The Nomenclature of Electroconvulsive Therapy.


Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is an established but stigmatized psychiatric treatment. The term ECT reflects the treatment's modality and action. Several authors proposed different names for ECT to deal with stigma; however, available literature that promoted different names did not address the risk/benefit ratio or offer evidence-based approach to the efficacy of this approach. We aim to examine proposed names for their specificity, accuracy, understandability, and popularity. In addition, we aim to find evidence-based methods to combat the ECT-related stigma. We reviewed the literature relating to the proposed names using snowballing technique for literature search. Known ECT alternative names were used for search, and whenever another name appears, it was added to our search list. We conducted Medline, PsycINFO, Google Scholar, and PubMed search to check for popularity and cross examine whether proposed terms refer back to ECT. We searched for ECT and stigma, to find evidence for methods to tackle ECT-related stigma. Once, the search stopped yielding newer ideas, we stopped the search at a point of saturation, where no more ideas where generated. Our name search yielded 14 terms. Nine names avoided "electricity" and "convulsion," because of perceived associated stigma. Presence of different terminology can affect the clarity of patient-doctor communication, with no evidence of added benefit. Alternative names may affect doctor-doctor communication about this treatment. We concluded that it is safer to retain the term ECT for the sake of consistency and clarity of communication. Education and experience are evidence-based effective methods of tackling ECT-related stigma.