RIDE THE TIGER | The Benefits of Electroconvulsive Therapy | PBS

NARRATOR: Electric jelly
on the temples, strap on the electrodes, insert a mouth gag, then a jolt of electric current. It’s a rapid response therapy
that’s been around a while. It’s called ECT,
electroconvulsive therapy, better known as shock treatment. Introduced to the U.S. around
the same time as lobotomies back in the 1940s, ECT still stirs strong emotions
as a brutally archaic torture rather than a modern,
useful treatment. But ECT is as common as ever, and there’s only
one reason why– it works. HALLIDAY: I was under the bridge
for a few days with the crack heads
and the alcoholics. It was kind of like
I was suicide by… it was just going to be
a slow death. I just wanted to sleep it away. NARRATOR: A successful
serial entrepreneur, Gary Halliday lost it all
and found himself at Western Psychiatric
in Pittsburgh. HALLIDAY: They had given me
an antidepressant, and I wasn’t responding. Bring in a, that severe of
a depression for a year or so, you know, they felt I was
medication-resisting at that point. NARRATOR: Out of options, doctors recommended that he
participate in a clinical study. HALLIDAY: And the study was ECT
plus medication for eight months. NARRATOR: It sounded terrifying
and barbaric, but doctors insisted
ECT could help. HALLIDAY: I was desperate
at that time. I was totally desperate. I had nothing,
nowhere for me to go. You know, physically
or emotionally. And, you know, it worked. SARAH LISANBY: Usually people
are referred to me because everything else
has not worked. NARRATOR: During her time
as the chair of Psychiatric and Behavioral
Sciences at Duke University, Sarah Lisanby has advanced
our understanding of just how effective
ECT can be. LISANBY: ECT induces remission
in upwards of 80% of people. It’s very rapidly effective, and in particular,
people with bipolar disorder with severe depression respond
extremely rapidly to ECT. NARRATOR: ECT and DBS both
rely on electricity. Electric current applied
to the brain changes the way neurons
connect to one another and even stimulates
the growth of new neurons. INSEL: The brain is capable
of rewiring itself, quickly and in a profound way. Every time we learn a language
or we learn to play the violin, we’re changing the way
the brain is wired up.


  1. Now this is interesting, wondering if it could get rid of this chronic pain I have? Can't hurt to do some research I suppose.

  2. There are so many medical ways not like this, ECT / Electrical Lobotomy. Coming from someone with Schizoaffective Disorder, PTSD, Debilitating Anxiety & Insomnia. First Olanzapine and Quetiapine, Benzodiazepines (For me Clonazepam, Alprazolam, Nitrazepam and Diazepam) SNRI, Effexor XR. I could go on and on. Never choose ECT unless you have tried absolutely everything under the sun. PhD in Medicine

  3. brainwashing the masses to think this is the solution
    the mind not only can create diseases, but it can also cure itself

    I was doped up one over 8 medications for 5 years for…
    Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, Depression, Autism..
    Shrink wanted to do "ELECTRO COMPULSIVE THERAPY"
    …because the sysmptoms were not going away

    yep, medications are a band-aid
    the real problem is the underlying PSYCHOLOGICAL problems
    ….that one can fix through therapy of simply talking "WHY" are you anxious? "WHY" are you depressed?
    if they do not have an answer, they just do not see a solution to their misery…well, medication is the solution.

    if you're happy and you know it shake ur meds
    (cricket cricket)

    turn to meditation, healthy diet and work out
    theze hoez just want to exploit Americans through insurance,
    make them doped up on all sorts of drugs (ey, 70% of Americans are currently medicated, the highest in history…anti depressants as #1 and opioids as #2…with 50% being in over 2 medications or more..)

    and when you think that doesn't work,
    let society brainwash you to electrecute ur brain, killing neourons…i wonder…how much ECT is? how many rounds?
    while humans are having their minds fried,

    say Hello to Kelsey Warren
    part of the American Board of Psychiatry..worth $2.3 Billion,
    How much are you worth?

    post script: wait for it….American Board of Psychiatry is a non-profit organization of tax evading pigs- who want to dope, control the minds of its own citizens at a massive scale (70% and growing) …
    they took from me half a million dollars in 5 years of hospitalizations and 'precription' medications

    I am SO GLAD my mother sent me to rehab once my psychiatrist said ETC, "… WOULD BE THE ONLY WAY TO CURE HER"
    thank God, I did not fry my brain
    thank God I am off medications
    thank God I am about to be a published author
    and thank God for being finally ok, how?! I told my mind to do so
    If I could do it so can anyone

    I just gave you your cure…for free
    no insurance required
    no brain fry included

    and as always,

  4. I went through around 6 years of severe depression that didn't respond to drugs and suicidal ideation. I was told ECT was my last option and I took it. At first it seemed great but my depression kept coming back requiring to have more ECT. It eventually damaged my brain so severely that I have been diagnosed with chronic encephalopathy– sometimes they say dementia– and I'm being monitored in case this is progressive. My doctors denied ECT was the cause– I couldn't get rehabilitation without a doctor referral. This this almost led to my suicide. This was in my early 20s. It's been 11 years and I still struggle with everyday actives, processing emotions and communication. I can't work enough to support myself. I'm not alone in this– I help run an ECT survivor support group with close to 200 people who have been permanently disabled by ECT. Few if any had doctors acknowledge the cause, nor have they been offered appropriate testing or rehabilitation. If you are considering ECT, please, please talk to people who have been injured by it first so you can make a truly informed decision. There are other ways to manage depression– I was able to figure my Sitch out, but my life is diminished now that I'm permanently disabled.

  5. This is why people think its proper to put something in our mouths and restrain us when we're seizing. Its not ok

  6. Absolute quackery. ECT is electrical injury paired with grand mal seizures.It causes brain damage, perm memory loss, and cognitive dysfunction.Go to ectjustice.com for information.

  7. I would like to warn anyone out there who is considering ECT. Your doctor may tell you that it's rare to have memory loss extending beyond a few months before the treatment. I don't think it's as rare as they claim, especially with bilateral ECT, which tends to cause much more memory loss than unilateral. I am one of the supposedly "rare" cases.  I had ECT and it wiped out DECADES of memory — my ENTIRE LIFE has been almost completely erased. That is not an exaggeration. I remember little bits and pieces, but that's it. I don't remember my childhood, my college years, my wedding, my honeymoon, or most of my life with my husband of 10 years. It has been devastating for me. And the ECT ultimately didn't even work. It worked for a short period of time, but I kept having to get more and more treatments to maintain the effects. At first I didn't experience much memory loss, but after continuing to get treatments every 2 weeks for a few months, one day after a treatment I looked at a picture on top of my dresser of me and my husband on our honeymoon in Ireland back in 2008 and realized I didn't remember our trip at all. I searched my memory to find out how much I had lost, and I couldn't remember ANYTHING from the entire 12 years I've been with my husband! I tried to think back farther than that, and realized the memory loss extended all the way back to my childhood. I seriously barely even remember my own mother, who passed away in 2007. I am now working on trying to file a malpractice suit against the negligent psychiatrist who did this to me. Yes, ECT does help some people tremendously, but is it worth the price of decades of lost memories? I would only recommend ECT if have tried EVERYTHING else first, and even then, be extremely wary of receiving too many treatments.

  8. I need ECT so bad, but the NHS won't provide it and I can't afford it. Already having to pay for other operations abroad to deal with diabetes. Our wonderful socialist medical system!

  9. Patricialynette i feel stressed and mentally and emotionally hurt and troubled, depressed as a result, mostly agitated, deeply hollow. I feel i need to, plus the memory loss would be what would get me better, and recovery. I will be able to take up my hobby to sing again- and be able to focus and concentrate, without mental blockages and pessimistic memories getting in the way. Those memories are like baggage blocking my mind. I will be able to dance also, just for fun, that excess sinking feeling will be gone, all the heaviness will be gone. I will be able to express extreme love 💖, and not feel depressed or heavy anymore. I will find a man who treats me right, and will be deeply in love, and making true love, always. Even my pet dog will notice an elevated state in me, and no day will i ever be demotivated to cook, sing, dance or take my dog for a walk. Sunny days would await me. If only i would be able to. No more fear. I have photos of my mum, who passed in 2009, i know if anyone loves me, they will continue to love me when memories are warped out of my mind. Emotionally and spiritually i will continue to be kind hearted and filled with love ❤. I can make this sacrifice to begin a fresh new start🌼, and feel elated and liberated once again🕊. A beautiful beginning…

  10. Heroin is far safer for the brain than ECT. It may kill you but ECT kills as well, it's just not reported. But ECT will leave you with a lifelong disability.

  11. Anosognosia refers to a condition in which the patient denies the deficits resulting from a brain injury. This is true for other kinds of brain dysfunction, and a whole book has been compiled on this subject entitled The Study of Anosognosia by George Prigatano (2010), with a chapter on traumatic brain injury. For example, a person with memory problems might say when confronted, "Oh, someone distracted me," or "I was in a hurry." If the person has a memory problem, they might use the same excuse many times( "there is nothing wrong with my memory", or, "I had no side effects from ——")

    "Mild" head injuries are often mistaken for other disorders, particularly psychiatric. It is sometimes hard for other healthcare professionals to appreciate that "mild" head injury symptoms are not due to some other psychiatric disorder (such as depression) or a psychosomatic disorder.

  12. To all these people in the comments who are against ECT, what else would you have someone try if all the medications that they've ever tried and therapies don't work?

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