Electroconvulsive Therapy: Why is it Effective?

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Electroconvulsive Therapy: Why is it Effective?

Reported for the first time in the 18th century, was the use of convulsive therapy.

Psychiatrists observed that after spontaneous epileptic seizure the psychiatric conditions of patients improved. Previously, in the sixteenth-century, Paracelsus, a Swiss physician and alchemist gave camphor by mouth to produce convulsions and to cure lunacy. Originally, the induced convulsions treated severe catatonic stupors and schizophrenia. Today we know the convulsions are secondary to grand mal seizures in the brain, and that the seizure is the primary therapeutic agent of electroconvuslive therapy (ECT). Metrazol and Cardiazol later replaced Camphor because of its rapid onset. The extremely unpleasant sensations led investigators to seek alternative methods and electroconvulsive therapy was born. Electrical stimulation first tested epileptic seizures on dogs and pigs, and its first treatment helped a delusional, hallucinating homeless man diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1938. After chronic administration of ECT, the patient fully recovered.

The introduction of ECT to the United States created a burst of therapeutic optimism in psychiatry. Psychiatrists used ECT experimentally on patients with major mental disorders. This led to its current use for Major Depression. A negative stigma has remained since movies like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest stress the abuse of ECT: "The Shock Shop, Mr. McMurphy . . . might be said to do the work of the sleeping pill, the electric chair and the torture rack. It's a clever little procedure, simple, quick, nearly painless it happens so fast, but no one ever wants another one. Ever".

The idea that all the Doctor has to do is "push...

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...s of action of ECT and severe mental illness in hopes of coming to a definitive conclusion about why they occur, and how treatment is effective.


1)Electroconvulsive therapy for schizophrenia

2) Abrams, R. (1997). Electroconvulsive Therapy. (3rd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.

3)Electroconvulsive Therapy


4)ECT and Receptor Function


5)Depression FAQ


6)All about ECT- Electroconvulsive Therapy


Recommended Reference

7)ECT On-line: Some ECT links

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