The truth about electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) – Helen M. Farrell

In 1982, a young nurse was suffering
from severe, unrelenting depression. She couldn’t work, socialize, or even concentrate well enough
to read the newspaper. One treatment changed everything. After two courses of electroconvulsive
therapy, or ECT, her symptoms lifted. She went back to work, then on to graduate
school, where she earned high grades. At first, she talked openly about
her life changing treatment. But as she realized many people had an
extremely negative impression of ECT, she stopped sharing her experience. ECT carried a deep stigma, leftover from a history that bears little
resemblance to the modern procedure. The therapy was first
used in medicine in 1938. In its early years, doctors administered a
strong electrical current to the brain, causing a whole-body seizure
during which patients might bite their tongues
or even break bones. Modern ECT is very different. While a patient is under
general anesthesia, electrodes deliver a series
of mild electrical pulses to the brain. This causes huge numbers of neurons
to fire in unison: a brief, controlled seizure. A muscle relaxant keeps spasms
from spreading to the rest of his body. The only physical indication of the
electricity flooding the brain is a twitching foot. The treatment lasts for about a minute,
and most patients are able to resume normal activities about an
hour after each session. ECT is commonly used to treat severe cases
of major depression or bipolar disorder in patients who haven’t responded
to other therapies, or who have had adverse
reactions to medication. Half or more of those who undergo
treatment experience an improvement in their symptoms. Most patients treated with ECT have two or
three sessions per week for several weeks. Some begin to notice an improvement
in their symptoms after just one session, while others take longer to respond. Patients often continue less frequent
treatments for several months to a year, and some need occasional maintenance
sessions for the rest of their lives. Modern ECT is much safer than
it used to be, but patients can still
experience side effects. They may feel achy, fatigued,
or nauseated right after treatment. Some have trouble remembering what
happened right before a session— for example, what they had for
dinner the previous evening. Rarely, they might have trouble
remembering up to weeks and months before. For most patients, this memory
loss does improve over time. What’s fascinating is that despite its
proven track record, we still don’t know exactly why ECT works. Neurons in the brain communicate via
electrical signals, which influence our brain chemistry,
contributing to mood and behavior. The flood of electrical activity sparked
by ECT alters that chemistry. For example, ECT triggers the release
of certain neurotransmitters, molecules that help carry signals between
neurons and influence mental health. ECT also stimulates the flow of hormones
that may help reduce symptoms of depression. Interestingly, ECT maintenance works
better when paired with medication, even in patients who were
resistant to medication before. As we come to a better
understanding of the brain, we’ll likely be able to make
ECT even more effective. In 1995, more than a decade after
her first course of ECT, the nurse decided to publish an
account of her experience. Because of the stigma surrounding
the treatment, she worried that doing so
might negatively impact her personal and professional life, but she knew ECT could make a difference
for patients when all else failed. Though misperceptions about ECT persist, accounts like hers have helped make
doctors and patients alike aware of the treatment’s
life changing potential.


  1. I was given 13 treatments of ECT for depression. I ended treatment a year ago since I didn't feel I needed it anymore and this year I have been the most stable I've been in over a decade. I can honestly say ECT saved my life, and I refuse to be silent about the lifesaving benefits of ECT. ECT was, as is should be, the last resort. I had determined if it didn't work I would kill myself since I had completely given up after nearly a lifetime of dealing with mental health issues. I am by no means cured of all my mental afflictions, but I am able to live again.

  2. Getting out of depression is easy: Find your passion and help others using that passion and make lots of money by helping them…

  3. "ECT <may> make a difference when ALL ELSE fails." However, in today's healthcare it's a big money maker making it a 'go to' much sooner than it should be. It will definitely change someone often NOT returning someone to their very pleasant, (before -depression), former self. That person /personality may be gone forever.

  4. I had about 13 ECT sessions at Johns Hopkins. I did not find ECT very helpful at all for me personally. I had some success with it at first and felt significantly better, but that only lasted for about a week or so. I had some significant short term memory loss, which was expected. It's been a month or so since receiving the treatments and I'm basically back to where I started, but still with some mild memory loss. It did, however, somehow drastically improve the problems I had with my jaw joints for years. They used to pop and click and be generally stiff and sore, causing tension headaches. For some reason, it went away for the most part after a couple ECT treatments. So that's something I guess. But I'm still extremely depressed and I've also tried dozens of antidepressants and other medications. Pretty hopeless at this point.

  5. It kinda sounds like a brain reset – especially with the memories being gone. Like wiping the slate sorta clean

  6. Really one sided video. Did u get paid by lobby to do this? After reading the comments and ppl talking about their experience, how can it not be negative stigmatised when fking ppl forget their whole life before treatment and feel like fking 80. Furthermore it only works on 50% the ppl, does that mean the other 50% just have side effects and no improvement?, if that is true it sounds terrible. Nevertheless it seems like a last resort thing, but before i would do this i would go in the fking jungle and hope a witchdoctor can heal me.

  7. this is basically a non-invasive lobotomy, they fry a chunk of your brain instead of ripping it out from your nose

  8. Law suits taking place around traumatic brain injuries that result with every procedure. Please fill out survey on ectjustice.

  9. I'm not sure if anyone else has asked this, but who was the nurse? I, personally, would be interested in reading her account.

  10. They do NOT always wait for it as last resort advise you to only uae this as a LAST resort …also everyine is not the same in their experience it is a gamble. go to the Lord hes the same yesterday today and forever

  11. It’s like pushing system restore and erasing poorly formatted memories from the hard disk of the mind.

  12. ECT causes disassociation from the body due to the trauma. Ptsd and no idea of the extent of brain trauma. I'm recovering with people outside the mental health system. The experience of not being able to escape is stored in my body which is due to being unconscious and defenseless as well as having the muscle relaxers. The body never lies. It's horrific what is happening to people in this day and age and just being accepted without question. If you've had this treatment please look into peter levine and read about somatic experiencing for healing ptsd, trauma. The body is traumatised and that can cause the unfeeling state. Your body could be in shutdown from that experience. Its such a delicate thing for someone to go find help with someone they can trust. Learn to trust again. Its a slow process healing from this broken trust and abuse. I get so angry about it this pseudo science. Hopefully one day it will end or at least more people will be believed and heard.

  13. Yeah no thanks, I'd rather just suffer with depression than go through a treatment that could possibly make me forget things that could be important to me.

  14. I’m still thinking about this for me as none of my antidepressants or things I have tried for years for my major depressive disorder works. I can’t tolerate most antidepressants either at all. My depression has become treatment resistant too. My mom was scared when I brought up this idea along with another one. She doesn’t want me losing memories even though I have lost so much from my all the antidepressants I have tried. But I don’t really want to risk it as my meds have already made me lose cognitive function (I did some psych testing). I am not sure about trying this cause of the horror stories and I tend to have bad luck during any procedure (surgeries I have had, medication etc.) This kinda reminds me of Lasik, I am too scared of the risks.

  15. There’s a lot of misinformation being thrown around in the comments. To all those citing relatives or friends who have had permanent negative cognitive effects from ECT, ask them what kind they got— it was probably bilateral. Bilateral ECT is quite high risk and not used by any doctor worth their salt anymore. Now we use Ultra brief pulse unilateral ECT, which has far less negative effects.

    As someone who has seen both administered to patients in the hospital I work at for nearly two decades now, I can assure you that risks are minor and ECT can elevate and even cure patients with mental illness that has otherwise proven treatment resistant. My own brother received ECT a few years back, and is happier than I had seen him in decades prior.

    For comparison: Would you recommend someone swear off all surgery because doctors used to do bloodletting?

  16. I love how the ECT does to people with a psychological problem like me. Even if I declined ECT just before my treatment date because I was careful about my memory—the love I had for my mother till this present. 🙂

  17. I'm curious about this treatment! I'm reading the comments below and it worries me? But I know people can overreact! Arrgh I'm in 2 minds about it? Memory loss as a possible side effect I can deal with? But ending up a vegetable and 50% success rate is not a positive for me!

  18. According to my explanation, the mechanism of action can be due to brain reformating. Thats why some memories will lost.

  19. Electric current and the brain don't belong together. The percentage of people that feel ECT was beneficial fits in the placebo category. ECT destroys brain cells and causes memory loss. Some patients may even opt for ECT due to a masochistic tendencies related to their mental illness.. ECT creates quick effective profits for the mental healthcare business. Don't do it.

  20. It's a lie. I just ask the question: if it is so good and miraculous, why doctors, psychiatrists and nurses do not use it for their own profits? After all they must be "bepolar" themselves after all these failures they have with their patients!!!

  21. U can have a memory loss and is way more common than the video suggest do it only if u really need

  22. I think Cannabinoids' effect n the brain is better better than ECT and even TMS, both of which are generally disturbing the already established signal pathways leaving better possibilities for the brain to form new and more efficient pathways which don't include some of the "bad" habits which would occur along the way with the previous pathways (like depression, nail biting etc.). Mushrooms are physiologically doing the same even better, but the intoxication amount is too high, thus I would not recommend them to a everyday folk.

  23. As a nurse in the 1970s, I had to assist with ECT. It was horrendous, barbaric, sadistic. It left patients as zombies, their brains fried.

  24. According to this peer reviewed article (below) 29%-55% of people experienced permanent to long lasting memory changes. is in contrast to what is stated in the video.Personally though I'd rather memory loss than a chronic case of withdrawal syndrome from SSRIs.

  25. To decrease the risk of memory loss, the Dr uses a unilateral approach as opposed to a bilateral approach eg the current is applied to one side of the brain only

  26. what people tend to forget that this treatment is meant for people with severe depression, would you rather have a loved one whos memory is abit fuzzy or gone or do you want a loved one commit suicide?

  27. This video is fundamentally misleading. For the truth, see psychiatrist Peter Breggin's books, Electroshock, It's Brain Disabling Effects (Springer 1979) and Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry (Springer 2008), Linda Andre's book, Doctors of Deception — What They Don't Want You to Know About Shock Treatment (Rutgers Univ. Press 2009) and my essay "Psychiatry's Electroconvulsive Shock Treatment: A Crime Against Humanity" (

  28. شكرا من القلب على ترجمه الفديو🌹 💔، أنا اعاني من أكتئاب واعاني من اعراض تبلد المشاعر والاحساس (anhedonia)، ولم يفدني الدواء النفسي، وقال لي الدكتور ان علاجي ECT، لكنه يماطل كل يوم اتي اليه ويقول كل مره لي تعال بعد شهر او شهرين، انا اعاني 😔، اخاف انه لن يكون لي علاج حتى مع ECT ☹️ ، هل مر احدكم بهذه التجربه؟

  29. Every time I see someone twitching from electric shock or insulin shock, I can't stop laughing. Even the animation of the foot wiggling because of ect made me laugh. I'm ready for ect.

  30. My daughter is only 18 been in a mental hospital only 8 days and they already saying they have tried everything and no changes and trying to say they might have to do this. I dont agree at all!

  31. If you are having depression this is not the way to treat this. I have suffered depression before and seeing this is not the way. First you have to figured out what is the caused of your depression and try solving it. For me I have a Family problem and what I do is I to talk to my family about it. Sometimes in life we need to let go of things that was not really for us and don't be shy to ask for help, go find someone who can help you not in a critical way that it will harm you. Healing is not painful its not hurtful not damaging. its caring, loving, forgiving and understanding. We are just humans.. we are vulnerable to things like being alone, weak, discourage, left-out, insulted, misinterpreted. But what we need to have is to understand and patience and love. Be happy and look for the things that makes you happy, ENJOY LIFE AND BE GRATEFUL THAT YOU ARE STILL ALIVE AND STILL CAN CHANGE THE THINGS THAT WE HAVE DONE AND FORGIVE AND FORGET INSTEAD LOVE THE AND APPRECIATE THE THINGS AROUND YOU. ALWAYS REMEMBER I LOVE YOU! GOD LOVES YOU!

  32. It’s disgraceful that doctors push this treatment on people who suffer depression and are seeking a treatment that works when they don’t even know how it work! The risks are huge if this treatment fails and is well known to significantly impact brain functioning.
    I don’t understand how so many people can promote this treatment the way they do and be okay with it.

    Source: I know 2 people who had ECT and now spend a majority of time in mental health facilities further depressed due to the treatment failing and the effects such as memory loss.

  33. Does it really work? Complex ptsd, anxietydisorders, depression and burn out… thinking about ECT as a last option…

  34. My girlfriend went throught ect treatment a few years prior to meeting her. She said she doesnt remember her childhood before 13. Also she was always an A+ student in highschool as well as college and she cant remember almost anything she learned in college. I was very impressed when i first learned about her academic history but over the past 3 years i havent seen anything expected from that level of intellect. She verbalizes her decrease in intelligence too. So in my opinion it does more damage than good. I think it re wires the brain causing some roads to no longer visit some towns

  35. What this educational video fails to teach is 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.

    Some people have had good experience. They are wonderfully lucky. But keep in mind, you will likely have a very different experience than anyone else 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 some win the lottery. Without SOPs we cannot assume the next person will be as lucky.

  36. IMHO it's not responsible to do a "quick talk" on one of the most dangerous medical procedures there are and not cite any source/papers/data of any kind.

    A quick look at the comments will let you know that most people just eat your videos up as truth and probably don't care to do any research. Regardless of the actual effectiveness and potential of ECT (which I believe to be quite real), it's a very delicate subject and something that clearly should only be attempted as a last resort.

    It'd do good to further explain WHY there's such a negative stigma about it – its dangers are real and quite unpredictable (yes, even today). You shouldn't make an impressionistic video about such a highly controversial and delicate topic without being extremely thorough and impartial – otherwise you might risk alienating your audience, in a way that might be potentially damaging to some.


    This comment is a re-post of what somebody down below said. I feel his thoughts completely sum up what I wanted to say about this video. Hence, I'm re-posting it to lift it up to the top of the comment section. The way she talks about this dangerous procedure so nonchalantly disgusts me. Glad to spread your message about this video Yan!

  37. I underwent four sessions of ECT in 2017 for Schizoaffective disorder and man do I regret it. I would wake up after and not remember where I was. The doctors said it was temporary side effect. It's been two years and my memory is so bad it's hard to function. I've read four different doctor/ counselor notes on me and they all say I repeat things over and over again. Do not get ECT done! It's not worth it

  38. I think that it helps neurons that were otherwise dormant in the brain start firing again and release chemicals that were once under active

  39. I had ECT 3 years ago and despite its controversy (and parents’ fear), it greatly helped my severe depression. My mood was extremely low, didn’t respond to meds or therapy, and suicidal thoughts. It’s nothing like in the movies or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – it’s painless. It did take some time for my symptoms to improve but I didn’t have severe memory loss. The only bad thing about my ECT experience was how arrogant and absent the doctor I initially consulted with was.

  40. Pardon my english) What a bunch of nonsense. A propaganda film, I was once in an open department of a psychiatric hospital and I met people after ECT. Everyone was like zombies, indifferent, apathetic. They could not focus even on the simplest tasks within the framework of rehabilitation, such as painting Christmas baubles. They shook their hands, smashed the baubles on the floor. They talked about how they had to learn about their family after ECT because they did not remember them. I am expressing this conclusion that due to ECT man loses his identity, he is no longer himself, he is something else. It's like killing a man and introducing the soul of someone else into his body. A barbaric, cruel method is nothing but legal torture. The very fact that in the Soviet Union ECT was commonly used to erase the memory of uncomfortable people, and in combination with psychedelic drugs they made obedient dolls with which the criminal regime could do what he wanted. Never disagree with ECT! After ECT, your self-awareness dies, in other words, as if you were dead. So what can they help? You will not experience this improvement because after using ECT in your body there will be a "different man".

  41. I'm actually considering doing this. I've been on many different types of anti depressants since I was 14. They didn't find out till a couple weeks ago that I actually had bipolar disorder. They took me off meds and I'm just waiting for an answer from my doctor for a counseling referral. I've been to mental hospitals since 14, and the last time I went was last month. I just feel like my life would be better if I was normal

  42. My Grandfather used to administer ECT during the war and swore by it.. Unfortunately the Israelis caught him in South America in the fifties and shot him.

  43. Spent some time in a psych ward recently, where they suggested this to me, as I was unwilling to take drugs, and they didn't want to let me go, with only a promise that I'd go to counseling. I managed to convince them to let me go after a while, without drugs or ECT, but I'm starting to wonder if maybe I should have tried this now :/.

  44. While there are negative side effects to ECT treatment, and unfortunately some of the people in these comments are suffering from a few of those side effects, I would have lost my mother years ago if she had not had ECT. She had 4 sessions two years ago to treat severe depression/psychosis and immediately was a new person again. However she did relapse and is now receiving another course of treatment, but without it, she wouldn't be the person I know and love.

  45. Obviously there is no intervention on chemistry but on neurons. The method is to forget about chemistry and run over millions of them with a selected amount of electricity based on an assumption that makes no sense and without being able to choose the affected area with neuronal precision.

  46. It works because you electrocute the brain. Of course you're not going to be depressed if you can't remember anything. And does it really work if you need to do so many treatments? I love that givihg an iv of horse tranquilizers and electrocuting the brain are our solutions and not a support group or free therapy.

  47. ECT has its bad image because it was used as torture on helpless people in asylums by the Nazis and the Communists, but also by the radical capitalists in the USA in the 50s and 60s.

    Which is a shame. From what I learned about modern ECT, with anesthesia and muscle relaxants (which neither the Nazis, nor the Communists and also not the US capitalist extremists used), this is the opposite of torture, but a helpful treatment of very severe depression.

  48. I have done six sessions and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done but I am living life life of my dreams 2.5 years later. It was like hitting the reset button. I had to work hard to rebuild my life but it was worth it, it did save my life.

  49. What I think it's more effective I think if people have stress that should work it out with their because they're the only ones that know their own problems I would never get shop shock therapy I help myself through more problem people need to fix self help yourself that's how you make yourself stronger

  50. ECT turned my friend into an emotionally dead zombie. She used to go to swinger clubs, party, laugh and smile. Now she can't even remember who she used to be. No initiative, not much emotion, dead facial expressions. It's horrible to watch, because she's the numb one, while I had to watch a personality die slowly.

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