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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Then vs. Now: Shock Therapy

When we read “Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams” by Sylvia Plath, we discussed shock therapy as a cure for some patients within the psychiatric ward of the hospital. At the end of the short story, the narrator becomes the patient that she was trying to mask in the beginning of the story. She describes being tied down to a bed in preparation for shock therapy. We end up asking ourselves whether she was a patient all along or maybe she became a patient from working there. The answer is unclear, but it seems as though she was a patient all along and was trying to convince herself and also prove to everyone else she wasn’t crazy by reading other people’s “dreams.” At the time of this story, Shock therapy was something completely different than it is today. In the 1950’s, around the time frame of this story, this type of therapy was seen as violent and inhumane, but advancements in medication have since allowed people to lead fuller lives than they might have before.
In the early to mid 1900s, psych patients were herded into a large room separated into two sections. On one side of the screen was the electroshock therapy bed and on the other were the scared patients about to become the victim to that bed. In order to save time, one or more patients were called behind the screen to sit down and take off their shoes while the patient who had just preceded them was still on the table going through the convulsions that shake the body after the electric shock has knocked them unconscious.

The process bears little resemblance to its horrific depictions in popular culture. At the Park Royal Psychiatric Hospital, in Florida, it starts when patients come to a medical preparation area adjacent to the shock therapy treatment room. The nurses hook the patient up to an IV that will eventually administer medication to paralyze their muscles during the treatment. The patient will also have heart and brain monitors attached to their skin. The patient is taken into the shock therapy room and given foam blocks to bite on while blue flashlight shaped are placed on each side of the temple. When the shock is administered, the body tenses up for about five seconds. After a couple of short minutes, the patient wakes up and is sent off to recovery until the anesthesia wears off. The patient remembers nothing from the entire treatment process.

One might ask what are the benefits of this type of therapy? What is it used for? Electroshock therapy is one of the fastest ways to relieve symptoms in severely depressed or suicidal patients. It's also very effective for patients who suffer from mania or other mental illnesses. It is generally used when severe depression is unresponsive to other forms of therapy. Or it might be used when patients pose a severe threat to themselves or others and it is too dangerous to wait until medications take effect.

Electroconvulsive therapy and other depression treatments. (n.d.). Retrieved from
 Gluck, F. (2013, August 18). Electro-shock therapy sees a resurgence. Retrieved from

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