At the age of eighteen as a Harvard college student, Dr. Breggin began working as a volunteer in a state mental hospital and was soon directing the Harvard-Radcliffe Mental Hospital Volunteer Program. This experience set the direction of the two thrusts of his ongoing work as a psychiatrist: critiquing the prevailing biological psychiatry and encouraging more positive person-centered and relationship-based therapies. From the beginning, he saw caring, thoughtful approaches as the best hope for helping people with emotional problems, including the most distressed and disturbed individuals.
For several decades, Dr. Breggin has been developing a new approach to understanding and overcoming guilt, shame and anxiety, which he sees as the root of most of what becomes labeled "emotional problems" and "mental illness." His most recent book, Guilt, Shame and Anxiety: Understanding and Overcoming Negative Emotions, represents the culmination of this work in psychology. It presents a new biological evolutionary approach to understanding the origins of our most demoralizing emotions and how to overcome them. His earlier book, The Heart of Being Helpful, more specifically addresses how to help people as a therapist, friend or family member. These two books together present his most important experiences, studies and conclusions in regard to self-help and therapy.
As a supplement to Dr. Breggin's books, this section of Dr. Breggin’s papers provides an assortment of his scientific articles and book chapters. The next section is especially focused on his many papers examining psychiatric drugs, electroshock, psychosurgery, involuntary treatment and other problems in psychiatry.
Electroshock treatment (ECT) was developed in 1938 at a time that lobotomy and insulin coma therapy were already in use. Pioneer advocates of ECT openly admitted that it caused irreversible brain damage. In 1979 Dr. Breggin published the first medical book critical of ECT, Electroshock: Its Brain-Disabling Effects (New York: Springer Publishing Company). Dr. Breggin has advocated the banning of ECT, but it continues to be used extensively in most psychiatric facilities. In 1985 Dr. Breggin presented as the scientific expert on the brain-damaging effects of the treatment at the NIH Consensus Development Conference on ECT. In 2005 he was the medical expert in the first-ever malpractice victory against a doctor who referred his patient for ECT.
The best source of up-to-date information on ECT memory loss and brain damage can be found in a chapter in Dr. Breggin’s book Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry (2008).