“No-one is certain how ECT works, and there are a number of theories.” Royal College of Psychiatry’s website
“A UK review of a number of studies in 2003 found that the proportion of people who had had ECT and found it helpful ranged from a low of 30% to a high of over 80% in another. The authors commented that studies reporting lower satisfaction tended to have been user-led, those reporting higher satisfaction tended to have been doctor-led. In both user and doctor-led studies between 30% and 50% complained of memory loss.” from the RCOP Website on ECT
The loss of memory and intellectual abilities that require memory to function properly are often devastating to the person treated with ECT.
In 1995, a Royal College of Psychiatrists’ survey conducted on psychiatrists, psychotherapists and general practitioners, confirmed memory loss as an effect of ECT. Of the 1,344 psychiatrists surveyed, 21% referred to “long-term side effects and risks of brain damage, memory loss [and] intellectual impairment.”
General practitioners, reported that 34% of patients whom they had seen in the months after receiving ECT “were poor or worse.”
Fifty psychotherapists were more candid about the effects, making comments such as, “It can cause personality changes and memory impairment, making therapy more difficult” and “…ECT, however it is dressed up in clinical terms, is inseparable from an assault.”
In 2000, psychiatrist Harold A. Sackheim, reportedly the world’s foremost authority and proponent of ECT, when addressing the frequency with which patients complain of memory loss, stated, “As a field, we have more readily acknowledged the possibility of death due to ECT than the possibility of profound memory loss despite the fact that adverse effects on cognition [consciousness] are by far ECT’s most common side effects.” [“Memory and ECT: From Polarisation to Reconciliation,” Journal of ECT, Vol. 16, No 2, 2000, pp 87-96]