Shock Therapy

Shock Therapy1

Edward Shorter, American-born, who earned his PhD at Harvard is a renowned scholar and author. His plethora of books include the classic work A History of Women’s Bodies (Basic), A History of Psychiatry from the Era of the Asylum to the Age of Prozac (Wiley) a new works, The Historical Dictionary of Psychiatry (Oxford University Press), and Written In The Flesh: The History of Desire (University of Toronto Press.) He is a professor of history at the University of Toronto.

David Healy, who studied in University College Dublin, and the University of Cambridge, England, is currently a Professor of Psychological Medicine in Cardiff University, Wales, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Toronto. He is the author of 15 books, including The Antidepressant Era, and The Creation of Psychopharmacology from Harvard University Press, The Psychopharmacologists Volumes 1-3, and Let Them Eat Prozac from New York University Press.

Rutgers University Press 2007
University of Toronto Press Can 2007

Shock Therapy

A History of Electroconvulsive Treatment in Mental Illness

Edward Shorter and David Healy

The electroshock story is one of the great unknown stories of modern medicine. Considered by many to be the penicillin for the severely mentally ill, it fell out favor in the 1960s for curious, cultural reasons. Only recently is it experiencing a comeback.

This book is appealing on three levels. It is a lively and evocative social history from the 1930s to today, including recent experiments in Deep Brain Stimulation.  It is illuminating on the science of the brain in mental illness. And it is a work of advocacy which will influence the thinking about shock therapy.

One of the most interesting aspects in the history of medicine and culture is how and why such an effective treatment fell out of favor when there was nothing substantially better to replace it.

Shock Therapy is still controversial. This book by two leading authors will be a major contribution to ameliorating the stigma that has been attached to it.