Electro Convulsive Therapy, commonly referred to as “Shock treatment” is a type of treatment used in psychiatry practice.
It has many misconceptions around it, mostly owing to the way it has been picturised in movies and other visual media. This write up is an attempt to remove these myths and educate the common people about it.
Electro convulsive therapy is a safe and effective method of treatment used for the treatment of severe stages of illnesses including suicidality, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. It is also being researched for the treatment of neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disorder. Electro Convulsive therapy works by using electric current applied to the brain following which the patient will have a short, controlled seizure (fit). This helps in improving symptoms by normalizing the levels of various chemicals in the brain. It generally works faster than medications.
Unlike shown in movies, electroconvulsive therapy is a very humane method of treatment and is done under anaesthesia in current practice. This is called modified electroconvulsive therapy. The patient will not feel any pain or discomfort during the procedure under anaesthesia. Medications are also given to relax the muscles so that the convulsions are not severe and do not cause any injury. Once the patient regains consciousness after anaesthesia, there may be mild forgetfulness which is limited to the treatment period. Before the procedure, the patient is assessed to rule out any growth in the brain and medical fitness to be given anaesthesia.
The treatment is usually given on alternate days for 3 days a week. The total number of sessions needed varies depending on how fast the patient responds and how severe the illness is.
This method of treatment is often preferred in post-partum illnesses as it helps to reduce the dosage of medications given and hastens recovery which is preferred if the patient is breastfeeding. It also helps to reduce the duration of hospital inpatient care as the recovery is faster so that the patient can be discharged earlier and can be given medications at home.
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