Is shock therapy still being used?

Benefits and risks of shock therapy

Last update: 27th September, 2018

The term “shock therapy” encompasses a variety of therapies, some of which are very different from one another. What they have in common, as the name suggests, is a shocking effect. These are stimuli that are able to bring about acute changes in a person's brain.

As far as we know, the ancient Greeks were the first to experiment with shock therapy. We know they used shock therapy on people who were in a very excited state. There is evidence that, for example, fear of suffocation has been treated with dehumidification. This is surely a questionable idea that, as we shall see, can evoke a powerful emotional experience.

"Fear sharpens the senses, while fear paralyzes them."

Kurk Goldstein

Shock therapy itself is at home in psychiatry. First, psychiatrists introduced insulin shock therapy and cardiazole shock therapy. Apparently, overdosing on any of the substances has improved the symptoms shown by the mentally ill. Electroshock therapy was later introduced. This type of treatment remains very controversial to this day, but it is still used by psychiatrists.

Over time, experts have included various techniques in the shock therapy category. They range from walking on hot coals to publicly proclaiming certain failures. In all cases the principle is the same: it is about exposing the patient to an intense emotional experience with the aim of provoking changes in behavior.

A Brief History of Shock Therapy

It is not easy to judge the relevance and effectiveness of shock therapy. It is obvious that a person that is exposed to a borderline, traumatic event, will change in a certain way. The question is, does the change actually solve the problem it is trying to fix? And if the answer is yes, is the change permanent?

There are many controversial aspects of shock therapy. Therapists began formally treating mental illness in the 16th century. However, the data to support their effectiveness have not always been reliable. That's because those who practiced this type of psychiatry did not organize information and hardly obtained it through scientific methods.

Later, Ugo Cerletti, an Italian neurologist, made a strange observation. He discovered that pigs, who received electric shocks before the slaughter, behaved more calmly. This gave him the idea to try something similar on people with mental illnesses like schizophrenia.

Benefits and risks of shock therapy

Classic shock therapy still exists and is still a source of controversy. In many cases, shock therapy causes brain damage. With this damage, some states of psychotic anxiety disappear. However, in most cases - if not all - the price is very high: There are documented cases in which shock therapy has resulted in permanent injury or cardiac arrest. In other words, it can lead to the death of the patient. There are also cases of people who have lapsed into a vegetative state after these procedures.

Psychiatrists continue to use electroshock therapy. They mainly use them for severe depression. There are quite a number of people in the world who claim to have benefited from these procedures. And it is possible that they are right. But it is also possible that the patient regards the treatment as a severe punishment. As a result, he refrains from certain behaviors that the treating doctor does not want to see. This can hardly be clarified in individual cases.

Shock therapy and psychology

Well, there are some shock therapies that are less harmful. Psychologists mainly use them to treat phobias. The method is to expose the patient to their fears. The attending psychologists accompany you during this time.

When this type of therapy is used, it is not uncommon for patients to report that they have experienced real agony. Before their therapist exposes them to their fears, they understandably feel fear and suffer - in the expectation of having to confront them. But when they face their fears and no longer flee from them, an opposite process is set in motion. You feel increasingly confident and confident.

In shock therapy, exposure usually occurs only once. That's enough to make the phobia go away. However, psychologists sometimes use progressive exposure schemes as well. It depends on the situation.

As on other topics in psychology, the last word has not yet been spoken here. There is no absolute truth because every human is unique. What works for one can be disastrous for the other.Psychologists must thoroughly examine every patient they treat. Only then should you consider shock therapy or discard this option.

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