The Use of Electroconvulsive Therapy in Patients with Severe Depression or Schizophrenia

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The Use of Electroconvulsive Therapy in Patients with Severe Depression or Schizophrenia

“In surveys, individuals with both a history of severe depression and a history of physical trauma due to an accident ranked the pain of mental illness as much worse than that of physical trauma” (Isaac 5). Mental illnesses cause immense suffering and potentially even death; in the year 2000, the suicide rate of patients suffering from depression was estimated at fifteen percent. This is a testament to the fact that mental illnesses such as depression and schizophrenia are serious issues, and those suffering from them deserve the most effective treatment available. Many psychiatrists turn to anti-depressants and “talk-therapy” in attempts to heal
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The origin of these skeptical and fearful preconceptions is the imperfect history of the practice. The most primitive forms of electroconvulsive therapy began in the 1930s, with the injection of various chemicals into mental health patients, inducing seizures. The first published reports of such treatments came from Ladislas Meduna, a Hungarian neuropsychiatrist whose experiments sparked the interest of clinicians worldwide (Fink, Electroconvulsive 1). The first account of actual electroconvulsive therapy was in 1938 in Italy; neurologist Ugo Cerletti, and his assistant Lucio Bini, applied electrodes on both temples of the patient, and passed electricity through the brain, causing the patient to have a seizure (Fink, Electroconvulsive 2). The earliest ECT procedures were administered without anesthesia or muscle relaxants, and the seizures it induced were brutal, often resulting in fractures and severe memory loss. However, the success of this experimentation outweighed the trepidation it created, and the use of ECT progressed, using Cerletti’s studies as a foundation and orienting around the use of electric currents instead of chemicals. Despite its growing popularity and usage, through the 1950s, the procedure was administered recklessly, still lacking the use of anesthetics or muscle relaxants, and intensifying negative effects with implementation of a higher, more dangerous level of electrical current (Electroconvulsive Mayo 4-5). During the
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