Selected scientific papers
This section contains a selection of Dr. Breggin's scientific articles spanning 1964 to the present. They can be arranged chronologically in order to facilitate an overview of his work over the years.
 
 

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file icon Book Review: Borderland of Criminal Justice 06/18/1965
Breggin, PR. (1965). The Borderland of Criminal Justice: Essays in Law and Criminology. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disorders. 141(3), 388-394.
file icon Neuropathology and Cognitive Dysfunction From ECT (1985) 01/01/1985

Breggin, P.R. (1985). Neuropathology and Cognitive Dysfunction From ECT. Electroconvulsive Therapy, Consensus Development Conference, NIMH, June 10-12.


ECT always produces some degree of immediate brain damage and mental dysfunction, and frequently the patient never fully recovers. Permanent brain damage from ECT is demonstrated through clinical evaluations, psychological tests, EEG studies, CAT scans, human autopsy studies, and research on the effect of electrical current on the brain as well as through a variety of animal studies.

file icon Rational Principles of Psychopharmacology 02/16/2016

Breggin, PR. (2016). Rational Principles of Psychopharmacology for Therapists, Healthcare Providers and Clients. J Contemp Psychother 46:1–13.


Because the epidemic dispensing of psychiatric drugs is based on misinformation, it is important for all health professionals, consumers, and most citizens (including patients and their family members) to have a more rational understanding of how psychiatric drugs actually “work.” Instead of enforcing authoritarian “medication compliance” in obedience to the prescriber’s orders, informed therapists and healthcare providers have an ethical duty to provide scientific information about the real effects of psychiatric drugs. Instead of naively accepting whatever the doctor prescribes to them, consumers need to educate themselves about all medications, but especially about psychiatric ones, which are consistently misrepresented and oversold.

file icon Understanding & helping people with hallucinations 04/09/2015

Breggin, PR. (2015). Understanding and Helping People with Hallucinations Based on the Theory of Negative Legacy Emotions. The Humanistic Psychologist, 43: 70-87.


This article applies the new concept of negative legacy emotions to understanding and helping people suffering with psychosis and hallucinations. The theory of negative legacy emotions proposes that guilt, shame, and anxiety result from biological evolution, specifically to inhibit human self-assertion, willfulness, and aggression in personal and family relationships. Because human beings are so violent, the species would have destroyed itself if natural selection had not favored individual humans with inhibitory or restraining emotional reactions in personal relationships. Unfortunately, negative legacy emotions are crude responses that can worsen aggression and fail to provide adequate guidelines for ethical adult living.

file icon Psychosurgery (1973) 01/01/1973

Breggin, P.R. (1973). Psychosurgery. Journal of the American Medical Association, 226(9) 1121.


To the Editor. THE JOURNAL (225:916, 1973) described me as "Undoubtedly the one person most responsible for politicizing psychosurgery ...." In this and a succeeding article (225:1035, 1973), the writer defends lobotomists and psychosurgeons and promotes their work as pure science unhappily corrupted by political attacks. Nothing could be further from the truth. The psychosurgeons offer no more 'scientific' evidence than they did in the first disastrous wave of lobotomies and as early as 1967 attempted to gain public and congressional support for their work by linking it to political fears of violent ghetto uprisings and, assassinations. I only entered the political arena as a counterforce to their own strenuous political campaign.

file icon Biological evolution of guilt, shame and anxiety 07/07/2015
Breggin, PR. (2015). The biological evolution of guilt, shame and anxiety: A new theory of negative legacy emotions. Medical Hypotheses 85, 17–24

 

The theory of negative legacy emotions proposes the first unitary concept for the biopsychosocial function of guilt, shame and anxiety, and seeks their origin in biological evolution and natural selection. Natural selection favored individuals with built-in emotional restraints that reduced conflicts within their family and tribal unit, optimizing their capacity to survive and reproduce within the protection of their small, intimate societies, while maintaining their capacity for violence against outsiders. Unfortunately, these negative legacy emotions are rudimentary and often ineffective in their psychosocial and developmental function. As a result, they produce many unintended untoward effects, including the frequent breakdown of restraints in the family and the uninhibited unleashing of violence against outsiders.

file icon Understanding and Overcoming Guilt, Shame, and Anxiety: Based on Theory of Negative Legacy Emotions 09/24/2015
Chapter 5 of Promoting Psychological Well-Being in Children and Families. Edited by Bruce Kirkcaldy. Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.


Understanding and Overcoming Guilt, Shame, and Anxiety: Based on the Theory of Negative Legacy Emotions.


Peter R. Breggin


I have spent more than half a century as a psychiatrist and psychotherapist trying to understand human suffering. Why does every single one of us come out of childhood suffering from guilt and shame? Where does anxiety fit in? How much influence does bad parenting have in causing these emotions? How can we limit their painful impact on ourselves, our children, and those we seek to help?

file icon Risks and Mechanism of Action of Stimulants 11/16/1998
Risks and Mechanism of Action of Stimulants. NIH Consensus Development Conference on Diagnosis and Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, November 16-18, 1998.
file icon Brain damage, dementia and persistent cognitive dysfunction associated with neuroleptics (German) 03/30/1990
"Brain damage, dementia and persistent cognitive dysfunction associated with neuroleptics: Evidence, Etiology, Implications." Journal of Mind Behavior, 11:425-464, 1990. German Edition
file icon Presumed Prudence Leaves Children Susceptible to Electroshock 04/26/2014

The Utmost Discretion: How Presumed Prudence Leaves Children Susceptible to Electroshock. Children & Society, 28, (2014) pp. 231-241


Cheryl van Daalen-Smith, Simon Adam, Peter Breggin and Brenda A. LeFrançois


This article examines the controversial and largely publicly undocumented practice of administering electroconvulsive therapy (ECT or electroshock) to children who are undergoing psychiatric treatment. Conventional psychiatric beliefs and practices are challenged, along with a presentation of the history of scientific research which questions electroshock's 'effectiveness' and outlines its brain-damaging and incapacitating effects. As such, we provide counterarguments regarding the legitimacy of ECT as a treatment option, deconstructing the principle of presumed prudence in its use. Our analysis leads us to conclude that the 'principle of presumed prudence' should be eschewed in favour of the 'precautionary principle', in order to underscore and uphold the medical ethos 'to do no harm' and to ensure the application of children's rights within the psychiatric system. © 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd and National Children's Bureau.

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WARNING!

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.