The Ebbing Tide of ECT in the 60s and 70s and its Regeneration Later
Another significant development in electroconvulsive therapy history coincided with a widely popular novel (published in 1962) which was made into a successful movie (in 1975). The main protagonist in Ken Keesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Randle McMurphy (along with all the other mental patients), were constantly threatened by the specter of receiving grueling ECT treatments from the somewhat diabolical medical staff at the mental ward they were restricted to.
Therefore, the novel and movie produced a disturbing reputation for ECT in two separate decades. Incidentally, Keesey was furious when the movie didn't follow the book in that the character Chief Bromden, wasn’t the narrator in the movie. Keesey proudly came up with the idea of Chief Bromden narrating the story while on an LSD trip, experimenting with his own brand of self-medicating procedures.
Coincidentally, the popularity and practice of ECT in the 60s and 70s seriously diminished to near extinction, but came back on the mental health scene later as an alternative that does show positive results in extreme cases, albeit in low doses.
Curiously, science still doesn't really know why it works. But it is my layman’s belief that because we now know much more about the brain, and the necessary firing of synapses (electrical impulses) and the receptors which govern many functions of the brain, we get a clearer picture of how it helps.
The foreign electrical currents jumpstart parts of the brain that are working improperly because of impairment. It is also believed that the procedure works a lot like drugs available now to combat depression or stabilize moods by changing the manner in which receptors receive chemicals like serotonin.
NeuroStar TMS Therapy to Treat Depression is a very interesting, innovative method of treatment worth reading about. But if all other methods have been exhausted, ECT may be a procedure worth considering to relieve some of the painful symptoms of serious mental illnesses.