Shocking news about shock treatment that is sure to shock you.

I recently watched the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest because I could not find my copy of the book. This movie taught me many important lessons about the unseen world of mental institutions, which I have listed below for your convenience:

#1. Institutionalized patients can be and have been mistreated in horrific ways.
#2. Some psychiatric nurses are less than cordial.

But she’s probably nice once you get to know her.

#3. Escaping from a mental institution does not require careful planning. Just toss a water fountain through a window and race away to freedom!
#4. Electroshock therapy is how they punish patients who are particularly troublesome.

Indeed, one of the most famous scenes from this film shows Jack Nicholson’s character getting brutal electroshocks to his brain against his will. Due to the disturbing nature of this scene and other media depictions, electroshock therapy is seen as a barbaric and outdated form of psychiatric treatment.

Hang in there, Jack. Pretty soon you’ll get to be the Joker!

However, it may shock you to know (you knew that was coming) that modern electroshock therapy, known as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), is actually a humane and effective way to treat severe depression. Notably, modern ECT begins with administering anesthesia, rendering the patient completely unconscious. The shocks last less than one second each and cause only slight toe and face twitching. Patients typically wake up about 10-20 minutes after the treatment is completed.

Anything that involves delivering shocks to people’s brains is going to be controversial. Some evidence suggests that ECT results in memory loss, although these researchers note that this therapy is so effective in treating bipolar disorder that it is worth the risk.

Overall, ECT seems to be a legitimate and effective way to treat people with severe depression. Whether or not you concur, I think we can all agree on one thing: Jack Nicholson is not to be trusted.

Also, try not to look him in the eye for too long.

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About the Author

Dr. Della Porta received his Ph.D. in Social/Personality Psychology from the University of California, Riverside. He enjoys playing, drums, and playing drums.

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