Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) almost became a household name in the 1940s and 1950s as a cure for mental illness, but its history dates back to ancient times when electric eels and fish were used as antidepressants and analgesics. By the late 1930s, Italian psychiatrists had discovered the power of electricity-induced seizures. Still, while the idea of shocking the brain was frightening by itself, it was ironically developed as an alternative to Metrazol. This seizure-inducing drug put mental patients in a more terrifying place.
Over time, ECT lost its popularity as a cure for mental disorders mainly because it was administered in high doses without anesthesia, leading to serious side effects such as memory loss and brittle bones. Despite the stigma attached to the procedure, it continues to be performed today but only when other options have failed. The once-controversial therapy is also much safer in modern times, with success rates as high as 80-85%. While side effects can still occur, ECT therapy is now conducted in highly controlled settings designed to provide the most possible benefit with the least potential risk.