Saturday, May 30, 2009


I recently wrote a post about electro-shock therapy (ECT) where I also touched on the treatment of people who hear voices. I know nothing about these subjects and I was hoping that someone who did would correct me if needed. Well, someone did! Many thanks to two anonymous commenters for the replies which are re-printed below.  

No one is getting forced ECT anymore. It has been a long long time since that sort of thig happened.

ECT is used for severe refractory depression where either drugs and therapy has not worked and the patient agrees, or where the patient is so depressed they have shut down and would need a feeding tube to be placed!

I taught the psychiatry class at our Med College and have since specialized in Anesthesiology and see maybe 10 ECTs a week. They are pretty benign now. The current is much lower, the patient is paralyzed so they can't hurt themselves, and the main side effect is a few hours of confusion and occasionally some "word salad", which is where the patient tries to say something but random words come out. They realize what is going on and you have to tell them that it will only last a little while. Most laugh about it later (A good sign compared to lying in bed starving to death) and one guy actually asked my nurse to record him if he had it again. He did, and she did, and he played it for his family.

The goal of ECT isn't to cure depression, although in the minority of cases it can do that. The goal is to break the untreatable deep depression so that the meds and therapy can work before the person shuts down again.

As for the lady in the video (Liz Spikol, above). Its pretty clear she is having some thought content and process issues. Makes for an interesting show though.

And psychiatrists are not telling people to talk to their voices or that they are "real" in the sense people are making here. They do know that there are neural connections misfiring and the person is actually hearing the voices, so it is "real" in that sense, but they are not having people reason and engage the voices. That does no good. They are having people realize what they are and try to work around them, but not to encourage them to talk to them.

And Jung (above) was crazy. Read his actual writings and it is clear he was as crazy as many of his patients. I wonder if he was doing the Coke like Freud did... may explain it.

And the guy with the Egyptian delusion/myth/whatever you want to call it. How is it unreasonable that the person would be exposed to that? Starting in the 40s and 50s we started seeing tons of alien abductions and alien obsessed delusions, and many were consistent with each other. In Jung's time Egyptology was VERY popular both to the upper classes and the common man. Even if not, the idea that the big visable thing in the sky blows the air around isn't that special.

Here's the second comment, also anonymous:

Hey Uncle Eddie - long time follower, first time commenter... er. I was thinking about your blog on the train today, especially about the entry Mad Pride and the comments by Anonymous. I guess, as with many things, everyone is a little bit right and a little bit wrong about most things. Like Spikol, I have experienced long term major depression which resulted in numerous hospitalisations and on three of those occasions I underwent varying numbers of ECT episodes (the most intensive being 18 treatments over a 6 week period). Unlike Spikol, I was not issued with any incontinence products and fortunately all the staff I ever encountered were most empathetic. However, I did experience headaches, tension in my jaw, disorientation and significant short term (and ultimately long term) memory loss. A number of years later there are still large pockets of memory that I never regained, I believe it has probably been exacerbated by the ECT but I think such a long and entrenched depression has wreaked havoc on my comprehension skills and memory – which provides great opportunities for my siblings to invent histories for me! My protests of “I would never get drunk and fall asleep in the shower recess, missing Christmas dinner and forever disgracing the family” are only half hearted, because I can’t really be sure... but then I am also painfully aware of what my sibling’s idea of fun is too. It can be disconcerting to look at photos of your adult self and not remember the occasion when it was taken. I am aware of a number of people who have benefited from ECT, even though I don’t believe I was one of them. Ah, but there is a happy end note... I am now the most ‘well’ I have been in years thanks to a combination of a therapy program that worked for me and greater access to mental health services and probably good luck: I still find myself weeping sometimes during the news (but that’s probably healthy) and I sometimes become overwhelmed with anxiety (but that’s probably because I’m doing things I haven’t done in years). When I think of my years in ‘the wilderness’ I do feel a sort of pride: In the same way those that have survived a terrifying holiday-from-hell might – so you planned on sun, sea and sand but you got a cyclone, a military-cop, a missing captain and a drunk navigator! You can only wear the scabs and scars of the Bed Bug bites with pride... what else is there do? A note from the Outpost...


Caleb said...

Great posts, Eddie. You have a knack for finding juicy topics.

I find anonymous' lack of humanity "shocking". 10 ECT's a week? What if those were 10 of your friends and family(a week)? These aren't violent people, they're the people that the psychiatry community doesn't know what to do with. Side effects may include an occasional word salad, but since these people are problems we're willing to keep shocking them. If it's effective, can I shock my pets to get them to behave?

I have read Jung's writings and found him to be very clear thinking and analytical. He's also an excellent writer who has sold a few books, I couldn't find any bound volumes of anonymous' work. You don't have to like the idea of a collective unconscious, but how can you compare him to Freud with a slanderous allegation? By the way, how were those 2 doctors any different than what's currently happening in psychiatry? 50 years from now, they'll throw away everything you hold dear for the new miracle fix-it. They'll probably be wrong too, because Psychiatry is a science of brain tinkering.

Thad said...

Rod Scribner was an unfortunate victim of electro-shock therapy. From all the anecdotes I've heard, I don't think he was ever completely 'with it', but after the therapy, it got to the point where he forgot that he ever worked at Warners, and would 'see' naked people running through the trees. Nobody deserved the fate that guy got.

Anonymous said...


I read that treating schizos with LSD cures 90% of patients or something. Apparently the LSD makes the structure of their minds collapse. I'd love to try it.

Zoran Taylor said...


Scribner had those kinds of issues? I never knew. But it explains a lot, doesn't it? (Except the level of control he exerted upon his work, which seems all the more remarkable in this light.)

Lester Hunt said...

I didn't get the comment about Jung. I agree old Karl Gustav was whacked out, but what does that have to do with EST?

Thad said...

Yes, Milt Gray or Mark Kausler would be able to elaborate more on Scribner's tragic demise, as they both actually met him a few years before he died. Milt wrote a very moving article years ago on how Scribner's participation in FRITZ THE CAT was catastrophic, to say the least.

So if you're wondering why there are no Scribner interviews when he was alive when all the important people were first being interviewed... well, you have the sad answer.

Scribner aside, this is a really interesting post, Eddie. Someone in my godmother's family experienced electro-shock therapy in the 60s, after it was 'recommended'. She may have only gotten it for a week, when the family saw that it for the barbaric torture it is, but she apparently was never the same after.

Jenny Lerew said...

I disagree about Jung. That's all.

Kelly Toon said...

Eddie, did you not get my big comment replying to this post??

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Kelly: So that was YOUR post!!!! I'M SO INCREDIBLY SORRY!!!!!!!! I accidentally deleted a post and I wasn't sure what post it was! I deserve nothing less than death for this, especially since it was intersesting and would have been well-received here. I hope you'll accept this feeble apology. If you happened to save a copy of the comment, I'll gladly put it up!

Jorge: There were a number of books on LSD therapy early on, then they vanished. Was it a useful therapy or not? Like you, I wonder. It's amazing that so many ideas that show early promise just fade into obscurity with the passage of time.

Rick Roberts said...

"It's amazing that so many ideas that show early promise just fade into obscurity with the passage of time."

It all has to do with the "War on Drugs", the most useless "war" ever conducted in this country's history. Any reading material that adovocates any postive effects of outlawed drugs are always silenced by Big Brother's propaganda machine.

Rick Roberts said...

Hey Eddie, what happened to my comments ?

Anonymous said...

Rick, maybe your comments are gone because you're a little bitch who nobody likes. You'll insult John K on one blog and then praise him to the skies on his own blog and beg for his forgiveness. I'm sick of this high school bullshit on the blogs. Everybody needs to shut the fuck up.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Rick: Did I delete a comment of yours, too? I accidentally deleted one of Kelly's a few days ago. I'm really sorry. If you still have a copy of your comment send it along and I'll print it.

I think this problem came about when I tried to delete a comment of my own that I accidentally double-printed, and Blogger deleted the next comment above along with mine. Flukes like that happen sometime.

I used to get mad at Blogger for things like this, but I'm so gratefull to them for providing this amazing service for free, that I'm not inclined to complain. And besides, maybe the fault really is mine in some way I can't imagine.

Rick Roberts said...

Eddie: Sah right.

Jorge: Uh-huh.

Rick Roberts said...

"maybe your comments are gone because you're a little bitch who nobody likes."

Pot, Kettle, black, etc.

BTW, I did openly confront John on a recent issue that popped up on Spumboard. In general, I am the only one who usually says something nice about him when a flame war breaks out.

You know, Jorge, what is it with your hostility ? Your always so quick to insult and snipe. A common red herring for a net bully, so inept in real life but so "tough" when your safe behind your computer.

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