Electroconvulsive therapy is widely seen by the public as a barbaric and outmoded form of treatment. Even within groups of health care professionals, ECT does not have a ‘good press’. Most research into the area of patient attitudes to ECT has been retrospective and often considerably so, and is therefore unlikely to illustrate patients' feelings about a course of treatment at the time it took place (Freeman & Kendell, 1980; Kerr et al, 1982). The only prospective study is that by Malcolm (1989). This showed a low level of understanding of treatment and a high level of anxiety both before treatment and afterwards, but, despite this, a high level of compliance with ECT therapy.
Our aim was to re-examine these findings in order to find a way of improving the experience of ECT.