Electric Shock Therapy for Depression

The Mayo Clinic says that electroconvulsive therapy (colloquially known as electric shock therapy) is a procedure conducted under general anesthesia during which a physician passes tiny electric currents through the brain, purposefully triggering a brief seizure in the patient. According to studies, electroconvulsive therapy appears to lead to alterations in brain chemistry that have the potential to rapidly reverse the symptoms of particular mental health issues. While electroconvulsive therapy may not work for everyone, it is most often turned to once other treatments have been found to be unsuccessful.

And while no one knows how exactly electroconvulsive therapy helps treat mental illness, it is known that the brain sees chemical changes in its function during and after seizure activity. It is speculated that these chemical changes may interact and reduce symptoms of the mental illnesses in question; this is why electroconvulsive therapy seems to be most effective in individuals who receive a full course of several treatments.

Today, electroconvulsive therapy may be used to treat individuals suffering from:

  • Severe mania: individuals living with bipolar disorder sometimes experience periods of severe mania that are characterized by hyperactivity, intense euphoria, and agitation. Other symptoms of mania may include psychosis (detachment from reality), risky or impulsive behaviors, substance abuse, or impaired decision making.
  • Severe depression: symptoms of severe depression may include psychosis, the refusal to eat, or suicidal behaviors.
  • Treatment resistant depression: in this case, a patient has severe depression that did not see improvement with various treatments or medications.
  • Agitation and aggression from dementia: individuals with dementia may suffer from aggression and agitation; these symptoms are often hard to treat and compromise one’s quality of life.
  • Catatonia: associated with schizophrenia and some other psychiatric disorders, catatonia is characterized by lack of speech, quick or strange movements, or lack of movement altogether. Other medical illnesses can also potentially lead to catatonia.

Additionally, electroconvulsive therapy can be a viable option in individuals who have a difficult time tolerating medication or in situations where other therapeutic approaches have not helped. Some such situations may arise:

  • In older individuals who are unable to tolerate the side effect of medications
  • In pregnant individuals who cannot take certain medications because they may harm the developing child
  • In individuals who prefer not to take medications but rather opt for electroconvulsive therapy first
  • In people who have previously seen success after receiving electroconvulsive therapy

While there is still somewhat of a stigma attached to electroconvulsive therapy, this is due to its early days, in which treatments used high doses of electricity without the assistance of anesthesia. This led to fractured bones and memory loss, among other severe side effects. Today, however, electroconvulsive therapy is significantly safer: it involves the administration of electric currents within a controlled setting utilized to gain the largest amount of benefit with the lowest number of risks. Side effects, today, tend to be far more mild. People generally see improvement in their symptoms after they have received about six treatments of electroconvulsive therapy.

Here at Grouport, we offer online group therapy for depression as well as various other mental illnesses. All of our incoming members receive a 20-minute initial consultation as a part of their onboarding process that is led by a trained mental health professional. They are then placed into a therapy group, which meets for an hour once a week. You can find more FAQs here.

November 30, 2021

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