Ascension St. Vincent’s East says it’s having success treating veterans with ‘shock therapy’

Published: Nov. 11, 2022 at 7:49 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Depression is an illness that doesn’t discriminate, but disproportionately affects our veterans.

We’re learning that Ascension St. Vincent’s East is seeing a lot of new success with an old treatment.

They said electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, is a highly misunderstood therapy to treat depression, but they said it’s shown promise with many people.

Counseling, talk therapy, and antidepressant medications have long been the go-to treatments to fight depression.

But studies show these treatments may not work for everyone, which is why health experts at Ascension St. Vincent’s East said electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, could be the answer.

“It’s what most people referred to in the past as a ‘shock treatment.’ It’s very safe. It’s very effective. Much more so than medicines, and much faster results than medicines,” said ECT Coordinator Steven Wells.

He said patients can start feeling better in as little as two weeks with just six treatments, but he said the treatment is often misunderstood.

“They immediately go to something like, ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’ and it’s not. The best way I’ve heard it described is from one of our doctors who explained it’s kind of like your computer—a reboot for the brain,” Wells explained.

ECT involves a small electrical pulse to the scalp while the patient is under anesthesia.

This pulse stimulates brain cells causing a brief seizure.

Some researchers believe this seizure changes parts of the brain that affect your mood, appetite, sleep patterns, and overall energy.

“I can say honestly, less than five people I’ve ever known and treated that did not get results, and out of the hundreds and hundreds we’ve done because we’ve been doing this for 8 or 9 years here…and so, to only have less than five that got no results is pretty impressive,” Wells said.

He said ECT is improving his patients’ quality of life.

“More energy, just a brighter affect. He feels like living and doing. It’s a typical outcome. It’s just a total turnaround,” Wells said.

Wells said the treatment does require a referral, and most patients will have to demonstrate that they’re not responding to other treatments before ECT is recommended.

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