Shock therapy, despite it’s stigma, will not turn you into a passive shadow of yourself. In fact, quite the opposite will happen.
ECT, or Electroconvulsive Shock Therapy, has been practiced for many years and is very effective in treating both depression and mania symptoms. “In 1937, an Italian neurologist named Ugo Cerletti was convinced that metrazol-induced convulsions were useful for the treatment of schizophrenia, but far too dangerous and uncontrollable to be applied”(http://library.law.columbia.edu/urlmirror/CJAL/14CJAL1/shock_i.htm).
Back then, no one knew how to stop the convulsions once they had started, so there was a risk with using it. Today, despite some mild confusion a couple hours after it is used, it is pretty harmless, thanks to development of the method over time.
So how does ECT work?
Basically, a seizure is caused by a current that runs through the brain of the patient. This seizure causes changes in how the brain operates (https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/electroconvulsive-therapy/about/pac-20393894).The current helps stimulate the release of chemicals in the brain, like dopamine and serotonin. This is given while the patient is under anesthesia, so the patient is not awake while this is taking place.
Here are three reasons why shock therapy may be the best treatment for you.
1. It’s a Quick Fix for Severe Depression
Like most conditions, depression has different levels of severity.
There are days where you feel kind of sluggish but are able to push through and take on any task in your way. Days where you call in to school or work, but can at least take care of yourself. And then there are days you spend in bed, without getting up to even shower or eat.
“Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) can provide rapid, significant improvements in severe symptoms of several mental health conditions”(https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/electroconvulsive-therapy/about/pac-20393894). Severe symptoms of depression can lead to things such as malnutrition or financial hardship, if they go on long enough. Sometimes you need fast treatment in order to just function.
Other treatments may take several months to work for something so severe, but shock therapy can have large effects in a short amount of time.
2. Misdiagnosis is Less of a Problem
Many patients will find that their symptoms will not go away when taking a prescribed antidepressant.In some cases, new ones will appear. For example, someone with bipolar depression will find that their medication will cure their sluggishness, but provoke symptoms of mania. Mania, depression’s polar opposite, causes hyperactivity and impulse control. Spending sprees and making big decisions illogically, commonly go with it.
” The most frequently prescribed antidepressants were SSRIs (35.5%), mirtazapine (9.4%), venlafaxine (5.6%) and TCAs (4.7%). All antidepressants were associated with an increased incidence of mania/bipolar disorder ” ( https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4679886/).
And doctors often confuse depression and bipolar depression, due to similar symptoms presented at the time of the initial appointment.
Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that changes in cycles. Someone with this disorder may have a depressive episode that ranges in length, varying from a few days to a few months. Some symptoms that are apparent then are a loss of energy and interest, sad mood, and isolation.
Or they can become manic. While going through a stage of mania, one may spend money they don’t have and have excess amounts of energy. A hallmark of mania is trying to accomplish several things at once but completing nothing.
So essentially, someone who is bipolar can easily be diagnosed with normal depression.
However, ECT treatments will not provoke manic symptoms in either a depressed or bipolar patient. Instead, it will fix cases of mania and depression.
“ECT is used to treat severe mania, a state of intense euphoria, agitation or hyperactivity that occurs as part of bipolar disorder”( https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/electroconvulsive-therapy/about/pac-20393894).
Since ECT treats a variety of symptoms, it can be used in the treatment of many disorders.
3.Very Effective for Treatment Resistant Disorders
“In the first level of the Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression (STAR*D) trial, only about 30% of patients were in remission following up to 12 weeks of therapy with the selective serotonin receptor inhibitor (SSRI) citalopram”(https://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/574817_2).
SSRIs are the most commonly prescribed antidepressant. Since these medications only work about a third of the time, they may not be the best option for you
Treatment resistant depression occurs when you do not respond to normal treatment for depresion, which is often a combination of therapy and medication. In this case, you may want to try shock therapy.
ECT has an incredibly high success rate. ” These sessions improve depression in 70 to 90 percent of patients, a response rate much higher than that of antidepressant drugs”(https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/psychiatry/specialty_areas/brain_stimulation/ect/faq_ect.html).
It is unclear why ECT works better, but it is thought to restore brain chemicals to a normal balance.(https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/psychiatry/specialty_areas/brain_stimulation/ect/faq_ect.html).
Shock therapy is superior to the average depression treatment in many ways. Not only do you recover quickly, but it is highly effective for many disorders. If there is an “instant fix” to depression, this is it.
So why don’t more people use it?
Cost is a big factor. And though normal treatment may be completely covered by insurance, shock therapy often is not.
“ECT treatment will usually cost between $2,400 and $6,400” )http://www.ect.org/resources/apa.html). This is quite pricey, especially for someone living on a low income. And financial hardship often accompanies severe mental illness, since it can affect job stabibility.
If one day it is to be more widely accepted by insurance, more people would be able to take use of this treatment. However, until then, people will have to try their hand at the standard treatment of depression.