Bergler, an Austrian Jew, fled the Nazis in 1937-38 and lived in New York City. He wrote 25 psychology books along with 273 articles that were published in leading professional journals. He also had unfinished manuscripts of dozens of more titles in the possession of the Edmund and Marianne Bergler Psychiatric Foundation.
He has been referred to as "one of the few original minds among the followers of Freud." Delos Smith, science editor of United Press International, said Bergler was "among the most prolific Freudian theoreticians after Freud himself."
Arnold M. Cooper, former Professor of Psychiatry at Cornell University Medical College and a past president of the American Psychoanalytic Association, said of Bergler's work: "I have adapted my model for understanding masochism from the work of Bergler, who regarded masochism as the basic neurosis from which all other neurotic behaviors derive. As long ago as 1949 . . . he felt, and I agree, [that the mechanism of orality] is paradigmatic for the masochistic character.
Summarizing his work, Bergler said that people were heavily defended against realization of the darkest aspects of human nature, meaning the individual's emotional addiction to unresolved negative emotions. He wrote in 1958, "I can only reiterate my opinion that the superego is the real master of the personality, that psychic masochism constitutes the most dangerous countermeasure of the unconscious ego against the superego's tyranny, that psychic masochism is 'the life-blood of neurosis' and is in fact the basic neurosis. I still subscribe to my dictum, 'Man's inhumanity to man is equaled only by man's inhumanity to himself.'"
Bergler was the most important theorist of homosexuality in the 1950s. He was also a leading theorist on the unconscious and on self-defeating and self-damaging behaviors. According to Kenneth Lewes (a homosexual theorist/author), "...Bergler frequently distanced himself from the central, psychoanalytical tradition, while at the same time claiming a position of importance within it. He thought of himself as a revolutionary who would transform the movement." Near the end of his life, Bergler became an embarrassment to many other analysts: "His views at conferences and symposia were reported without remark, or they were softened and their offensive edge blunted." 
Bergler is noted for his insistence on the universality of unconscious masochism. He is remembered, in large part, for his theories and treatment of homosexuality (stated above) and writer's block – a term he coined in 1947. Psychotherapist Peter Michaelson favorably examined Bergler's body of work in the ebook, Why We Suffer: A Western Way to Understand and Let Go of Unhappiness. According to Michaelson, Bergler discovered the essence of human dysfunction, "the deadly flaw" in human nature, but was misguided in his writings on homosexuality.
Bergler's 1956 book Homosexuality: Disease or Way of Life was cited in Irving Bieber et al.'s 1962 book Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytic Study. Bieber et al. mentioned Bergler briefly, noting that like Melanie Klein, he regarded the oral phase as the most determining factor in the development of homosexuality.
Other writers have taken an interest in Bergler. Gilles Deleuze wrote in his 1967 book Masochism, "...we feel that Bergler's general thesis is entirely sound: the specific element of masochism is the oral mother, the ideal of coldness, solicitude and death, between the uterine mother and the Oedipal mother." 
His theories have been described as 'having been premature in their emphasis on the preoedipal period and narcissism'. In his assumption that 'the preservation of infantile megalomania or infantile omnipotence (we today would say narcissism) is of prime importance in the reduction of anxiety...his formulation is not dissimilar to Kohut's many years later'. Bergler's injunction to 'Imagine a child confronted by some refusal....Regardless of its justifications, the refusal automatically provokes fury, since it offends his sense of omnipotence' he anticipates Self psychology in its account of Narcissistic rage and narcissistic injury.
'Edmund Bergler, the psychoanalyst who has done the most work on the subject, argues that all gamblers, without exception, gamble because of "psychic masochism"'. Arguably, indeed, 'not until the publication of the papers of Bergler, however, was the topic given the serious exploration it required'.
Bergler provided an 'inclusive symptomatology of the gambler...outlining the six symptoms or characteristics which, taken together, describe the gambler and his neurosis'. However, although 'Bergler was a thorough, clinical researcher...[who] also tried to get his ideas across to a wider public by writing books and articles accessible to the layman...he became possessive about encroachments on what he regarded as his chosen field. He believed that he was the first man to elucidate the theory that the gambler was motivated to lose – although, of course, Freud was not alone in anticipating him in this respect'.
Freud critic Max Scharnberg has given Bergler's writings as an example of what he sees as the transparent absurdity of much psychoanalytic work.
Bergler quotes one of his patients as complaining '"You kill every argument with this trick of referring to the unconscious"'.
- Bergler, Edmund. (1934). "Frigidity in Women", with Edward Hitschmann (in German). New York (English version): Nervous and Mental Disease Mongraphs
- Bergler, Edmund. (1935). "Talleyrand-Napoleon-Stendhal-Grabbe" (in German). Vienna: Internationale Psychoanalytische Verlag
- Bergler, Edmund. (1937). "Psychic Impotence in Men" (in German). Berne: Hans Huber Verlag
- Bergler, Edmund. (1946). "Unhappy Marriage and Divorce", with an Introduction by A.A. Brill. New York: International Universities Press
- Bergler, Edmund. (1948). "The Battle of the Conscience". Washington, D.C.: Washington Institute of Medicine
- Bergler, Edmund. (1948). "Divorce Won't Help". New York: Harper & Brothers
- Bergler, Edmund. (1949). "Conflict in Marriage". New York: Harper & Brothers
- Bergler, Edmund. (1949). "The Basic Neurosis". New York: Harper and Brothers
- Bergler, Edmund. (1949). "The Writer and Psychoanalysis". Garden City: Doubleday and Co.
- Bergler, Edmund. (1951). "Money and Emotional Conflicts". Doubleday and Co.
- Bergler, Edmund. (1951). "Neurotic Counterfeit-Sex". New York: Grune & Stratton
- Bergler, Edmund. (1952). "The Superego". New York: Grune & Stratton
- Bergler, Edmund. (1953). "Fashion and the Unconscious". New York: Robert Brunner
- Bergler, Edmund, & Kroger, W. (1954). "Kinsey's Myth of Female Sexuality: The Medical Facts". New York: Grune and Stratton
- Bergler, Edmund. (1954). "The Revolt of the Middle-Aged Man". New York: A.A. Wyn
- Bergler, Edmund. (1956). "Homosexuality: Disease or Way of Life". New York: Hill and Wang
- Bergler, Edmund. (1956). "Laughter and the Sense of Humor". New York: Intercontinental Medical Book Corp.
- Bergler, Edmund. (1957). "Psychology of Gambling". New York: Hill & Wang
- Bergler, Edmund. (1958). "Counterfeit-Sex: Homosexuality, Impotence and Frigidity". New York: Grune and Stratton
- Bergler, Edmund. (1959). "Principles of Self-Damage". New York: The Philosophical Library
- Bergler, Edmund. (1959). "One Thousand Homosexuals: Conspiracy of Silence, or Curing and Deglamorizing Homosexuals?". Paterson, New Jersey: Pageant Books
- Bergler, Edmund. (1960). "Tensions Can be Reduced to Nuisances". New York: Collier Books
- Bergler, Edmund. (1961). "Curable and Incurable Neurotics". New York: Liveright Pub. Co.
- Bergler, Edmund. (1963). "Justice and Injustice", with J.A.M. Meerloo. New York: Grune and Stratton
- Bergler, Edmund. (1964). "Parents Not Guilty". New York: Liveright Pub. Co.
- Bergler, Edmund. (1969). "Selected Papers: 1933-1961". New York: Grune and Stratton
- Bergler, Edmund. (1998). "The Talent for Stupidity: The Psychology of the Bungler, the Incompetent, and the Ineffectual". Madison, CT: International Universities Press
- Terry, Jennifer (1999). An American Obsession: Science, Medicine and the Place of Homosexuality in Modern Society. Chicago University Press. pp. 308–314.
- Melvyn L. Iscove, M.D., in his Introduction to The Talent for Stupidity:The Psychology of the Bungler, the Incompetent, and the Ineffectual. International Universities Press, Inc. Madison, CT. 1998. p. xii. (This book was first published 36 years after Bergler's death, through the Edmund and Marianne Bergler Psychiatric Foundation.)
- Selected Papers of Edmund Bergler. Grune and Stratton, New York and London, 1969. p. 953-966.
- Bergler, The Talent for Stupidity. p. xv
- Review of The Battle of the Conscience, in The Nervous Child, 1948, 7(4):449.
- In a December, 1964 review of Parents Not Guilty of Their Children's Neuroses.
- Arnold M. Cooper, "Narcissism and Masochism," Psychiatric Clinics of North America, Vol. 12, No. 3, 1989. p. 547-549.
- Edmund Bergler, The Superego. International Universities Press, Madison, CT. 1989. p.352.(First published by Grune and Stratton, Inc. 1952.)
- Edmund Bergler, Principles of Self-Damage, International Universities Press, Inc., Madison, CT. 1992. p. xxxv.(First published by Philosophical Library, Inc. 1959.)
- Lewes, Kenneth (1988). The Psychoanalytic Theory of Male Homosexuality. New York: New American Library. ISBN 0-452-01003-9.
- Akhtar, Salman (1 January 2009). Comprehensive dictionary of psychoanalysis. Karnac Books. p. 310. ISBN 978-1-85575-860-5. Retrieved 17 October 2011.
- Irving Bieber, Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytic Study of Male Homosexuals, Basic Books Inc, 1962
- Gilles Deleuze, Masochism: Coldness and Cruelty, Zone Books, 1991
- Arnold M. Cooper, Contemporary Psychoanalysis in America(2006) p. 115
- Cooper, p. 116
- Edmund Bergler, "The Psychology of Gambling" in Jon Halliday/Peter Fuller eds., The Psychology of Gambling (London 1974) p. 182
- Peter Fuller, "Introduction", in Jon Halliday/Peter Fuller eds., The Psychology of Gambling (London 1974) p. 14
- Robert M. Lindner, "The psychodynamics of gambling" in Halliday/Fuller eds., p. 219
- Lindner, p. 219–220
- Fuller, p. 106n
- A. B. Crowder/J. D. Hall eds., Seamus Heaney (2007) p. 121
- Max Scharnberg, The Non-Authentic Nature of Freud's Observations, Vol. I: The Seduction Theory, Upppsala, 1993
- Bergler, "The Psychology of Gambling", p. 190