Shock therapy is making a comeback today in the treatment of serious mental illness. Despite its reemergence as a safe and effective psychiatric tool, however, it continues to be shrouded by a longstanding negative public image, due, in large part, to how it is depicted in films, novels, and other forms of mass media. Beyond its vilification in popular culture, the stereotype of electroconvulsive therapy as a dangerous and inhumane practice is fuelled by professional posturing and public misinformation.
Electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, has in the last thirty years been considered a method of last resort in the treatment of debilitating depression, suicidal ideation, and other forms of mental illness. Yet, ironically, its effectiveness in treating these patients would suggest that it is a frontline therapy. In this study, Edward Shorter and David Healy trace the controversial history of ECT and other 'shock' therapies. Drawing on case studies, public debates, extensive interviews, and archival research, the authors expose the myths surrounding ECT that have been proliferated over the years.
By showing ECT’s often life-saving results, Shorter and Healy endorse a point of view that is hotly contested in professional circles and in public debates. For the nearly half of all clinically depressed patients who do not respond to drugs, this book brings much-needed hope.
--- from the publisher
“Shock Therapy is based on comprehensive research that includes both manuscript and printed sources as well as interviews with individuals who have played key roles in the history of ECT. It is a controversial work, if only because its authors combine both historical analysis and advocacy. Nevertheless, the book--which includes discussions of such contemporary therapeutic innovations as VNS, DBS, and TMS—is a must reading and has relevance for those concerned with the treatment of mental disorders.” — Gerald N. Grob, coauthor of The Dilemma of Federal Mental Health Policy: Radical Reform or Incremental Change?
"A compelling enjoyable read that gives us a rich understanding of the history of psychiatry's most effective treatment, and of the many factors that have stigmatized it and limited its use." - Samuel H. Bailine, M.D., Hillside Hospital, Geln Oaks, NY
"An important and compelling history of ECT, the life-saving, but much maligned, treatment. Shorter and Healy have given us a work that is at once scholarly and wonderfully readable." — Charles H. Kellner, M.D., Chair, Department of Psychiatry,UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School
"Shorter and Healy take the reader on a marvellous tour de force through the development of electroconvulsive therapy from the 1930s till today. The historical perspective and firsthand accounts by key players convey the essentials for an understanding of the ideas, the practice, and not least the conflicts and battles that for decades have maligned one of the most efficacious and safe treatments in the whole of medicine. This book is highly exciting, elegantly written, and deserives to reach a wide readership." — Tom G. Bolwig, M.D, University of Copenhagen
"A fascinating narrative of the history of ECT from its inception to the present, interweaving the personalities, social contexts, and psychiatric developments along the way." — W. Vaughn McCall, M.D., M.S., Wake Forest University Health Sciences
About the Authors:
Edward Shorter holds the Jason A. Hannah Chair in the History of Medicine in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto.
David Healy is a professor in the Department of Psychological Medicine at Cardiff University.