Thanks to a lot of movies, our image about electroconvulsive therapy is pretty biased. Everybody is probably imagining crying patients dragged by the psychiatric ward staff, tied to the bed, while being forced into ECT. It’s not that barbaric but many people believe that it produces a great deal of pain. In movies, even people who don’t show signs of severe depression are treated with ECT and it is often portrayed as a treatment for those with antisocial behavior.Another misconception about ECT is the fact that it is forced upon the patient; however, people sign consent forms to be treated with ECT. There is no abuse involved.
Many people believe it is administered like this:
But what is ECT ?
ECT is used for severe depression, bipolar disorder, or psychotic illnesses and 80% of people who get this treatment show improvement. It is performed under anesthesia and the person has no memory of the time during the procedure. Its side effects are minimal, there is no evidence that it damages brain function, although memory may be mildly affected a few weeks after the treatment.
Perhaps the negative image it has comes from the fact that ECT was performed without anesthesia at first (in the 40s). It usually caused fractures because the result was a full scale convulsion. The fact that it was done frequently also made it harmful for patients. But nowadays, this treatment is safe, used only when other treatment options don't work and is rarely done involuntary (extreme cases when the patient is unable to give consent or their life is in danger).
Here's a video of a girl suffering from paranoid schizophrenia talking about her ECT therapy: