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Encyclopedia > Insanity
Inmates at Bedlam Asylum, as portrayed by William Hogarth
Inmates at Bedlam Asylum, as portrayed by William Hogarth

Insanity, or madness, is a general term for a semi-permanent, severe mental disorder. The concept has been used in a number of ways historically. Today it is most commonly encountered as a generic informal term, or in the more narrow legal context of criminal insanity. In the medical profession, it is nowadays avoided in favor of specific diagnoses of mental illness. Image File history File links This is a lossless scalable vector image. ... Image File history File links Download high resolution version (2042x1782, 722 KB) Summary The Interior of Bedlam, from A Rakes Progress by William Hogarth, 1763. ... Image File history File links Download high resolution version (2042x1782, 722 KB) Summary The Interior of Bedlam, from A Rakes Progress by William Hogarth, 1763. ... The Bethlem Royal Hospital of London, which has been variously known as St Mary Bethlehem, Bethlem Hospital, Bethlehem Hospital and Bedlam, is the worlds oldest psychiatric hospital. ... William Hogarth (November 10, 1697 – October 26, 1764) was a major English painter, printmaker, pictorial satirist, and editorial cartoonist who has been credited as a pioneer in western sequential art. ... The Scream, the famous painting commonly thought of as depicting the experience of mental illness. ... The term criminally insane is largely the invention of crime and horror authors. ... A mental illness or mental disorder refers to one of many mental health conditions characterized by distress, impaired cognitive functioning, atypical behavior, emotional dysregulation, and/or maladaptive behavior. ...


Historical Treatment

During 18th century the French and English introduced the new practice of humane treatment of the clinically insane, though reasons for placement in an asylum and being labelled mentally unstable were considerably looser than the diagnoses used by contemporary society, often including afflictions such as speech impediments and epilepsy. The first American asylum was built in Williamsburg, Virginia, circa 1773. Before the 19th century these hospitals were used to isolate the mentally ill or the socially ostracized from society rather than cure them or maintain their health. Pictures from this era portrayed patients to be bound with straitjackets, rope or chains, often to beds or walls. Speech disorders or speech impediments, as they are also called, are a type of communication disorders where normal speech is disrupted. ... A psychiatric hospital (also called, at various places and times, mental hospital or mental ward), is a hospital specialising in the treatment of persons with mental illness. ... A Posey seen from the rear (with some added restraints) A leather straitjacket with leg irons A straitjacket is a garment shaped like a jacket with overlong sleeves. ...

Criminal & Civil law

Main article: Insanity defense

In criminal law, insanity may serve as a defense for a person's criminal acts. In most U.S. states, legal insanity is not sufficient to avoid a guilty verdict, rather to be not guilty by reason of insanity it must be demonstrated that the defendant could not tell the difference between right and wrong. The prosecuted could be charged as "not guilty for reasons of insanity" (NGRI). In a criminal trial, the insanity defenses are possible defenses by excuse, via which defendants may argue that they should not be held criminally liable for breaking the law, as they were mentally ill at the time of their allegedly criminal actions. ... Criminal law (also known as penal law) is the body of statutory and common law that deals with crime and the legal punishment of criminal offenses. ...

In civil law, insanity renders a person unfit for entering contracts or other legal obligations. In the common law, civil law refers to the area of law governing relations between private individuals. ... A contract is a legally binding exchange of promises or agreement between parties that the law will enforce. ...

In some judicial systems, it may allow for someone to be involuntarily committed. Involuntary commitment is the practice of using legal means or forms as part of a mental health law to commit a person to a mental hospital, insane asylum or psychiatric ward without their informed consent, against their will or over their protests. ...

Many who support the movement of anti-psychiatry take the position that mental illness is questionable as a diagnosis either legally or medically and especially should not permit their involuntary commitment. Beginning in the 1960s, a movement called anti-psychiatry claimed that psychiatric patients are not ill but are individuals that do not share the same consensus reality as most people in society. ...

Slang usage

In popular culture, "insane" could also refer to something extremely foolish, while persons may be deemed "insane" if their behavior strongly deviates from accepted social norms; in the past, insanity has been used to refer to individuals who have exhibited apathetic, cruel, hypersexual and homosexual behavior. The term is typically negative, but departure from established norms may also be seen as a positive quality; in this case, being "insane" is being daringly unconventional or individualistic. This use of insane is illustrated by the following quote from Henry David Thoreau's A Plea for Captain John Brown, an essay supporting the well-known militant abolitionist: Popular culture, sometimes called pop culture, consists of widespread cultural elements in any given society. ... “Stupid” redirects here. ... In sociology, a norm, or social norm, is a pattern of behavior expected within a particular society in a given situation. ... Apathy is a psychological term for a state of indifference — where an individual is unresponsive or indifferent to aspects of emotional, social, or physical life. ... Look up cruelty in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Satyriasis redirects here. ... Homosexuality refers to sexual interaction and / or romantic attraction between individuals of the same sex. ... Individualism is a political and social philosophy that emphasizes individual liberty, belief in the primary importance of the individual and in the virtues of self-reliance and personal independence. ... Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862; born David Henry Thoreau[1]) was an American author, naturalist, transcendentalist, tax resister, development critic, and philosopher who is best known for Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, and his essay, Civil Disobedience, an argument for individual resistance... A Plea for Captain John Brown is an essay by Henry David Thoreau. ... The word militant has come to refer to any individual or party engaged in aggressive physical or verbal combat, normally for a cause. ... This English poster depicting the horrific conditions on slave ships was influential in mobilizing public opinion against slavery. ...

Many, no doubt, are well disposed, but sluggish by constitution and by habit, and they cannot conceive of a man who is actuated by higher motives than they are, accordingly they pronounce this man insane, for they know that they could never act as he does, as long as they are themselves.

In this sense, "insanity" is not implied to be an actual disorder, let alone severe.

12-step usage

Concerning substance addiction and abuse, insanity is recognized in twelve-step recovery groups as "repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results". Drug addiction is a condition where a person takes a drug compulsively, despite potential harm to themselves, or their desire to stop. ... Substance abuse refers to the overindulgence in and dependence on a psychoactive leading to effects that are detrimental to the individuals physical health or mental health, or the welfare of others. ... A Twelve-step program is a set of guiding principles for recovery from addictive, compulsive, or other behavioral problems, originally developed by the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) to guide recovery from alcoholism. ... The word error has different meanings in different domains. ...


In other fields, including among players of electronic games, to refer to someone as "insane" is to say that he is extremely skilled at the task in question.

Linguistic roots

In English, the word "sane" shares the Latin adjective sanus meaning healthy. The phrase "mens sana in corpore sano" refers to a "healthy mind in a healthy body". From this perspective, one can see that "insanity" of the mind can also be considered poor "health" of the mind. This of course does not refer to the health of the brain as an organ, though that can affect one's mental health, but rather it refers to the health of the mind itself. The Latin phrase itself for "sane" is "compos mentis" (lit. "of composed mind") The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ... Latin is an ancient Indo-European language originally spoken in Latium, the region immediately surrounding Rome. ... Mens sana in corpore sano is a famous quotation by Decimus Iunius Iuvenalis. ...

External links

Look up insanity in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... Wiktionary (a portmanteau of wiki and dictionary) is a multilingual, Web-based project to create a free content dictionary, available in over 150 languages. ... David Rosenhan is a psychiatrist See also: Rosenhan experiment On being sane in insane places Categories: People stubs ...

  Results from FactBites:
Washingtonpost.com: The Insanity Defense: A Closer Look (972 words)
And often the trials involving an insanity defense get the most attention because they involve "crimes that are bizarre within themselves," said Baltimore defense attorney Cristina Gutierrez, who has defended a dozen such cases in as many years.
In almost all cases, a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity prompts a judge to commit defendants to treatment centers until mental health officials determine they do not pose a danger to anyone.
A jury rejected Jack Ruby's claim of insanity and sent him to prison for shooting Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of President John F. Kennedy.
insanity: Definition, Synonyms and Much More from Answers.com (2083 words)
Insanity is a grave, often prolonged condition that prevents a person from being held legally responsible for his or her actions: was judged not guilty for reasons of insanity.
Further, insanity provides a ground for rescinding a contract or will when it is shown that the contracting party did not understand the nature of his or her act or the extent of his or her property.
Insanity, or madness, is a semi-permanent, severe mental disorder typically stemming from a form of mental illness.
  More results at FactBites »



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