Patients and families

Electroconvulsive therapy, called ECT or shock therapy, has been used continuously since 1938. It is usually recommended for patients with specific psychiatric disorders who have severe symptoms and who have not benefited sufficiently from other treatments. It is also commonly used when it is especially important that patients have rapid and significant improvement due to the potential for self-harm or health complications that occur when individuals stop eating or sleeping. ECT is used in virtually every country around the world, and guidelines supporting its safe and effective use have been issued by several national and international medical organizations. For example, in the medical community, ECT is widely regarded as the most effective treatment currently available for treating treatment-resistant depression

Nevertheless, ECT is one of the most controversial treatments in psychiatry. At times, ECT has been portrayed in the media as a method used to punish patients and control their behavior, as in the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Some former patients claim serious damage from ECT, including profound memory loss. In contrast, the vast majority of individuals who received the treatment reported that the symptom relief they received outweighed any side effects they experienced. Especially in light of this controversy, it is wise for patients and family members to educate themselves about the potential benefits and risks of this treatment and to raise any concerns or questions they have with ECT providers. Below are books, videos, and articles in which individuals describe their own experiences with ECT.

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