Electroconvulsive Therapy is a technique used for treating sufferers of bipolar who are thinking of ending their own life. The technique involves the passing of a current of electricity through the forehead and produces a seizure similar to that of epilepsy.

It was initially tried in the late 1930s, it was the first form of therapy that reliably reduced severe depression. Until 1950, when the first antipsychotic drugs were introduced, it was widely used.

When ECT was first used, patients frequently suffered fractures whilst having convulsions, but now muscle relaxant drugs are used to prevent these.

A worrying side effect was the loss of memory in some patients so the technique was improved to Unilateral ECT. In this the electric current was only applied to the nondominant side of the brain as this greatly reduced the risk of memory loss.

Unilateral ECT is less effective than the original method.

Although highly controversial, this method is now being reverted to, as the long-term side effects of the drugs are so undesirable.


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