5 Things I wish I knew before having ECT (electroconvulsive therapy)

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In this video, I talk about five of the many things I wish I had known before ECT.

#1 Abandoned by the entire medical establishment

I wish I had known that the entire medical and mental health profession would abandon me when I needed treatment for brain damage caused by ECT.

Doctors told me I couldn’t have these problems, instead blaming my memory loss on mental illness. I tried for five years to get recognition and help for my injuries after ECT. No one believed me. The only reason I was able to get testing was that I wanted to go back to school.

#2 Muscle relaxants aren’t enough to prevent skeletal damage

I wish I had known that muscle relaxants wouldn’t be enough to protect my body from being damaged by seizures.

FYI, Muscle relaxants used in ECT are actually paralytics but are likely called relaxants for marketing reasons.

Despite their use, ECT still causes cracked teeth and TMJ problems, even when using mouthguards. Many also experience neck and back problems long after their last treatment.

I have an MRI that shows neck damage, as do several of my peers. I am aware of at least two necks broken during modified ECT.

Researchers aware of these problems say this aspect of treatment is poorly understood, and more needs to be done to prevent injuries.

#3 Messed up vision

I wish I had known that ECT could mess up my vision. I’ve lost half my depth perception and have light sensitivity after ECT–all signs of a traumatic brain injury.

I have been fighting for over a decade to get recognition and treatment for these problems that affect not only my sight but also my memory.

#4 ECT doctors don’t know much about electricity

I wish I knew that doctors who give ECT aren’t required to understand how repeated exposure to high electric fields affects the body or to have training in physics to distinguish between different ECT settings.

You’ll see why this matters on the next slide.

#5 Serious physical disability

I wish I knew that I could wind up in a wheelchair years after my last treatment.

These lesser-known risks with ECT are major, including disabling neurologic conditions such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

Evidence suggests that exposure to high electric fields can lead to this serious condition.

At a 2007 Congressional hearing on Gulf War Syndrome, a retired Brigadier General urged the US government to study the connection between the electrical injury and the condition.

Citation and resource links 

#1 Abandoned by the medical profession 

#2 Physical ECT Injuries  

#3 Vision problems after ECT

#4 Inadequate Training 

#5 serious disabilities beyond memory problems 


Anna is a childhood psychiatric drug and a teenage electroshock survivor. She founded Life After ECT to ensure people injured by electroconvulsive therapy have easy access to resources that can help them understand their injuries and find a path to recovery.