Is Electric Shock Therapy Still Used To Treat Depression?

Is Depression Still Treated With Electric Shock?

Yes, many people are surprised to learn that electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) is still being used to treat patients with severe side effects of depression, bipolar and schizophrenia who have not responded to conventional therapy. Highly criticized in the 1950s and 1960s, ECT has quietly been making a comeback since the 1980s. It has widely reestablished its credentials with mental health professionals for treating depression. The treatment consists of applying electric current via electrodes placed on the temples for a fraction of a second. The patient has a convulsion similar to an epileptic seizure. About 100,000 Americans and 20,000 British patients undergo ECT every year - 70 percent are female as women are at higher risk of suffering from depression. The use of electroshock in young patients is controversial and is usually avoided, but it is generally thought safe for adults (even pregnant women). Even so, some groups and therapists still oppose ECT, believing that other methods of treatment can be as effective and safer.

ECT patients are given an anesthesia and muscle relaxants before therapy to prevent the jerky movements that in the past occasionally caused fractures. Oxygen is also administered during treatment as are new techniques used to prevent memory loss. In unilateral ECT, for instance, electrodes are not attached to each temple but one is attached to the top right half of the head and the other to the right temple to avoid transmitting current through the brain's left hemisphere, where verbal memory is centered. Brief-pulse therapy uses the lowest effective electrical current administered for the shortest possible time. If the psychiatrist does not feel the patient is responding as they should, they may switch to bilateral ECT in the next session. Strangely, doctors still don't know for sure how ECT works. The prevailing theory is that electrically induced seizures produce changes in brain chemistry. Despite some critics who maintain that memory loss is still possible, ECT still presently remains the only hope for some patients with severe depression. Considerable numbers of patients report their depression lifts just after a few sessions (a typical treatment plan involves 6 to 12 sessions given on a daily or weekly basis) - this fast acting result is particularly important for suicidal patients. Until other treatments are developed, ECT is likely to continue as a part of psychiatric practice, but a carefully controlled one.

How Much Does Treatment Cost?

The average cost of treatment, including the procedure itself, IV drips, anesthesia, drugs and administration is about $2,500 per session. If you average 10 sessions, this takes the total bill to $25,000. Fortunately most insurance companies will cover the costs.

Fact Or Fiction? Creativity is linked to manic depression.

: No link has been proved between artistic achievement and any particular mental illness. Writers and artists such as Vincent Van Gogh, Edgar Allan Poe and Ernest Hemingway may have been manic depressive - but so have many people from all walks of life. Artists' manic phases may just be more noticeable if they correlate with bursts of intense creativity.

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