electroconvulsive therapy

[ih-lek-troh-kuhn-vuhl-siv, ih-lek-]
formerly shock therapy

Method of treating psychiatric disorders by inducing shock through electric current. Electroconvulsive, or electroshock, therapy involves passing an electric current through the patient's head between two electrodes placed over the temples and thus causing a convulsive seizure; it was used to treat bipolar disorder and other types of depression. Shock was previously induced by administering increasingly large doses of insulin until the patient was thrown into a brief coma; the so-called insulin-shock therapy was used for the treatment of schizophrenia. Both forms of shock therapy were developed in the 1930s. Their use declined after the introduction of tranquilizing drugs and antidepressants.

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