Psychiatry & Psychology--General/Shock Therapy
I've seen the movie "One Flew over The Cuckoo's Nest" but I've never understood the shock therapy sequence which seems little more than a way to punish aggressive patients. Was there ever any medical benefit to this treatment, or was it just used as punishment?
Hi, William, thanks for your question. Electroshock therapy (ECT) is still used today, but only for extremely severe depression, one's that have not responded to any other treatments. It was, and still is, a controversial treatment, one that has pretty severe side effects.
I'm not a movie critic, and I've have not studied Cuckoo, but I know that mental health treatment was pretty controversial in the 50's and 60's. In the 50's, there were basically no treatments for mental illness, and 'hospitals' were little more than warehouses. At that was among the best facilities. The worst ones were horrific, and patients suffered horribly.
In the 60's, there was great controversy regarding whether mental illness was even 'real', led by a famous psychiatrist whose name I'm blocking right now.
And then, it wasn't until the 70's that patients had any rights at all - before then, they were kept in the hospital until the doctor 'said so', and had no right to refuse treatment. There was a famous experiment by psychology students who got themselves admitted to hospital simply because they said the 'heard voices'. They had difficulty getting out, even though they acted completely normal as soon as they were admitted.
So, it was quite possible that ECT in some instances was used as punishment, but I don't think that was typical of most healthcare professionals.