Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) was discovered 85 years ago, yet we still do not know how it works. Despite this uncertainty, psychiatrists rarely but increasingly recommend ECT for minors with severe autism. The patients referred for the treatment suffer from malignant catatonia. Symptoms include “freezing” for hours but also severe self-injurious behaviors such as banging their heads against the walls, pulling their hair so hard that their scalp bleeds, or even poking their eyeballs in the most extreme cases.
The controversy surrounding ECT stems from the fear of severe cognitive side effects, which include heavy memory loss. So why risk it on non-verbal minors with autism who already suffer from a lack of cognitive capacities?