness” So would be a shot to the head. ECT is just more sophisticated (one can also say sadistic) form of that.

    • It’s another example of twisted logic: “if drug A reduces the symptoms and drug A increases the substance B therefore the symptoms must be caused by the deficit of B”. Well, the problem is that there are many other explanations why A may improve symptoms.
      And as ECT goes I don’t think that there is any convincing evidence that ECT “improves” anything long term. It’s again treatment causing short-term symptom release and long-lasting brain damage. Suggesting that damaging frontal cortex function is therapeutic is sick – that is the premise of lobotomy.

    • What is so chilling about the Perrin study is the attitude of the researchers. There seems to be no appreciation of what they have actually done. Which is to permanently damage healthy brains in pursuit of an idea based on assumptions that are completely unproven. I.e. that ECT is an effective treatment for depression. They even complain that there is a paucity of volunteers. Why were these studies not done on animals first? This is not to mention the complete disregard for even normal scientific method All this has shown is that ECT causes brain damage. There is no placebo control group or any other control group. There appears to be an assumption that depression is caused by a brain condition that was not demonstrated in the pre-treatment scans- the `improvement’ seen may or may not have been the consequence of the damage i.e. the reduced connections, but may equally be due to the placebo effect or other influences such as the drugs before during and after. This compounded by the earnest, `scientific’ attitude that most resembles the `studiously rigorous’ scientific examination of mesmerism over 200 years ago. It too, was completely bogus. Pseudoscience often presents very well and when critical examination is coming from supporters, it will get away with it, but not forever. There was a bit of embarrassment over this too because the APA et al categorically state that there is NO EVIDENCE OF `LASTING EFFECTS ON THE FUNCTIONAL ARCHITECTURE OF THE BRAIN’. In plainspeak, no structural brain damage! So what do they do? The PR machine moves in to say that this is a GOOD THING! WOW! The connections idea was what the 1930s school of Disabling the Brain as treatment said!