Electroshock (ECT)

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).


Many of Dr. Breggin's articles on ECT can be found in the Special Topics section under ECT. These articles also provide perspective into Dr. Breggin's campaign to stop this barbaric treatment.



DocumentsDate added

Order by : Name | Date | Hits [ Ascendant ]
file icon The FDA should test the safety of ECT machines 01/30/2011
International Journal of Risk & Safety in Medicine 22 (2010) 89-92.
Peter R. Breggin
Abstract: Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and the machines that deliver it have never been tested for safety and efficacy in order ato receive approval from the FDA. The American Psychiatric Association and ECT advocates protested when the FDA took steps to classify the machines as posing “an unreasonable risk of illness or injury”, which would have required their testing before approval. Without requiring this testing, the FDA is now preparing to classify the treatment and the machines as safe. This article reviews evidence demonstrating that ECT is very harmful to the brain and mind, and concludes that the FDA should demand the usual testing, starting with animals, that is required before psychiatric treatments and machines are approved for marketing and use.
file icon Electroshock (ECT): Scientific, Ethical, & Political Issues 05/15/2008
file icon The return of ECT 01/29/2008

Readings: A Journal of Reviews and Comentary in Mental Health, March 1992.

Dr. Breggin reviews and comments upon the 1990 Task Force Report of the American Psychiatric Association, "The Practice of Electroconvulsive Therapy: Recommendations for Treatment, Training, and Privileging."

file icon Shock Treatment III: Resistance in the 1980s 01/28/2008
A chapter from Dr. Breggin's 1979 book Electroshock: Its Brain-Disabling Effects.
file icon Neuropathology and cognitive dysfunction from ECT 01/15/2008
Because ECT always produces an organic brain syndrome, the proper question, Breggin states, is not "Does ECT cause braind damage and dsyfunction?" but rather "How complete is recovery from this trauma?"
file icon Electroshock therapy and brain damage 01/14/2008
"Electroshock therapy and brain damage: the acute organic brain syndrome as treatment," The Brain and Behavioral Sciences 7 (1984) 24-25.
file icon Disabling the brain with electroshock 01/14/2008
Examines the relation between the "therapeutic" effects of electroshock and the damage it does to the brain.
file icon Brain-disabling therapies 01/12/2008
An overview of the risks of electroshock therapy, pyschosurgery, and psychiatric drugs. From The Psychosurgery Debate, E. Valenstein, ed. 1980.
file icon Electroshock: scientific, ethical, and political issues 01/12/2008

Electroconvulsive treatment (ECT) is increasingly used in North America and there are attempts to further its use world-wide. However, most controlled studies of efficacy in depression indicate the treatment is no better than placebo, with no positive effect on the rate of suicide. International Journal of Risk and Safety in Medicine 11 (1998) 5-40.

file icon The Cognitive Effects of Electroconvulsive Therapy in Community Settings 03/18/2007
Despite ongoing controversy, there has never been a large-scale, prospective study of the cognitive effects of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). We conducted a prospective, naturalistic, longitudinal study of clinical and cognitive outcomes in patients with major depression treated at seven facilities in the New York City metropolitan area. Of 751 patients referred for ECT with a provisional diagnosis of a depressive disorder, 347 patients were eligible and participated in at least one post-ECT outcome evaluation.



Most psychiatric drugs can cause withdrawal reactions, sometimes including life-threatening emotional and physical withdrawal problems. In short, it is not only dangerous to start taking psychiatric drugs, it can also be dangerous to stop them. Withdrawal from psychiatric drugs should be done carefully under experienced clinical supervision. Methods for safely withdrawing from psychiatric drugs are discussed in Dr. Breggin's new book, Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal: A Guide for Prescribers, Therapists, Patients, and Their Families.