Brain Shock Treatments Could Trigger Rage in People with Depression

The practice of jolting the brain in order to provide relief to those who have depression can actually trigger furious fits in a very small amount of people, psychiatrists are warning.

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has seen an increase in use to treat a several conditions, ranging addiction and depression all the way to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). When it is done, electrodes are attached to a scalp where they emit a small weak current that are supposed to enhance and strengthen electrical circuits inside the brain.

When it is used for treating depression, the current is generally applied directly to a person’s left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex – the brain region that regulates emotions. Now there is strong evidence that the procedure will truly lift the mood in some depressive people.

But on the other hand, it does appear to create rage in a few rare cases, claims Ming-Chyi Huang  and Galen Chin-Lun Hung from Taipei City Hospital located in Taiwan.

These people have recently revealed that two patients in their psychiatric facility have experienced uncharacteristic outbursts of rage and fury immediately after getting tDCS treatments.

They Had Urges to ‘Tear Everything Apart’

The very first incident was with a 39 year old lady who was suffering from severe depression, low energy levels, as well as suicidal thoughts and had not responded well to any treatment of antidepressants. Immediately after the tDCS application, she got very agitated and  began screaming angrily and was overcomes with the urge to “tear everything apart”.

This woman did not have any prior record of angry or violent behavior. She then went back to her normal behavior after about 4 hours. Over the next 4 days, her depression level score saw an improvement from 42 to 17 when scored on the 60-point scale. She experienced no additional episodes of fury and rage, but reported that she felt a little restless and “keyed up” with energy for about eight weeks following the treatment.

Began Screaming and Cursing

The second incident happened to a 28 year old lady with very major case of depression and OCD. She also had not benefited at all from antidepressant medication and struggled just to leave her house. But within a few hours following her second application of tDCS, she grew intensely angry and started cursing very loudly, began fist clenching and crying. The very same thing occurred again right after her third application.

This woman was normally quite passive, and she returned to normal after about 30 minutes. And she also reported having no additional attacks. Her score of depression fell from 23 to 16 four weeks later and also saw an improvement in her OCD.

Camilla Nord who comes from the University of Cambridge has claimed to have seen one case of tDCS-related rage during her study of over 100 people who received the treatment. This woman who was suffering from depression had reported feelings of intense anger and rage during practically every one of her 8 tDCS sessions.

The exact reason for these outbursts after tDCS treatments still remains a mystery. Some think that the treatment could be causing a surge within the dopamine reward system inside the brains of some people. This could lead to behavioral anger and excitability, but experts agree that this is totally speculative. “It would be impossible to know the neural basis of this switch because no one has ever examined it,” claims one scientist.