ECT is the oldest biologically based treatment in psychiatry.
The first treatment was performed in 1938. The first ECT patient had a condition we now call catatonia. Catatonia, untreated, is nearly 100% fatal. This patient would have died in a state psychiatric hospital as many people at the time did due to untreated mental illness. Instead, he demonstrated full resolution of his symptoms and was discharged from the hospital. This was nothing short of a miracle at the time.
Many people have misconceptions and fears regarding ECT based on outdated media representations. The nuts and bolts of it is that the brain is an electrical organ like the heart. The electricity is used to generate a seizure (which is essentially generalized electrical activity in the brain). The brain responds by suppressing the seizure and reorganizing itself. We do not fully understand how this treats mental illness but we do know that people get better, there is normalized activity in the brain, and even increased volume of different brain regions that are abnormal in mental illness.
The problem with ECT is that it is time intensive and disruptive to a patient’s life. It requires general anesthesia three days a week and can cause temporary memory issues that result in the patient being unable to work or go to school until a few weeks after ECT is completed. Because of this, psychiatry is working to develop less invasive methods of using electrical stimulation to treat mental illness. This is where we hope advancements like TMS, Vagal Nerve Stimulation, and Deep Brain Stimulation can take us.
At the NeuroScience & TMS Treatment Center, we have several treatment options we can use, beyond common medications and therapy, to aggressively treat you for brain diseases. Learn more about our treatments and services on our Comprehensive Behavioral Health Page.
Blog Post Authors
Michelle Cochran, MD, DFAPA
Founder & Chief Medical Officer • Medical Director, Nashville Locations
Dr. Cochran has been living and working in the Nashville area for over 25 years. She supervises the skilled Nurse Practitioners who work in our clinics. She has been offering TMS services since 2011 and lectures and consults nationally and internationally about TMS. She is Board Certified and is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. Learn more about Dr. Cochran.
Jonathan Becker, DO
Medical Director, Brentwood Locations
Dr. Becker is a native of Tennessee, born in Memphis. He completed his undergraduate and master’s degrees in Developmental Psychology at Tulane University in New Orleans before attending Des Moines University for Medical School. He completed his psychiatry residency program at Vanderbilt University and served as a faculty member there for 7 years before transitioning to our office. While at Vanderbilt, Dr. Becker served as the medical director of the neuromodulation service from 2017-2020. Dr. Becker has also published many psychiatric articles. Learn more about Dr. Becker.