10 of Psychology's Greatest Myths

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"Shock" Therapy Is a Brutal Treatment

When you think of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), what comes to mind? Do you picture a straightjacketed individual being bound to a table against his will, electrodes attached to his skull, and then convulsing brutally on a table as electricity courses through his body?

According to surveys, most people view ECT as a barbaric relic of psychiatry's medieval past. And while ECT may once have been a violent process, it hasn't been like that for over five decades. Yes, it is still in use today.

"Nowadays, patients who receive ECT... first receive a general anesthetic, a muscle relaxant, and occasionally a substance to prevent salivation," Lilienfeld described. "Then, a physician places electrodes on the patient's head... and delivers an electric shock. This shock induces a seizure lasting 45 to 60 seconds, although the anesthetic... and muscle relaxant inhibit the patient's movements..."

There's no scientific consensus on why ECT works, but the majority of controlled studies show that -- for severe depression -- it does. Indeed, a 1999 study found that an overwhelming 91% of people who'd received ECT viewed it positively.

(Image: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest)

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