picture of Grafton State Hospital
Grafton State Hospital closed down in the 1970s. Its administration building (shown here) is now an office building.

In 1949, Dr. Selig Korson published a case report about an obsessional patient whom he treated with electroshock therapy. NOTE: The following is this website's synopsis, not a quotation.

SYNOPSIS: The man walking the grounds at Grafton State Hospital in Massachusetts had been a promising college student studying a technical field, but he left college toward the end of his sophomore year. Now age 27, he was plagued by obsessive harm thoughts and obsessive sexual thoughts as well as some germ fears. His psychiatrist, Dr. Selig Korson, diagnosed him with obsessive compulsive neurosis.

During the man's first few months at the hospital the doctors gave him six metrozal injections to induce him to have grand mal seizures, hoping the seizures would help his condition. The seizures didn't help. But the patient began making a good adjustment to the hospital and he was given a job as a mechanic's helper in the garage. Time went by. At this point, Dr. Korson decided it was time to try more aggressive treatments. First he tried a form of insight therapy that involved a truth serum drug, sodium amytal. When one hundred hours of these therapy sessions did not show sufficient results, Dr. Korson decided that the time had come to try electroshock therapy.

For 13 days, the patient received a daily electroshock treatment. On the thirteenth day of being shocked with electricity, he became totally disoriented. He also became extremely agitated, which caused the hospital to place him in seclusion, where he became so upset that he ripped the plaster from the wall and left the room a mess. But after this experience, his obsessive compulsive neurosis showed dramatic improvement. "The acute agitated episode last five days, when the patient gradually quieted down," Dr. Korson reported. "Two weeks following his last shock treatment, the patient approached the examiner and dramatically stated, 'Doctor, I am cured.'"

Before long, the man was allowed to return to live at home. Dr. Korson published a case report touting his successful treatment method in the January 1949 issue of the Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease.1

1S. M. Korson, The successful treatment of an obsessive compulsive neurosis with narcosynthesis followed by daily electro-shocks, Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease, 1949, 109(1):37-41.

NOTE: It was not uncommon to use electroshock therapy (also known as electroconvulsive therapy) for obsessional disorder during this time period. In one follow-up study, 31 out of 100 obsessional patients who had been treated at a particular clinic between 1945 and 1959 said they had received electroconvulsive therapy. The study ultimately found no evidence that electroconvulsive therapy was effective for this illness, concluding "E.C.T. has little place in the treatment of obsessional disorder." See L. Grimshaw, The outcome of obsessional disorder: a follow-up study of 100 cases, The British Journal of Psychiatry, 1965, 111:1051-56; also see L. F. Fontenelle et al., Electroconvulsive therapy for obsessive-compulsive disorder: a systematic review, Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2015, 76:949-57.


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