ECT = Intentional Brain Damage

My life was certainly changed for the worse by ECT. First off, I want to recommend strongly that everyone read the book "Doctors of Deception: What They Don't Want You to Know About Shock Treatment" --

 Despite a rather sensationalistic sounding title, this book is extremely well-researched and factual. I only wish it had been around before I submitted to ECT in 2006.

Personally, I didn't experience even a tiny bit of improvement in my depression from ECT-- not even for one day. It had absolutely no positive effects for me. The administering psychiatrist at first planned to give me six to nine treatments, but after nine shocks left my condition unchanged, he upped it to 12, then to 15 shocks.

 Not only have I lost chunks of time from the past; I have great difficulty forming or keeping NEW memories, and my cognitive abilities have been dulled and diminished. It's ironic -- my memory used to be so good (except during depressive episodes) that coworkers complimented me on it in one of my jobs. ("We don't need a computer to keep track of the books -- we have YOU" -- meaning that I always remembered what the particulars were about our various accounts receivable (companies that owed our company.))

Although I didn't receive any benefit at all from my ECT, I know that some people have benefited -- or at least they believe they did. I wonder how much of that perceived improvement is caused by the strong, almost desperate desire and need to sense improvement, and also the EXPECTATION of improvement. The book I cited in my first paragraph claims that any "improvement" (a sense of calm, etc.) is actually just the result of injury to the brain, called "organic brain syndrome" -- the same thing is seen in brain injury due to trauma (or OTHER trauma, I guess I should say.)

Well, I can see that I'm rambling here, so let me just end by saying a couple of things: first, please read the book I mentioned. If you have had ECT and feel bewildered and puzzled by the lingering negative effects it has had on your memory and cognitive abilities (as opposed to what you were told to expect -- that is, minor and TEMPORARY memory loss from only the time period just around the time of the ECT), then this book will validate you. You will learn that the losses and negative effects that you sense in your mind are not the result of your being depressed, neurotic, a "difficult patient," etc. They are real, and you have been violated and lied to. Those are hard things to accept, but I honestly felt better once I knew that I was not imagining things; that I in fact HAD suffered permanent and major losses from ECT. If you have NOT yet had ECT, but are considering it, saying that the book will make you think twice about going ahead with it is an understatement. I doubt there are many people who, after learning all the facts about ECT, would willingly subject themselves to it, no matter how desperate and depressed they are (as I was when I had ECT.)

Second, I want to express my support and empathy for the original poster and for anyone else who may read this who has been negatively impacted by ECT, or knows someone who has. It makes me unspeakably sad to ponder all the damage that this hideous "treatment" has caused to so many minds, so many lives.

ddloldshep ddloldshep
51-55, F
16 Responses Feb 18, 2010

I had 17 shock treatments in 1998 - Jan.-Feb. against my will. I do not remember the details why but only that a woman did not think my behavior was quite right, so she "arranged" it. It has wiped out my life, personality, I no longer know anyone.
People say - "we'll pray for you." Big deal. I use to pray. I use to laugh, love, owned my nice home on over 4 acs., garden bike, jog with my dog, go sledding, ice skating with my daughter, cook, and, nearly married a wonderful man as an answer to prayer. Then we parted and 6 mos. later i got sick. That was in 1989.
I went to my regular GP. I went to my priest. This man re-entered my/our lives, I took advice and saw a chiropractor - 'alternative medicine' they called it. They called this - chronic fatigue syndrome. Gradually, this woman managed to destroy my digestive, and reproductive systems - and also my then 9 yr. old, so I was assigned a LICSW and adult mental health professional from my church. This man was horrendous and only furthered our suffering. He told me on the 2nd visit I was 'manic depressive.' or paranoid schizophrenic. So he sent me to a psychiatrist who put me on prozac, later lithium, and in just a few weeks, my dear mother stopped by. I was spanking my 9 yr. old with a vacuum cleaner hose! Prior to this, my first 31 years of life, I had never harmed another human being. What people do not realize - (or believe) - that many and most medications from head doctors alter the mind and cause the very behaviors this therapist said I was.
In Oct. of 1990 - I was hospitalized and truly could not believe this hellish nightmare all ready. We were so happy, and healthy just a few weeks prior! I lay on 5th floor, holding my tummy, still not realizing the internal damage from the chiropractor - for a 3 day hold. As months passed, I had all ready lost the man I loved, my job, with benefits, my dear friend at work, and my girl was very lethargic and frightened.
I continued "doctoring" taking measly jobs at fast food places and the like. I use to have great money management skills, and I miss that very much. I was never in debt, except for the necessitities, mortgage, util. groceries, clothes, car and insurance, and brought my daughter and myself to 2x yr. dental, 1x yr. doctor phsycial and eye exams. I felt I was a good Mom, and I truly loved being a mother.
As time passed, one bad doctor led to another. I tried hard to keep a schedule of weekly mass and driving home. My daughter was sent away at 13 yrs. old because of truancy for nearly a year. I just could not believe this ongoing horror.
By 1998, a woman from my parish noticed my behavior was not quite right, so she decided to call my parents and tell them she would drive me to a hospital in Mpls. for ECT to the brain. I had no say. Neither did my parents. I have sent for my records, and two psychiatrists decided this is what I needed, and they signed the papers and it was done.
ECT kills people. It has wiped out decades of my life. I haven't enjoyed my girl since she was 8 years old. ECT doesnt' just cause "short term memory loss."
It causes permanent brain and personality damage. My daughter has been so
psychologically effected by this, and suffers a great deal. I would never tell anyone to have ECT. It is like having a lobotomy, and you walk in that. It effects all other organs and areas of the body, as well. It destroyed my extended family, for all these years.
I finally found a woman in Canada - she mailed her book to me - What Difference Does it Make? and also have read parts of Doctors of Deception. Both are very good.
I am now 57 years old. I walk past my cozy little home, where I once tucked in my little girl to say bedtime prayers after bath time, and combed snarls from her hair. There is no garden there.
My abilities, piano skills, love, life laughter - (we laughed a lot) are so, so, lost forever. Often I rock...back and forth, back and forth...I live with my aging parents for a long time now - but I do not remember how long.
My daughter cannot either, live in reality - she is very unhealthy and has a small apartment in a nearby city.
I have contacted one of the psychiatrists who did this to me at 4 different times. He knows nothing about having a guardian when signing papers. He admits to doing 10 of these a day! and has been a psychiatrist for over 40 years. Sigh...I have cried over the phone, contacted lawyers and I have no case. These psychiatrists have no idea what ECT does to people. They do not know that it is very often the medications CAUSING these so-called "mental illness." We are who we are.
I have lost our lives much in part because of ECT treatments. I plead for many years not to wake up. I pray not to wake up. There is nothing. It is that we no longer exist. I have one photo album of who we once were and I cannot believe how pretty we were! If anyone would like to contact me, please do so. I live in Minnesota. My email address is and phone number is 763-434-5722. My name is Judy. I cry a lot. A lot. I know no nice days, no Christmas, or birthdays, or seasons. I cannot hold a baby, or child, or sing and laugh and wash clothes as I once did. I loved life. So did my girl. So did the man I lost, but couldn't take seeing me that way anymore, so he bowed out.
If you figure - a wall socket holds 120 volts of electric current. Judging by all of these - our brains have taken 200 volts - (at least mine) 17 times each, giving a total of 3400 volts of electricity. (I sent for my records.) God love all of you, and pray for His Mercy we don't wake up.

Thank you for sharing this information. I have suffered with some form of severe depression since I was about 13 yrs old. I have just turned 40 yrs old. I've been to countless doctors and undergone any treatment available. It has been determined that my condition is considerably treatment resistant. That this time I am really in a mess as a result of ECT. I have had 30 treatments. Mostly 2 to 3 times every week. Some were eventually spaced out but saw an immediate decline. I have had limited response to treatment. It generated just enough hope to keep pushing forward. My experience with attending treatment was quite a difficult task for me. It took a lot of faith and courage. Pretty much the idea of "close your eyes, hold your breath and jump" applied..."don't think about it, just do it". I felt like that every time. It didn't help matters that the psych unit was in the oldest part of the hospital...reminded me of imagines you would see in scary movies. It didn't offer a calming, pleasant atmosphere. A majority of the people were very nice, but the environment seemed to overshadow that. I have begun to experience more and more side effects from treatment. Effects such as: slowed thought processing, difficulty articulating thoughts / communicating with others, difficultly focusing, scattered thoughts, distracted easily, confusion, often disoriented even places I should be familiar with & heightened anxiety. I must keep my GPS on at all times when driving. Last week I got lost 3 different times while traveling roads I've been driving for over 10 yrs. I am in the middle of trying to relearn the area I live in...where stores, restaraunts, schools, etc are. You can't imagine what it feels like to get completely lost going to Target or Walmart. However, not only have I lost parts of my memory, but I have difficulty retaining memories. So even if relearn how to get to church today, it doesn't mean I'll know how to get there tomorrow.
I don't plan on having any more treatments done. To complicate things even more is that ECT didn't help much. For me the physical & mental turmoil far outweighs any benefits ECT may have provided. I am now spending my days trying to overcome these painful and very troubling setbacks while continuing to fight a debilitating mental illness. My husband and son are my whole world and give me the will to keep pushing forward. My hope for a better "treatment" ebbs and flows. God willing, I pray that one day I'll find an answer. For now, regardless of my termoil, I will keep on keeping on, and be the best wife and mother I can possibly be. I can only hope that one day the effects of ECT & mental illness will end.
I have recently heard about the Fischer Wallace device. Does anyone have experience with it. The clinical I've read seem legit. But, about my ECT experience I want here from people who have used it.

I feel for you, hzschiedrich. My memory/cognitive problems are so much like what you have described. I'm sorry that I don't have any experience with the Fischer Wallace device. I hope someone else will share with you about that.

Two things my current psychiatrist told me that you might already know:
1. When the age of onset is so young (as it was for you and me), the prognosis, statistically, tends to be poorer than for people whose onset was at a later age.
2. TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Treatment) doesn't tend to work very well for people who weren't helped by ECT.

I wish you the best, and I hope we all find some solutions.

Ect provides benefit to those out of options. Express yourself directly for sake of debate. Citing a book to support your view is weak.

I have 3 or 4 sets of ECT
1st was in Marquette and It was like you said unbeneficial with lots of memory loss. Memory loss like you wouldn't believe. My husband said at times I didn't even remember him. I ended up with 6 ECT's and they didn't do the last on account of the memory problems.
2nd was in Greenbay where I had 6 done. The 1st one was great. People around me could see a positive effect and I could feel it to. The other 5 after it did nothing except to take away more memory. MY husband and I vowed no more ECT's
More than 10 years passed where I gained my sanity back and my depression was very low.
2012 depression/anxiety hit hard again and medication was not helping. So after talking to the doctor we decided on more ECT's. I don't know how many I had. My husband said the first 3-4 worked great and as for me.....I don't remember. But, I do know I left Mayo much better than I went in. I have lots of memory loss, but my depression was suicidal and I would try ECT's again if I had to. It has been at least 3 months since I had my last Ect. I do struggle with my memory. Sometimes it really bothers me when I can't remember certain things and if I'm not careful that alone probably could push me into another visous cycle of depression.
Like I said I don't know how many Ect's I have had in my lifetime. Most of them by far were unbeneficial and just added memory loss. It seems if it's going to work for me and I have to get them don't do anymore than 2.
I am still struggling hard with depression and anxiety and nothing has been working and it is so frustrating with the feeling of paralysis this illness can bring.
Thank you for reading my story.

I wish I would have read that book before undergoing ECT in 2012. The statute is up or I'd sue my psychiatrist. The treatment didn't work and the chunks of my memory did not drop until 7 months after treatments. I had a stellar memory before ECT and my memory loss clearly isn't due to "meds" as my doctor's would like me to believe. I'm drowning in despair.

I started unilateral treatment in 2012 as a last ditch attempt to help me from comitting suicide, since the 10 meds I take barely keep me functioning as a human being. My diagnosis is bipolar 1, severe PTSD trauma, Depression and anxiety / OCD disorders. I lost quite a few chunks of my long term memory after the unilateral treatments (9) but not after about a month after treatment ended. All off a sudden chunks of time were just gone. Now in 2014 I started bilateral treatments. So far I have had 6 and I was shocked at how much more intense the aftermath has been. I have more treatments to go, supposedly they will make me feel better. So far I feel terrible. I have a strong need to be in control of myself and my emotions and the treatments so far have taken that control away from me. I have not been out of the house, time kind of floats. I have thoughts but feel too weak and weepy to follow through. I feel like a huge burden on my family as I was always making sure things got done around the house and took care of everyone`s physical and emotional needs ( I have been with my husband for 14 years we have a strong bond ( he is a military vet so the PTSD is a known entity for him. Our daughter is almost 9 and struggling with ADHD, defiancy emotional imbalance, our son is almost 7 and fingers crossed shows no signs of everyone else‘s troubles.) There is so much guilt involved. I feel physically ill, no appetite, vomiting, insomnia, no memory of the chronological events over the past month. I sort of float along. Still don`t leave the house ( less than before even), no interest in the things ( mainly handywork and art). I feel cheated, I coould always count on my brain to pull through butnow I feel very vulnerable and weak. I have more treatments to go and get the speech that once I hit that sweeet spot, things will improve. Right now I am very doubtful this will happen. Anybody have any positive experiences?

Thank you for your story on your experience on ECT. My first series of ECT was exactly like yours. I lost huge amts of memory including our family trip to Florida. Looking back I just shake my head at my memory loss and it's sadness.
But in all fairness I have to share I have had other treatments afterward in different facilities that were beneficial....very beneficial. They memory loss from those was minimal. For me that may be all there is. That's my only hope that I know of that works for me right now that we can afford.

It's comforting to know I'm not alone with how ECT wrecked my life. I see so many positive stories here, I was beginning to think I was the only one who was so negatively affected by ECT. I intend to read the book you've recommended. Thanks.

My life, too, is a much poorer place than it should be. ECT has destroyed me. I am still consumed by the horror of it. In 2000 I was mildly depressed as my marriage was failing and I wanted to try one of the then new anti-depressants, the SSRI's, (Prozac etc). I had a history of depression back in the 60's and again in 1970, but not since as I raised my children. Even so I was a successful sculptor, writer and Mum. The drug caused a catastrophic reaction, (now well documented as a violent and suicidal reaction), but instead of removing the drug while keeping me safe under observation which would almost certainly resolved the situation in a a couple of weeks, the doctor rushed into ECT, 66 in 20 months, many of them against my will, (even in a private clinic you don't have to be sectioned for them to drag you into the treatment room), and Lithium (I don't have bipolar). Many years later it was found that Lithium caused me to collapse into a paralysed depression-like state. This was completely resolved when the Lithium was withdrawn. My memory of my children growing up in the 90's, is almost non-existant - my technical abilities as a sculptor are gone, I can no longer write anything more than some short stories and a couple of short plays, leaving two and a half books, two movies, a sit-com in early production, and a series of short movies for the international market, all gone. Brain shrinkage, severe autobiographical memory loss, cognitive damage and a terrible sense of violation have, between them all, produced a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which is proving very hard to treat. I wonder if that is possibly a cause of a lot of people's distress post ECT. If so we are entitled to some sort of rehabilitation, the sort of thing that other brain injured people get. I have just fired my latest doctor after she pushed me into doing another 20 treatments, 3 years ago and again last year. I didn't even tell my family about those because I was so ashamed. They were furious that I didn't because they would never have allowed it to happen. Even so I would have felt just as betrayed that the doctor, knowing my terrible emotional pain from the first episode, should even have contemplated it. The faint trust I had is now completely gone. I do realise that some people get helped by it. Unfortunately there is no evidence that these effects will last more than 6 months (87% H Sackheim a guru admits that.)
I recommend everyone read books and articles by Peter Breggin, among others,, as much research as possible, for and against, There is a study in the UK from 2008 where ex recipients were asked about their experiences. There is a lot of difference between what the guru's say, (several of them have financial interests in the ECT machines manufacturers - but claim they have `no conflict of interest?) and what the patients say. Also the most damage done is in so-called `maintenance' ECT. That is where a person is given a traumatic head injury once or more a week to keep the concussion going, possibly for months or years. Given the chance to heal the brain inflammation the docs know the person will have their depression right back again. (Good one!) And research also puts paid to the idea that ECT reduces suicide. There is little or no evidence to indicate this. In my case it made me suicidal when I hadn't been before, during and after for about 6 years. I spent quite a lot of time on life support. I know this is a lot to take in but the topic is huge.
A doctor, a neurologist, John Friedman, stated that he believed that people had the right to choose a brain damaging, brutal treatment if they saw fit, but he wondered if they, as doctors, should offer it.

ddloldshep, If meds don't work, therapy, what do I do? I'm very very sad, hopeless, for 30 yrs. I have no financial freedom, lost all, I think if I could pay bills as I did, have a little savings, go out to eat 1x a wk, something to look forward to, that would help some. I have nothing but a brick wall for yrs I can't get through, from abuse from 3 yrs of age to now. What do I do? Lost and sad.

Why do these authors think Doctors don't want their patients to know things about ECT? What would they gain by misleading their patients?

One thing the doctor who shocked me gained was money! And lots of it (for the 1960s).
He did not have to take the time to talk to his patients (no talk therapy, just drugs and shocks, and 15 minute appointments for medication checks for outpatients). In 1966 he charged $15 dollars for a phone call of only 5 minutes duration. (I never called him, but my mother did a couple of times and she said the charge was $15.) So he was probably doing about 100 or more shock treatments per week, at $440 per treatment (as of 1966). Most of these were outpatient treatments, but he also did them to hospitalized patients (until he was fired from the hospital for indiscriminate use of electroshock in about 1973).

Another thing he gained was some kind of satisfaction of his sadistic/misogynist tendencies. I never saw a man in the waiting room for outpatient shock, only middle aged women and teenage girls and a few older women. The psychotherapist I saw who helped me to withdraw safely from the drugs in 1974 and who also helped me understand what had happened to me and to deal with the trauma of the experience of almost 4 years of ect said, " Of course he shocked only the wives, the mothers and the daughters. If he had shocked the fathers and the husbands, they would have lost their jobs and their insurance and he would not have gotten paid." Ritchey worked at a private hospital that eventually got the reputation in about 1974 as a "shock box that gives too many electroshock treatments" (quotation is from the Birmingham News April 1974 -- from an article that was trying to deny the reputation). That private hospital, like many others, did not take a person as a patient unless she had good insurance. The nurses would threaten patients whose insurance was running out -- they would say, "You will have to go to Bryce if you don't cooperate." Bryce was the Alabama State hospital and they were still doing lobotomies until about 1970 or so.

The man who shocked me should have been put in prison. He harmed many other people during his shock career. But he had a comfortable retirement and after he had to stop practicing psychiatry he went into hospice/geriatric medicine. Makes me shudder to think of it.

I was never told my diagnosis or what they expected me to do to get them to stop shocking me. When I got the records in 1987 after the open records act, I found that my diagnosis was adolescent adjustment reaction -- which is just another way of saying fairly normal teenage angst. Of course the fact that I kept maintaining (and not even especially belligerently) that I would do better if he would stop shocking me was the kiss of death, because if you complained that the shocks were hurting you, that meant you needed more and more until you stopped complaining. I was lucky that I caught on and stopped complaining. Eventually he stopped the shocks, suspiciously, after I had turned 21 and had been telling my parents that Ritchey could not do this anymore to me now that I was 21. (21 was the age of majority for this kind of thing in Alabama in the 1960s.)

Perhaps things are better now and informed consent is more the norm. I certainly hope so.

Doctors of Deception was a much needed book; both sides of the ECT controversy should be public information. Many websites and, certainly, publications from the medical profession, stress the "positive" stories. is a website that has some of the negatives well understood.

I have read that book and I totally agree. I wonder if I still would have had ect had I read *that* book (Drs of Deception) instead of Carrie Fischer's...

ECT doesnt treat behavioural and personality disorders. I'll read your book and take very careful note of who the author is and where they got their information from. Jeepers!

No, those are problems that even the pro-ECT PR folks don't claim it treats. I doubt that anyone is prescribed ECT for those problems. I'm not sure what you're implying.

She got her information mainly from source documents--the ORIGINAL research studies on ECT going back to the first ones from the 1930s.

Don't know what you mean by behavioural and personality disorders, but I believe some sources say it should be used for schizophrenia. One source says it was used safely on a 100 year old person, and on a 12-month old child. Electroconvulsive Therapy: workshop
ELECTROCONVULSIVE THERAPY(ECT)Ahmad Eid al-Ajhuri,Board-certified, MScMed, MBChBECT Fellowship, Emory University, USADirector of Abbassia ...

OK, here is a rigged question: Would you rather commit suicide then go through ECT again?<br />
<br />

I would commit suicide rather than go through ect again. It is barbaric and obscene. Of course perhaps only the people who believe it will help them consider it helpful. For those who are coerced or forced to have ECT, as I was, ECT seems like a type of rape. For those who willingly undergo it and think it helped them -- perhaps one could liken this group to having consensual sex. .

Would I rather commit suicide than go through ECT again? Well, the reason I had ECT in the first place was because I was in a suicidal depression. Interestingly enough, I did try (and very nearly succeed) to commit suicide AFTER the ECT.

Part of my point in what I wrote was that, for me personally, the ECT did not improve the depression one tiny bit. All I got from it was disabling side effects.

A good friend of mine submitted to ect because she was in a suicidal depression. She committed suicide about a year later because she was afraid of being coerced into more ect. I reported her ect doctor to the state medical board, but they wrote me and said it could not be determined that he had broken the law.

I'm so sorry. By the way, there have been VERY few ECT patients who have SUCCESSFULLY sued, unfortunately. The game is very rigged.

2 More Responses

If you had all the horrible things happen to you thoughout life as I did loosing a part of your memory is not so bad. There are many things I'd like to forget.

I certainly see your point, and if ECT only erased memories that we wanted it to, that would be a different matter entirely.