December 22nd, 2009

Yellow head

Electroconvulsive Therapy

I'm about to embark on the second volume of Psychiatric Tales, kicking off with the contentious subject of electroconvulsive therapy. My thoughts on this issue are somewhat confused. I worked at a psychiatric hospital for years and the ward I worked on had an electroconvulsive therapy suite attached. This suite was used once a week. I saw the process in action. I saw both the good and bad effects that ECT had on patients. My very unscientific observation was that the therapy had as much positive effect on people as it had none. I saw it bring people back from the depths of depression and I saw it have no effect at all. I saw it being used on patients you knew it would benefit, and I saw it being used on patients, simply because the psychiatrist in charge, having used all other options, couldn't think of anything else.
Yes, it's a ghastly invasive technique, but put out of your mind any images you have of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. People aren't conscious during this procedure, nor do they have fits, as both muscle relaxants and anaesthesia are used. It could be seen as barbaric, but so could major surgery or organ transplant. All these medical techniques have downsides and don't work on everyone.

In dipping into the internet to start the process of research into this topic, I'm quite freaked by the amount of information there is. Sorting out the facts from the huge mass of contrasting scientific evidence, first-person experiences, and downright lies, is going to take some doing. Please feel free to give me you thoughts on this subject.