Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a very intense psychiatric treatment. It is used in various kind of depression when the patient is suffering chronic symptoms of the depression. It is often used as last resort in treating the patient. In cases of severe depression where no other treatment is working, the patient is given electric shocks so that they will have a therapeutic effect. It was initially a very controversial, as it was very harsh treatment which was given to the patients. Later on it was legalised as its effect were productive.
Working of ECT –
When a patient is having severe convulsions, controlling them in that situation becomes very difficult. There for the mechanism of electric shock has been adopted so that the person can be sobered down. These sudden burst of electric shocks last fro about 15 seconds. In some cases, these shock have to be repeatedly applied to the patient so that he/she can lose conscious. Many studies have been conducted to understand the exact working of ECT, but still the working of this treatment remains a secret. One factor for this is, scientists do not have direct access to the human brain. Therefore they conduct such studies on animals.
The closest theory for the working of this therapy is, due to the high voltage shocks, the body is drained out of energy. When this shock is applied long enough so that the body loses all the energy, the patient goes unconscious and the convulsions her therefore curbed.
Side effects of ECT –
Apart from the efficiency of this treatment, there are many side effects the patient may have to counter. The side effects relating to this therapy are given below,
it has an adverse effect on the long term memory of the human brain. The effects of ECT include both the types of amnesia, retrograde (events happening before treatment) and anterograde (events happening after treatment).
Effects on General Cognition:
due to this therapy there is a possibility of brain damage and causing seizures. But the amount of electricity which is sent to the brain is very less. A normal adult brain seizure may last till 1 hour, but in ECT the brain seizure lasts less then 1 minute. And the death ratio in ECT is 1 in 10,000.
Effects on brain structure:
there is a lot of controversy regarding the effects of ECT on the structure of the brain. There is a theory which says the electricity sent into the brain damages the brain tissues. Most of the mental health association including American Psychiatric Association has ruled out the possibility of this.