Sherwin Nuland: How electroshock therapy changed me

I’d like to do pretty much what I did the first time, which is to choose a light-hearted theme. Last time, I talked about death and dying. This time, I’m going to talk about mental illness. But it has to be technological, so I’ll talk about electroshock therapy. (Laughter) You know, ever since man had any notion that some of his other people, his colleagues, could be different, could be strange, could be severely depressed or what we now recognize as schizophrenia, he was certain that this kind of illness had to come from evil spirits getting into the body. So, the way of treating these diseases in early times was to, in some way or other, exorcise those evil spirits, and this is still going on, as you know. But it wasn’t enough to use the priests. When medicine became somewhat scientific, in about 450 BC, with Hippocrates and those boys, they tried to look for herbs, plants that would literally shake the bad spirits out. So, they found certain plants that could cause convulsions. And the herbals, the botanical books of up to the late Middle Ages, the Renaissance are filled with prescriptions for causing convulsions to shake the evil spirits out. Finally, in about the sixteenth century, a physician whose name was Theophrastus Bombastus Aureolus von Hohenheim, called Paracelsus, a name probably familiar to some people here — (Laughter) — good, old Paracelsus found that he could predict the degree of convulsion by using a measured amount of camphor to produce the convulsion. Can you imagine going to your closet, pulling out a mothball, and chewing on it if you’re feeling depressed? It’s better than Prozac, but I wouldn’t recommend it. So what we see in the seventeenth, eighteenth century is the continued search for medications other than camphor that’ll do the trick. Well, along comes Benjamin Franklin, and he comes close to convulsing himself with a bolt of electricity off the end of his kite. And so people begin thinking in terms of electricity to produce convulsions. And then, we fast-forward to about 1932, when three Italian psychiatrists, who were largely treating depression, began to notice among their patients, who were also epileptics, that if they had an epileptic — a series of epileptic fits, a lot of them in a row — the depression would very frequently lift. Not only would it lift, but it might never return. So they got very interested in producing convulsions, measured types of convulsions. And they thought, “Well, we’ve got electricity, we’ll plug somebody into the wall. That always makes hair stand up and people shake a lot.” So, they tried it on a few pigs, and none of the pigs were killed. So, they went to the police and they said, “We know that at the Rome railroad station, there are all these lost souls wandering around, muttering gibberish. Can you bring one of them to us?” Someone who is, as the Italians say, “cagoots.” So they found this “cagoots” guy, a 39-year-old man who was really hopelessly schizophrenic, who was known, had been known for months, to be literally defecating on himself, talking nothing that made any sense, and they brought him into the hospital. So these three psychiatrists, after about two or three weeks of observation, laid him down on a table, connected his temples to a very small source of current. They thought, “Well, we’ll try 55 volts, two-tenths of a second. That’s not going to do anything terrible to him.” So they did that. Well, I have the following from a firsthand observer, who told me this about 35 years ago, when I was thinking about these things for some research project of mine. He said, “This fellow” — remember, he wasn’t even put to sleep — “after this major grand mal convulsion, sat right up, looked at these three fellas and said, ‘What the fuck are you assholes trying to do?’ ” (Laughter) If I could only say that in Italian. Well, they were happy as could be, because he hadn’t said a rational word in the weeks of observation. So they plugged him in again, and this time they used 110 volts for half a second. And to their amazement, after it was over, he began speaking like he was perfectly well. He relapsed a little bit, they gave him a series of treatments, and he was essentially cured. But of course, having schizophrenia, within a few months, it returned. But they wrote a paper about this, and everybody in the Western world began using electricity to convulse people who were either schizophrenic or severely depressed. It didn’t work very well on the schizophrenics, but it was pretty clear in the ’30s and by the middle of the ’40s that electroconvulsive therapy was very, very effective in the treatment of depression. And of course, in those days, there were no antidepressant drugs, and it became very, very popular. They would anesthetize people, convulse them, but the real difficulty was that there was no way to paralyze muscles. So people would have a real grand mal seizure. Bones were broken. Especially in old, fragile people, you couldn’t use it. And then in the 1950s, late 1950s, the so-called muscle relaxants were developed by pharmacologists, and it got so that you could induce a complete convulsion, an electroencephalographic convulsion — you could see it on the brain waves — without causing any convulsion in the body except a little bit of twitching of the toes. So again, it was very, very popular and very, very useful. Well, you know, in the middle ’60s, the first antidepressants came out. Tofranil was the first. In the late ’70s, early ’80s, there were others, and they were very effective. And patients’ rights groups seemed to get very upset about the kinds of things that they would witness. And so the whole idea of electroconvulsive, electroshock therapy disappeared, but has had a renaissance in the last 10 years. And the reason that it has had a renaissance is that probably about 10 percent of the people, severe depressives, do not respond, regardless of what is done for them. Now, why am I telling you this story at this meeting? I’m telling you this story, because actually ever since Richard called me and asked me to talk about — as he asked all of his speakers — to talk about something that would be new to this audience, that we had never talked about, never written about, I’ve been planning this moment. This reason really is that I am a man who, almost 30 years ago, had his life saved by two long courses of electroshock therapy. And let me tell you this story. I was, in the 1960s, in a marriage. To use the word bad would be perhaps the understatement of the year. It was dreadful. There are, I’m sure, enough divorced people in this room to know about the hostility, the anger, who knows what. Being someone who had had a very difficult childhood, a very difficult adolescence — it had to do with not quite poverty but close. It had to do with being brought up in a family where no one spoke English, no one could read or write English. It had to do with death and disease and lots of other things. I was a little prone to depression. So, as things got worse, as we really began to hate each other, I became progressively depressed over a period of a couple of years, trying to save this marriage, which was inevitably not to be saved. Finally, I would schedule — all my major surgical cases, I was scheduling them for 12, one o’clock in the afternoon, because I couldn’t get out of bed before about 11 o’clock. And anybody who’s been depressed here knows what that’s like. I couldn’t even pull the covers off myself. Well, you’re in a university medical center, where everybody knows everybody, and it’s perfectly clear to my colleagues, so my referrals began to decrease. As my referrals began to decrease, I clearly became increasingly depressed until I thought, my God, I can’t work anymore. And, in fact, it didn’t make any difference because I didn’t have any patients anymore. So, with the advice of my physician, I had myself admitted to the acute care psychiatric unit of our university hospital. And my colleagues, who had known me since medical school in that place, said, “Don’t worry, chap. Six weeks, you’re back in the operating room. Everything’s going to be great.” Well, you know what bovine stercus is? That proved to be a lot of bovine stercus. I know some people who got tenure in that place with lies like that. (Laughter) So I was one of their failures. But it wasn’t that simple. Because by the time I got out of that unit, I was not functional at all. I could hardly see five feet in front of myself. I shuffled when I walked. I was bowed over. I rarely bathed. I sometimes didn’t shave. It was dreadful. And it was clear — not to me, because nothing was clear to me at that time anymore — that I would need long-term hospitalization in that awful place called a mental hospital. So I was admitted, in 1973, in the spring of 1973, to the Institute of Living, which used to be called the Hartford Retreat. It was founded in the eighteenth century, the largest psychiatric hospital in the state of Connecticut, other than the huge public hospitals that existed at that time. And they tried everything they had. They tried the usual psychotherapy. They tried every medication available in those days. And they did have Tofranil and other things — Mellaril, who knows what. Nothing happened except that I got jaundiced from one of these things. And finally, because I was well known in Connecticut, they decided they better have a meeting of the senior staff. All the senior staff got together, and I later found out what happened. They put all their heads together and they decided that there was nothing that could be done for this surgeon who had essentially separated himself from the world, who by that time had become so overwhelmed, not just with depression and feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy, but with obsessional thinking, obsessional thinking about coincidences. And there were particular numbers that every time I saw them, just got me dreadfully upset — all kinds of ritualistic observances, just awful, awful stuff. Remember when you were a kid, and you had to step on every line? Well, I was a grown man who had all of these rituals, and it got so there was a throbbing, there was a ferocious fear in my head. You’ve seen this painting by Edvard Munch, The Scream. Every moment was a scream. It was impossible. So they decided there was no therapy, there was no treatment. But there was one treatment, which actually had been pioneered at the Hartford hospital in the early 1940s, and you can imagine what it was. It was pre-frontal lobotomy. So they decided — I didn’t know this, again, I found this out later — that the only thing that could be done was for this 43-year-old man to have a pre-frontal lobotomy. Well, as in all hospitals, there was a resident assigned to my case. He was 27 years old, and he would meet with me two or three times a week. And of course, I had been there, what, three or four months at the time. And he asked to meet with the senior staff, and they agreed to meet with him because he was very well thought of in that place. They thought he had a really extraordinary future. And he dug in his heels and said, “No. I know this man better than any of you. I have met with him over and over again. You’ve just seen him from time to time. You’ve read reports and so forth. I really honestly believe that the basic problem here is pure depression, and all of the obsessional thinking comes out of it. And you know, of course, what’ll happen if you do a pre-frontal lobotomy. Any of the results along the spectrum, from pretty bad to terrible, terrible, terrible is going to happen. If he does the best he can, he will have no further obsessions, probably no depression, but his affect will be dulled, he will never go back to surgery, he will never be the loving father that he was to his two children, his life will be changed. If he has the usual result, he will end up like ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.’ And you know about that, just essentially in a stupor the rest of his life.” Well, he said, “Can’t we try a course of electroshock therapy?” And you know why they agreed? They agreed to humor him. They just thought, “Well, we’ll give a course of 10. And so we’ll lose a little time. Big deal. It doesn’t make any difference.” So they gave the course of 10, and the first — the usual course, incidentally, was six to eight and still is six to eight. Plugged me into the wires, put me to sleep, gave me the muscle relaxant. Six didn’t work. Seven didn’t work. Eight didn’t work. At nine, I noticed — and it’s wonderful that I could notice anything — I noticed a change. And at 10, I noticed a real change. And he went back to them, and they agreed to do another 10. Again, not a single one of them — I think there are about seven or eight of them — thought this would do any good. They thought this was a temporary change. But, lo and behold, by 16, by 17, there were demonstrable differences in the way I felt. By 18 and 19, I was sleeping through the night. And by 20, I had the sense, I really had the sense that I could overcome this, that I was now strong enough that by an act of will, I could blow the obsessional thinking away. I could blow the depression away. And I’ve never forgotten — I never will forget — standing in the kitchen of the unit, it was a Sunday morning in January of 1974, standing in the kitchen by myself and thinking, “I’ve got the strength now to do this.” It was as though those tightly coiled wires in my head had been disconnected and I could think clearly. But I need a formula. I need some thing to say to myself when I begin thinking obsessionally, obsessively. Well, the Gilbert and Sullivan fans in this room will remember “Ruddigore,” and they will remember Mad Margaret, and they will remember that she was married to a fellow named Sir Despard Murgatroyd. And she used to go nuts, every five minutes or so in the play, and he said to her, “We must have a word to bring you back to reality, and the word, my dear, will be ‘Basingstoke.'” So every time she got a little nuts, he would say, “Basingstoke!” And she would say, “Basingstoke, it is.” And she would be fine for a little while. Well, you know, I’m from the Bronx. I can’t say “Basingstoke.” But I had something better. And it was very simple. It was, “Ah, fuck it!” (Laughter) Much better than “Basingstoke,” at least for me. And it worked — my God, it worked. Every time I would begin thinking obsessionally — again, once more, after 20 shock treatments — I would say, “Ah, fuck it.” And things got better and better, and within three or four months, I was discharged from that hospital, and I joined a group of surgeons where I could work with other people in the community, not in New Haven, but fairly close by. I stayed there for three years. At the end of three years, I went back to New Haven, had remarried by that time. I brought my wife with me, actually, to make sure I could get through this. My children came back to live with us. We had two more children after that. Resuscitated the career, even better than it had been before. Went right back into the university and began to write books. Well, you know, it’s been a wonderful life. It’s been, as I said, close to 30 years. I stopped doing surgery about six years ago and became a full-time writer, as many people know. But it’s been very exciting. It’s been very happy. Every once in a while, I have to say, “Ah, fuck it.” Every once in a while, I get somewhat depressed and a little obsessional. So, I’m not free of all of this. But it’s worked. It’s always worked. Why have I chosen, after never, ever talking about this, to talk about it now? Well, those of you who know some of these books know that one is about death and dying, one is about the human body and the human spirit, one is about the way mystical thoughts are constantly in our minds, and they have always to do with my own personal experiences. One might think reading these books — and I’ve gotten thousands of letters about them by people who do think this — that based on my life’s history as I’ve portrayed in the books, my early life’s history, I am someone who has overcome adversity. That I am someone who has drunk, drank, drunk of the bitter dregs of near-disaster in childhood and emerged not just unscathed but strengthened. I really have it figured out, so that I can advise people about death and dying, so that I can talk about mysticism and the human spirit. And I’ve always felt guilty about that. I’ve always felt that somehow I was an impostor because my readers don’t know what I have just told you. It’s known by some people in New Haven, obviously, but it is not generally known. So one of the reasons that I have come here to talk about this today is to — frankly, selfishly — unburden myself and let it be known that this is not an untroubled mind that has written all of these books. But more importantly, I think, is the fact that a very significant proportion of people in this audience are under 30, and there are many, of course, who are well over 30. For people under 30, and it looks to me like almost all of you — I would say all of you — are either on the cusp of a magnificent and exciting career or right into a magnificent and exciting career: anything can happen to you. Things change. Accidents happen. Something from childhood comes back to haunt you. You can be thrown off the track. I hope it happens to none of you, but it will probably happen to a small percentage of you. To those to whom it doesn’t happen, there will be adversities. If I, with the bleakness of spirit, with no spirit, that I had in the 1970s and no possibility of recovery, as far as that group of very experienced psychiatrists thought, if I can find my way back from this, believe me, anybody can find their way back from any adversity that exists in their lives. And for those who are older, who have lived through perhaps not something as bad as this, but who have lived through difficult times, perhaps where they lost everything, as I did, and started out all over again, some of these things will seem very familiar. There is recovery. There is redemption. And there is resurrection. There are resurrection themes in every society that has ever been studied, and it is because not just only do we fantasize about the possibility of resurrection and recovery, but it actually happens. And it happens a lot. Perhaps the most popular resurrection theme, outside of specifically religious ones, is the one about the phoenix, the ancient story of the phoenix, who, every 500 years, resurrects itself from its own ashes to go on to live a life that is even more beautiful than it was before. Richard, thanks very much.


  1. I've had two episodes of severe clinical depression in 20 years. In both instances I was hospitalized for several weeks, received a series of ECT treatments and the depressions lifted completely. A severe clinical depression is one of the worst experiences a person can have. If you are motivated to end your life, DON'T. It always gets better even if you're convinced it won't. Depression plays tricks on the mind.

  2. I'm not going to say ECT is useless because frankly I have no data for or against it.
    It's all anecdotes– everyone, everything– if there are journals, they're too hidden and too long for me to read.

    What I will say, is that I personally killed depression from myself with something much more basic.

    I noticed my self pity one day– I was 19, iirc– and I got a knife out of the drawer.
    I thought to myself, alright, you keep saying you want to die.  Do it.

    Of course I didn't– so I stopped dwelling.  I started thinking about what I wanted out of life.  I started planning on how to do it.

    Here I am, trading in the most violent battlefield on Earth, the U.S. stock exchanges– carving out my little piece of the pie.
    Every day I wake up against my will, I get some coffee and I get ready to kick ass.

    I think the cure for many people is in their own heads.

  3. I am 41 years old had depression my whole life. Had many bad episodes on Major Depressive Disorder. My depression caused me to lose the love of my life because I regressed into depression and did not know how to communicate. My depression came out as anger. 17 months ago my fiancée of 4 years left me and it sent me into a downward spiral and had suicide attempts. I withdrew from society not taking showers shaving or brushing my teeth not answering my phone did not clean my apartment, barely left my apartment did not wash laundry I am and was a wreck.. I had been doing this and I decided one day if this is the way I am going to feel the rest of my life I would end my life. I want to be happy and people just do not understand major depression its not a choice its just a way you feel. I am starting ECT on Monday August 3, 2015. I am praying and hopeful ECT will work because  I do not want to feel this way any longer, I want to be happy. I have tried so many medications and its come down to this they did not work. So I am trying ECT to help. It was a choice between killing  myself or undergo ECT. So I am trying it I am having unilateral ECT to start 3 times a week outpatient

  4. RIP Mr Nuland, and thank you for your enduring words.
    I do relate to your expression of obsessional thinking, I was adversed to the notion of ECT (my mother endured a lifetime of mental illness and failed treatments), I was forced to have ECT when I was in my early 20's at my ignorant brother's direction.  It worked as I lost my neural networks, perhaps, of elaborate understandings of life meaning, and was numbed down in order to be normal and I also forgot my other learning's for nearly 2 years.  Thank god I have a brain stem alike to everyone else.
    I was diagnosed of various conditions at that time, but eventually treated as though I was genetically the same as my mother.  I was hospitalized for a very long time, unfortunately for me. 
    My mathematical mental ability declined from ECT as did my confidence.  My short term recall was impaired in part for years.  I had to leave my university studies where I had previously excelled.
    The when and who is appropriate for ECT treatment should still exist, but be the last course of action.

  5. Early treatment was also inducing a diabetic coma. Any near death experience can do this for you. Some cultures would hang from hooks and stare at the sun for days till they pass out. So maybe a drug induced stupor or getting drunk is good for us after all. It can't be as bad as electrocution? I been shocked by lightening and outlets and kind of liked it so who knows?

  6. Great talk Sherwin!

    Thanks for battling through your depression and staying here with us to deliver this Ted Talk. Your ideas and experience with Depression is really gonna help people understand their Illness in the context of their long term Mental Health.


  7. This should ALWAYS be a priority for people with depression, unexplained mental illness, psychosis or with other unexplained troubles. This is the BEST cure for depression and many other things…

  8. The amount of absolute ignorance on the comment section never cease to amaze me to the least bit. People do NOT choose to be depressed, people are depressed because of many reasons you will never understand or comprehend. People without mental illness(call it fake or whatever in the world you want) will NEVER understand what it's like to be in our shoes. No one should go through depression not even a nano second. I highly suggest people to do this electric shock therapy because it will END your misery. No one deserves to be depressed.

  9. ECT destroyed my life 2005 they did it 8 diff times in two weeks… i'm in full body pain 24-7 from this and still have bad depression and now even more problems 2016 if you think you need this …1-2 times at most. Not everyone is the same!

  10. A great explanation of ECT. I recently went through a number of treatments and found them helpful. I also posted it on my YouTube channel. Douglas Bloch

  11. ECT is "craniocerebral trauma". It causes brain damage. A series of closed head injury concussions causing grand mal seizures is not "therapy" or "treatment". It is a barbaric, lunatic assault on a delicate brain. The fact the odd person survives a limited number at low dose does not mean anything when compared to the thousands of people whose memories have been destroyed, intellects have been decimated,and personalities have been altered for the worse.The cover ups of ECT brain injury by shock docs, the APA, and hospitals driven by arrogance, stupidity, ignorance, a delusional state, or simply greed is on a par with the NFL and its denials about brain injury and CTE caused by concussions.
    A twelve year old could figure this out. Multiple electrical injuries and seizures have NOTHING to do with medicine or "healing". Read up on the neurological and psychiatric injuries caused by accidental electrical injury. Horrifying.Debilitating. But if a "doctor" assaults someone with 10 or 20 electrical "treatments", it is called "therapy"? It is time this stupid, dangerous human rights violation is BANNED.
    This video sucks on multiple levels. Nuland never speaks of the TYPE of ECT he is given, the schedule for the series he is given, the voltage that is used, and what side effects he was willing to accept for his so called recovery. For all we know, his doctors could have given him sham ECT or the tiniest shock anyone could be given. For all we know, he might have simply spontaneously recovered at that time by coincidence. He may have been so convinced by his doctors faith in the procedure that placebo kicked in. Or, he could have had just enough brain injury to derail his OCD by making him "forget" what was bugging him.This video should come with links directing viewers to videos by Mar Maddock and Liz Spikol so a more balanced view is presented to those desperate people considering EVT/TBI as "treatment".

  12. Suicide is the only cure for unbearable mental illness. Depression is the only disease in the world that beckons one to kill themselves. There is a deep, organic, evolutionary, biological message there. Possibly, it's natures way of weeding out the weak & sick? I used to think there was a cure for MDD, but after 58 years of unbearable suffering, & exhausting all modalities of treatment, I now realize those inner voices of death are sending me an important message. I have tried suicide many times when I was younger, & now looking back, my only regret is not having succeeded, however I will continue to try & end this suffering. No one wants to die, but given the choice between death and chronic, unbearable suffering, I know which one I choose

  13. A terrible, vague description of ECT with no mention of the severe risks and potential for serious cognitive impairment and memory loss. Outcome lucky. Not typical.

  14. my sister got raped and triggered severe depression and was diagnosed with bipolar. Attempted suicide couple times spent lots of time in mental hospitals. Ended up getting somewhere around 100 ect's as a final last resort to save her life(1990's). directly following the ect-nausea, memory loss didn't remember me; always remembered my parents thou.
    Saved her life. has a kid now happily married job etc. the girl that went in was not the girl that came out thou, I feel she is different.
    I hope our understanding and treatment of the brain advances must faster

  15. I will never get invited to do a TED talk on this topic, but if I did it would state that ECT gave me brain damage and made me want to die. So, you got lucky, Sherwin- low dose or Sham ECT is probably what you had.

  16. I thought this was a very cool video about ECT, in addition to reading medical articles and watching other Youtube videos.

    With that said,. I underwent 6 treatments and it did nothing except destroy my short term memory. I will walk the parking lot for an hour and I have to write everything down all the time because my memory is permanently destroyed. I do not appreciate the fact that the long-term side effects are downplayed and so more and more people watch videos and say "I'm gonna try this".

  17. ECT is one of the most misunderstood medical treatments. I had it multiple times, and it is overall safe, and very effective to treat major depression, and other mental health issues.

  18. Oh my God! I love this guy! He's so smart and he's so funny! I'm very glad ECT worked for him. I myself have had over 20 treatments, and I'm still, for lack of a better phrase, fucked up.

  19. ECT "works" because it destroys your cognizance and memories. For every person that finds it therapeutic, there are many more who kills themselves afterwards or speak of how it has disabled them.

  20. i am not sure if this brilliant man ran out of time or ended abruptly after the pheonix qoute, i would love to have seen this particular speech go on forever.

  21. 11 ECT "treatments" have left me with serious memory problems, seizures (which I never had before), and a feeling of dissociation. It's true I'm not as depressed, but I feel like a zombie most of the time. I understand there are people who have a good experience with it, maybe even a life-saving one. So I'll refrain from being judgmental…All I know is that it pretty much wrecked me in many ways. I had it in my late 20s and I'm now 44 and am on permanent disability. I would urge anyone thinking of undergoing ECT to think twice. More than twice.

  22. ECT saved my life. I have had severe bipolar depression since my early teens. After decades of failed treatments and feeling like my life was useless and I would never feel anything near "ok", I decided to try ECT. It was the best decision I ever made. I've had treatments almost every month for over 2 years. I can feel the chemicals begin to flow afterward, and when I first got treated it was like I'd woken up from a nightmare that had been my life. There are so many variables that can effect your experience with ECT; medication you're taking, unilateral or bilateral treatment, and even the anesthesia used are just a few. Medications like benzodiazepines cause memory loss, but most people aren't on forums decrying the horror that is Valium. ECT can save many more lives; we just need to end the stigma.

  23. This ridiculous video needs to be removed so it does not encourage people to get brain damaging ECT as a "treatment".

  24. I need help finding an ect doctor, where do I start the process. I suffer from bipolar/depression and anxiety.

  25. It is irresponsible to leave this video on line without including information that ECT causes brain damage, memory loss, and cognitive impairment. So Sherwin had a few tiny low dose zaps he survived. So what? Link this to all the videos of people whose lives have been destroyed by ECT.

  26. Running an electric charge through someones brain is not something that can be "controlled". Electricity in every case, will take the path of least resistance. To pretend that you can "target" it is either deceitful or ignorant. Electricity obeys the laws of physics and will take the path of least resistance… which in an organism is likely to change daily, even hourly, in response to hydration, diet, a million uncontrollable variants. If you were bold enough to pretend that you even knew what section of the brain you were targeting… (Lying) you would still be unable to say whether or not the electricity was following the path you pretend to chart. It is barbaric and it is solely to make profits off the most vulnerable patients. This guy surely must believe, but he is mistaken.

  27. I am between ECT 7 and 8 and i can feel the difference already. my options were try suicide again or this. I'm so glad I chose ECT.


  29. Obviously most of the negative comments on this feed are from people who have never had mental illness and have never worked in the mental health field.  Working in psych on an inpatient unit that uses ECT for the most severe cases of depression, I have seen miraculous recovery and benefit. There is no long term brain damage or 'trauma.'  It is a mild seizure, not an 'assault on the brain.'  People receiving ECT have lifted from debilitating, deep, inhuman depression to being able to return to functioning in their lives and society. They return to careers, interactions with their families/friends, better health, etc.  People need to know what they are talking about before they choose to comment.

  30. Extremely helpful and encouraging to me, personally, as someone who has struggled with depression for over a decade, and with regular relapses.

  31. I'm having ECT, 6 sessions so far. This is my last chance. I'll kill myself if this doesn't work. It's good to see so many successful instances of ECT on YouTube but equally worrying when you read the comments.

  32. 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.

  33. ECT helps for depression??? 😂 wtf!

    The shocks destroy the brain so that you have holes in your memory and you cannot remember anymore why you were depressed, happy, etc. Is this a cure? It is as if a person whose leg got broken would have his leg cut off.

  34. is ECT good for bipolar disorder???? i'm 33 on meds, i feel better but think there's still room for improvement; should i just stay with the meds/talk therapy or go for the ECt? my doctor just brought it up i am not sure about it

  35. This video needs to be removed. ECT causes brain damage, memory loss, cognitive dysfunction, and personality changes. It is craniocerebral trauma or TBI. It is most likely Nuland was given sham ECT.

  36. Ect saved my life I felt amazing and it lifted me away from my depression! I went suicidal too living my old life again.

  37. Ect wrecks your life. You have no short term memory, can't read books or remember conversations from the day before. It's criminal that so called doctors can treat you this way. They don't understand how it works. It's big business in America and UK. Psychiatrists giving it to you will not mention the side effects too much. Any consultant who speaks out against this is blacklisted, never to work in the profession again. You are alive but only just and numb for the rest of your life

  38. The ECT did not " save " you; You grew as a person, and eliminated the negatives and blossomed. ECT does not treat, nor cure anything.

  39. There is a vast literature, scientific and testimonial, that indicates ECT works by inducing brain damage, not uncommonly: catastrophic. See Peter Breggin, Bonnie Burstow, Wayne Ramsay, Connie Neil, Linda Andre, Susan Cunliffe.

  40. Too bad his daughter Victoria Nuland creates chaos and confusion by overthrowing democratically elected leaders.

  41. The one women that had ECT ,after the first treatment. The Doc. asked her if she had memory loss ,she No. So the Doc. said let's turn up the AMPS,and start cooking your Brain! then she started having memory loss! THANKS MODERN MEDICINE 🙁

  42. Electroshock causes brain and body trauma and damage. It can cause ptsd and disassociation. It causes cognitive deficits, long and short term memory loss, lessened emotions, outbursts of anger, feelings of being trapped. Reduced creativity, sensory overstimulation ‘flooding’, excessive sleeping or insomnia …. the list goes on and on and every brain injury is unique due to the amount of shocks given, the volts given, bilateral, unilateral, gender, age given. It is an internal electrical injury to the brain and body and once the euphoria fades. People will notice these things which in itself will cause worsening depression in the long term, psychiatrists will blame depression or another psychiatric disorder and shocks will continue to be given to give that sense of euphoria. The more damage will accumulate, the more likelihood of serious injury to the nervous system and brain, causing other complications that may cause death in the worst scenarios.

  43. Over ninety percent of people who get ECT spend the rest of their lives on disability. Don't believe people who have tons of money and many supporters. They do not have to worry about the learning impairments that the procedure produces. Use your common sense. Even my cats and dogs stay away from the electrical outlets and power .

  44. Sherwin thankyou for your talk and sharing your story. you skimmed over how you met your new wife etc, with the adversities you were facing at the time how did you meet, how did happen, how was it possible? wondered if you could talk about that in another talk ? ive lived with depression for years and the rollerdoor on finding and sharing life with a loving partner disappeared years ago. the key to the rollerdoor was carried by a pelican over the most desolate part of the ocean and dropped into the darkest deepest depths of the ocean, it was caught by a massive clam on the oceans bed and slammed shut. im now trying to find the secret code to unlock the clam, to find my key to unlock the rollerdoor… if you know what i mean. would be interested to know that part of your story and how it happened for you ?

  45. electrochok is completly insane a blow with a baseballbat would do the same this guy is BS and to call it therapy is a crime


    Lawsuits proceeding to address brain damage ECT causes.

  47. Irresponsible! I'm so sorry for your struggles. But ect is very dangerous and its not right to paint such a light picture of it.

  48. This talk provides no real information on the damage shock can do to a human brain.
    It causes brain damage, permanent memory loss, apathy, trauma, loss of self and identity. Nuland was likely given sham ECT or the weakest form of this electrical assault.

  49. Go to and for real information on this brain damaging assault.

    TED needs to flag or remove this dangerous video.

  50. please please help me in the name of my daughter they are doing this in Hamilton but they can do a bunch of people at a time

  51. 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.

  52. I have Schizophrenia l was diagnosed at age 20 l was taking clozapine which built up in my system so much l could not talk l am now on Abilify and have revived many Ect treatments 8 months ago l tried to kill myself because of having delusions because of schizophrenia due to Ect l don’t remember the last 5 years of my traumatic life and suicide attempt if l did now l would be bitter and resentful l have not experienced and brain damage l have a great personality and a life Continuing Ect treatments are keeping the symptoms of Schizophrenia away l have Not had any symptoms for several months this treatment is much more humane than giving some a drug like clozapine that builds up in the system so much that you can not talk or gives you diabetes So what you lose your memory? I don’t want it! I’m now going forward without symptoms and creating new good memories and positively looking to the future. If you want the benefits of Ect with limiting the memory loss ask the performing phychiatrist to down grade your Ect like me and l have little to No memory loss Ect is a effective alternative to awful antipsychotics and Ect is keeping my schizophrenia away l get it once a month Ect has benefited me!

  53. As a PhD in Biopsychology TED should be ashamed of showing this video. I have studied ECT extensively and the majority of patients experience severe memory loss which is seldom recovered as well as result in loss of independence as well as ability to function. There is always the possibility that one may recover however presenting this TED talk as proof of ECT is scientifically irresponsible.

  54. I'm horrified by my treatment… I was on Section 3 so I didn't sign or consent to it… I wanted it stopped after 5 or 6 treatments; I felt absolutely fine I said to them "I'm happy enough now I don't need it anymore", & I did feel SO much better, but no one listened. I ended up having 9, I saw the last 3 as Torture & Punishment, due to my mental health issues & anxiety. No one would listen to my cries for help. They forced me down on the bed while I was crying, on more than 1 occassion, They didn't anaesthetise me properly because I have sudden jolts and convultions of my body, – very randomely, that have been happening for years… (3 years after I had the course of treatments) … I am traumatised. I without a doubt have brain damage, for a long time I had pain on the right side of my head, and I have promenant pressure on both sides of my head, that has never left me. My brain has been fried, and I have substantial, terrible memory loss. All I can remember is the complete trauma they all put me through & the ignorance of the Dr and the ECT anaesthetists. 🙁 I know they didn't anaesthetise me properly coz I remember them pushing me onto the bed and holding me down while I was crying saying I don't want it, and the sudden seizures/jolts of my body that I get are proof that I have brain damage. I'm so traumatised from my experience and permenantly mentally & pysically damaged! I am more vulnerable now than I was before, and lost all my dreams to become a singer, or motivation to do anything in life! I've lost my personality and my spark, and A LOT of my fighting spirit! I've lost the real me from ECT. I just couldn't be myself in the hospital that I was in, (Mother & baby Unit) and my depression was circumstantial!, – linked to things that had happened to me, yes coming off medication, but mainly (having my baby took away from me 2 days after having her/post natal depression & long distance relationship, & being locked in the hospital!!! rather than random or ongoing with the Need for ECT. I've tried to sue but with no luck. I've not been in the right place to do it, & my parents are and were on the doctors side. I'm vulnerable & have had no one to help me with persuing a legal case and sueing… I might try again. All I know it that, regardless of being on Section 3, i'm pretty sure that I didn't sign or consent to it!, wasn't given All the information, wasn't listened to when I expressed feeling better and being happy, and wasn't anaesthetised properly towards the end with constant random convultions of my body and a frozen feeling and permenant pressure on my head, with memory loss. My brain basically feels 'dumbed down' !! God knows how many brain cells those last 3 treatments killed. 🙁 #Damaged 🙏

  55. Recent lawsuit in California about ECT. Somatics, manufacturer of this evil device has admitted it causes “brain damage” and has added this detail to its web information. Go to for more information. Fill in the survey if you are a victim.

  56. Why not present TED talks by some people whose lives were destroyed by ECT? Why don’t you have more people who are on TED talking about the miracle of ECT?

  57. Tim Sullivan
    So why didn’t the many psychiatrists I’ve seen for depression just keep putting me on more and more drugs and not suggest ECT? I don’t consider myself a naturopath, a holistic shill, a member of Scientology or even Anti-Psychiatry. I’m just a concerned scientist.

  58. I think it could possibly cause brain damage but I don’t care. A few lost memories is better than enduring one more day of this 14 year long nightmare. I’ve gone through 12 hospitalizations, 7 years of therapy, dozens of support groups, and countless medication. The relief I’ve experienced is minuscule compared to the effort it took to get there.

  59. Twenty treatments in 2010. Would not recommend it to anyone! Memory loss. No improvement in my depression. Apparently still out there “changing lives”. Guess it works for some. Be extremely cautious. Look into other methods.

  60. Well, he didn't mention memory loss . And they gave him antipsychotics that were toxic and useless. Why do they give them anyone? And why wouldn't they try electroshock before a lobotomy? That sounds suspicious. And his admittance that he still has symptoms, but now he is not in an abusive relationship, and shipped to a mental hospital and given antipsychotics. Sounds like he had loving support from that internist, and his mind was dulled, so he stop his endless loops of rumination, and obsession.
    I like him, I'm glad he wasn't lombotomized. I think if he'd been flown to hawaii and given cannabis and a sexy intelligent compassionate lover, he would have been alright . He lost memories for sure

  61. In Oct. 2018, a federal judge determined there was enough evidence for a jury to determine ECT caused brn damage. Two victims settled out of court. Then Somatics, makers, of Thymatron device, updated user manual stating their shock machines can cause “dense amnesia” and “permanent brain damage”. In light of these findings, why is TED not including a warning on this video or a link to the court ruling, so potential future victims are warned of the REAL risks. Power used today greater than Nuland’s 1970’s shock. He may even have received sham ECT, who knows.

  62. This reboots your brain,I know a guy who got electrocuted and he woke up in the hospital and couldn’t remember his family!
    I guess he returned to his regular self after awhile!

  63. My uncle was in his 20s when he had ECT for depression he's now 70 something and things got much worse for him afterwards. He started hearing voices constantly talks to himself. ECT was just barbaric torture I'm sure if he had another chance he wouldn't go through with it again.

  64. The thing that's the most frightening about ECT is that there are no standardized procedures for administration technique so every single doctor does it differently. It was grandfathered in as a medical device without ever having the pre-market approval safety studies. The truth of the matter is debating ECT safety is as effective as debating car safety assuming every single person has the exact same car with the exact same road conditions and the exact same driver. Without universal SOPs in administration technique, that's simply not the case. At this time, ECT is largely medical Russian Roulette with the most important thing you'll ever need in life–your brain. If you doctor tells you it's the only thing you've got left, search out an orthomolecular integrated medicine psychiatrist and a world of additional treatment options will suddenly become available. Class action lawsuit settlement in October 2019 Riera v Somatics, LLC spurred the publication of a "regulatory update" for the Thymatron user's manual which now lists 7 unquantifiable risks associated with permanent brain damage and permanent memory loss.

    They have never done a study on the longitudinal outcomes of ECT, but low-voltage Electrical injury is a reality faced by many ECT survivors.

    That this man had a good experience is wonderfully lucky. We'll never know how it impacted him over time because he's already passed. But keep in mind, unless you get his doctor, you will likely have a very different experience than he did, because no two doctors administer #ECT the same.

    I am now gravely disabled, had to relearn how to read, type, do simple arithmetic, and lost 36 years of memory including family experience, college education, and work experience.

    Until the APA develops SOPs for admin technique method and then strictly regulates it to ensure all doctors use the same method, this man's story must be put in context. Drs cannot control the path of 450v of electricity through the brain because it takes the path of least resistance impacting the lipid bilayer of the entire central nervous system. I'm grateful this guy won the lottery. Without SOPs we cannot assume the next person will be as lucky.

  65. Great speech; onest, authentic message, thanks!
    Simple remedies: To think positively and to talk with positive words and mostly with verbs; to smile sincerely when looking in the mirror; to feel the enthousiasm of a child which became just more educated and experienced; to often nap or relax, to do good deeds as one can, to admire people and the biodiversity, to sing while bathing, walking, doing choirs (Strauss), to play, to joke, to surprise, to enjoy the gift of today

  66. Notice that this man's depression and obsessional thinking was linked to a specific occurrence in his life – a failed marriage. Some people who are simply wired to be depressed without any specific cause – perhaps ECT for them will not be as helpful as someone who had a failed relationship. Many of us who have had traumatic relationships or bad breakups know that the best way to ultimately get the absolutely insane obsessive thinking is to simply cut off contact with the individual. But that's painful, and humans are wired to avoid breakups with their mate, so it's extremely easy to imagine someone becoming trapped in obsessional thinking as a result of a failed relationship. My first failed relationship was years long and ultimately lead to a bad and somewhat traumatic breakup in which I developed extreme obsessional thinking. The day after the breakup, I woke up feeling fine. I remember staring at the ceiling for several seconds and feeling good. Then, I remembered we had broken up, and after that every day was horrible. When I finally stopped talking to her, I quit my job after a few weeks, switched jobs after an almost-unemployment stent, then after six months I noticed that for a brief half second or two I would "catch" myself not thinking about her, then return to the obsessive thinking. I couldn't control it, but after about 9 months or so, I remember going for minutes without thinking about it, and starting to get my life back on track. I started taking classes while working as well and then decided to go back to school. After a year I was feeling good about myself and not worried about the breakup or thinking anymore. The environment change and stopping communication had completely reset my brain.

    If you think about it, when our mental illness is linked to specific events, the memory of which drive us nuts and make us feel trapped, and we were healthy before having the memories, the best way, in theory, to cure the individual would be to remove those memories. It makes sense, then, that ECT could somehow help someone get over those kinds of event-induced depressions by distancing the individual from those memories. Again, however, if someone is just somewhat depressed at baseline, then ECT seems like it may not work, to me at least. I speculate.

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