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Electroshock-Restoring the Mind

By Max Fink, M.D.

Review by William Zaccagnino, David Seaman, and Dick Rowson, NAMI Literature Committee

Electroshock-Restoring the Mind
by Max Fink, M.D.
(Oxford University Press, 1999. 157 pages. Hardcover: $22.00)

Electroshock-Restoring the Mind is a thorough and excellent discussion of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) as a valuable treatment for a variety of brain disorders, among them mood disorders (depression and mania), thought disorders, and movement disorders.

Max Fink, M.D., discusses the history of ECT and the evolution of understanding the efficacy of seizures as treatment for brain diseases. Unlike many medications, he notes, ECT is safe for individuals with other medical conditions as well as during many pregnancies. It is clearly undeserving of the stigma that surrounds it, a stigma that extends, to a degree, even into the psychiatric professions.

Fink's review of the history of ECT and what its place has been alongside other treatments for brain disorders is especially important. We learn how ECT evolved into a safe, painless, sometimes life-saving procedure that has been significantly humanized over the years. Patients are unconscious during treatment and monitored closely.

Fink's advocacy for ECTat times comes across as valuing it above medications. Like medications, ECT has various degrees of effectiveness among individuals, even from one series of treatments to another with the same person.

Overall, Fink's book is well worth reading. Consumers, families, and psychiatrists considering ECT as a treatment-even the general public-will be better informed, which may lead to a more accurate understanding of the value and success of this therapy.