Running head. : INVESTIGATE THE HISTORY AND PRACTICE OF ELECTROSHOCK, ANALYZING HOW AND WHY THIS EXTREME TREATMENT CAME TO BE WIDELY USED. 1
InvestigateThe History And Practice Of Electroshock, Analyzing How And Why ThisExtreme Treatment Came To Be Widely Used.
Beforethe 1930s, the primary method of treating psychiatric patients waspsychoanalysis. Nothing much could be done for patients exceptsedation and social support. It was through the work of two men,Lucio Bini and Ugo Cerletti that the first electroshock machine wasbuild.
Cerlettiasked Bini to assist him in designing and testing an electroshockmachine. Bini was a brilliant psychiatrist but not anelectro-technician. However, he came up with procedures that improvedthe electroshock machine. The improved machine did not gravely harmthe trial subjects.
Initially,the machine caused the death of dogs used in experiments. After theimprovement of the machine, the dogs no longer died after undergoingtests using electrical currents. The doctors concluded that humanbeings could, therefore safely undergo treatment using the machine.This article looks at the history and practice of electroshock. Italso analyzes how and why this extreme treatment came to be widelyused.
TheHistory of Electroshock Therapy.
Thefirst use of electroshock on a human being was in 1938 (Endler,2016). It was more of an experiment and conducted in a clinic inRome. The room where the experiment took place was the clinic’slaboratory. Mario Felici and Lucio Bini were present during theexperiment together with other staff. On completion of the test, thepatient was discharged from the clinic, well oriented and in goodcondition. The patient was discharged after examination and later theprocess published in a special issue of a medical journal in 1940(Endler, 2016).
Electroshocktherapy spread to Italy and North America after the publication ofthe initial experiment. The term electroshock was used in Italy todescribe the treatment (Sabbatini, 2016). In North America, doctorscall it the electroconvulsive treatment. Reto J. Almansi and hispartner, David J. Impastato administered the first electroconvulsivetreatment in America. The treatment was in New York City at Columbushospital. Electroconvulsive therapy was used to treat severe cases ofdepression which were resistant to all other forms of treatment(Sabbatini, 2016).
Electroshocktherapy was so effective that only three to four weeks after itsadministration, the severe cases of depression disappeared.Psychiatrists continued using electroshock therapy over the years,and it gradually replaced methods like insulin-induced shock and theuse of drugs like Metrazol.
Afterthe first successful use of electroshock therapy on human beings,doctors tested other methods of treatment. They tried using otherkinds of physical shock therapy techniques. They also combinedelectroshock therapy with other physical shock therapies. They endedup abandoning all the other methods and settling on electroshocktherapy since it was cheap and convenient.
Despitethe significant improvement made in the therapy over the years, thepopularity of the technique began to decline in the 1960s due to themovements against it. Some years later, the method gained popularityagain due to its effectiveness. Its administration continued in theUnited States under strict regulations and rigorous supervision. Someof the most notable personalities who underwent the therapy are JamesForrestal, Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Silvia Plath.
Whythis extreme treatment came to be used.
Electroshocktherapy is a type of stimulation of the brain conducted usingelectrical current. An anesthesiologist and a psychiatrist supervisethe procedure. The procedure is either unilateral or bilateraldepending on where the electrodes lay on the patient’s head.Electric current passes through the electrodes on the patient’shead and induce seizures like those that occur during an epilepticattack. The seizures that are clinically effective to the patientlast over a short period of between thirty seconds to slightly over aminute.
Theprocedure is painless, and a patient does not experience convulsions.However, some individuals experience some problems after they wake upfrom the procedure. The side effects range from nausea, headaches,muscle stiffness and confusion. The procedure has to be administeredsix to twelve times within a short period (less than four weeks).
Strictmonitoring of one undergoing the treatment helps in making theprocedure successful. Various methods of electroshock therapy exist.They are the sine wave stimulation, bilateral pulse stimulation, andunilateral pulse stimulation (Mental Health America, 2016).
Onlyunilateral and bilateral methods are safe since the sine wave methodhas a higher risk of memory loss and no increased benefits to apatient. The unilateral method is preferred over the bilateralapproach since unlike the later it has a reduced risk of memory loss(Mental Health America, 2016).
Despitetrying other methods of treatment and other medicines, electroshocktherapy stood out as the best method for treating various psychiatricdisorders due to its efficiency and affordability. Anti-depressantshave been widely used to assist patients who are depressed, those whohave psychotic symptoms and those who are at a high risk ofcommitting suicide. It takes approximately six weeks for a patientsuffering from depression to recover if treated usinganti-depressants. Electroshock therapy is a preferred form oftreatment especially for individuals who have severe cases ofdepression because it quickly and effectively treats the condition.
Atthe moment, electroshock therapy is the most effective method for thetreatment of severe depression since it provided the most rapidrelief. Also, electroshock therapy is effective in the treatment ofParkinson’s disease, catatonia, neuroleptic malignant syndrome anddifferent forms of depression.
Inthe 1960s, the use of electroshock therapy declined due to thediscovery of antipsychotic and antidepressant drugs. Campaigns thatwere held by groups against the electroshock therapy procedure alsoled to a decline in the use of this method of treatment. Thepsychiatric community discovered that some conditions cannot betreated using antipsychotics and antidepressants. They pushed for anondrug treatment option to give them more options in fightingdepression.
Theinability of antipsychotics and antidepressants to cure allpsychiatric conditions led to the re-introduction of electroshocktreatment. Electroshock therapy is better than psychiatric drugssince it has fewer side effects. Psychiatric drugs may lead to deadlyand irreversible side effects. Also, electroshock therapy has gainedpopularity since it is the preferred method for patients who are at arisk of committing suicide or those who are allergic to thepsychiatric medications (Gale Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders, 2013)
Inthe 1950s, electroshock therapy was widely used together with otherprocedures, but it was still stigmatized since most people did notclearly understand how the method worked. Medical practitioners usedthe method since it was cost effective as compared to Metrazol andinsulin shock therapy.
Therewas a lot of evidence indicating that electroshock therapy was safeand efficient. Several efforts were also made to minimize the risksassociated with its use. The method however still faced a lot ofcriticism and skepticism despite all the efforts made to improve itand to inform the public about its advantages.
Duringthe previous years, there was no consensus among scientists on howelectroshock therapy worked and how it affected the brain. Therefore,individuals had their questions and criticisms of the procedure.
Atsome point, some psychiatrists felt that the procedure was used bypractitioners to experience sadistic control over their patients. Themethod was also feared since it did not complement the otherpsychiatric methods that utilized the somatic healing processpromoted by psychological healing.
Theethical questions caused the acceptance and growth of the method toslow down in the 1960s and 1970s, but it later experienced a revival.In the 1990s. The mental health community reevaluated the therapy. Itwas accepted and certified for use in addressing specific types ofdepression.
Anarticle written by the U.S. Surgeon General on electroshock therapyfurther fuelled the change of attitude towards the therapy. He notedthat no other controlled study was able to achieve the results thatthe therapy has achieved in the treatment of depression(Sevigny-Resetco, 2013).
Therehas been increased use of electroshock therapy in the recent yearsdue to the positive reviews it has received for to its effectivenessin treating personality and mental disorders. According to theAmerican Psychiatric Association, the therapy has been beneficial invarious cases of depression (WebMD, 2016).
Electroshocktherapy is beneficial and safe when a patient needs rapid treatmentand is pregnant or at a severe risk of committing suicide. In suchcases, it is better to use electroshock therapy since psychiatricdrugs cannot be effective.
Electroshocktherapy is also beneficial when a patient is rejecting food andtherefore experiencing nutritional disorders, where a patient is in acatatonic stupor and when a patient is using other drugs that preventthem from using anti-depressants.
Thetherapy is useful in cases where a patient has responded well to thetreatment before, where a patient is experiencing mania, depression,or where both mania and depression have resulted in bipolar disorder.Finally, the therapy is used to treat major cases of depression,schizophrenia, psychotic mania and depression (WebMD, 2016).
Thereare still some critics of electroshock therapy. They see electroshockas sadistic and useless despite all the medical researches and teststhat support this treatment technique. Dr. John Reed of theUniversity of Liverpool states: “I`m convinced that in 10 or 15years we will have put electroshock therapy in the same rubbish binof historical treatments as lobotomies and surprise baths that havebeen discarded over time.” The statement clearly indicates thatsome individuals still do not believe in the efficiency andsuperiority of the electroshock therapy. Despite all the criticismmentioned, studies showing that the therapy continues to work and itis gaining acceptance among people who know the actual benefit of theprocedure. It is time for medical practitioners to embraceelectroshock therapy.
Forelectroshock therapy to successfully treat the various psychiatricdisorders, it has to be administered by a specialist. A patientshould also be closely monitored. It is only under close supervisionthat the patient’s receptiveness to the treatment is clear.Responsiveness guides a psychiatrist to know if the patient needshigher or lower doses of the electroshock therapy or higher or lowerfrequency of exposure to the treatment.
Endler, N. S. (2016). The Origins of Electro Convulsive Theraphy. In M. Fink, Convulsive Theraphy (pp. 5-23). New York: Raven Press.
Gale Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders. (2013). Electroconvulsive therapy . Retrieved from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/psychology/psychology-and-psychiatry/electroconvulsive-therapy
Mental Health America. (2016). Position Statement 34: Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT). Retrieved from Mental Health America: http:// www.mentalhealthamerica.net /positions/ect
Sabbatini, R. M. (2016). The History of Shock Therapy in Psychiatry. Retrieved from Cerebromente: http://www.cerebromente.org.br/n04/historia/shock_i.htm
Sevigny-Resetco, D. (2013). The Development of Electroconvulsive Therapy. An Undergraduate Neuroscience Journal, n.p. Retrieved from http://soundideas. pugetsound.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1017&context=soundneuroscience
WebMD. (2016). Electroconvulsive Therapy and Other Depression Treatments. Retrieved from WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/electroconvulsive-therapy#2