AskDefine | Define insanity

Dictionary Definition

insanity n : relatively permanent disorder of the mind [ant: sanity]

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Pronunciation

Noun

  1. The state of being insane; madness.
    • 18C, Benjamin Franklin (attributed)
      Trying to solve problems, expecting different results, using the exact same methods.

Translations

state of being insane

Extensive Definition

Traditionally, insanity or madness is the behaviour whereby a person flouts societal norms and becomes a danger to himself and others. Greek tragedies and Shakespeare often refer to madness in this sense. Psychologically, it is a general popular and legal term defining behaviour influenced by mental instability. It is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as a deranged state of the mind or lack of understanding. Today, it is most commonly encountered as an informal term or in the narrow legal context of the insanity defense, and in the medical profession the term is now avoided in favour of specific diagnoses of mental illness as schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. When discussing mental illness in general terms, "psychopathology" is also considered a preferred descriptor.

Linguistic roots

In English, the word "sane" derives from the Latin adjective sanus meaning healthy. The phrase "mens sana in corpore sano" is often translated to mean a "healthy mind in a healthy body". From this perspective, insanity can be considered as poor health of the mind, not necessarily of the brain as an organ (although that can affect mental health), but rather refers to defective function of mental processes such as reasoning. A Latin phrase for "sane" is "compos mentis" (lit. "of composed mind"), and a euphemistic term for insanity is "non compos mentis". In law, mens rea means having had criminal intent, or a guilty mind, when the act (actus reus) was committed.

In medicine

Insanity is no longer considered a medical diagnosis but is a legal term in the United States, stemming from its original use in common law. The disorders formerly encompassed by the term covered a wide range of mental disorders now diagnosed as organic brain syndromes, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other psychotic disorders. The states differ somewhat in their definition of insanity but most follow the guidelines of the Model Penal Code. All jurisdictions require a sanity evaluation to address the question first of whether or not the defendant has a mental illness. Most courts accept a major mental illness such as psychosis but will not accept the diagnosis of a personality disorder for the purposes of an insanity defense. The second question is whether the mental illness interfered with the defendant's ability to distinguish right from wrong. That is, did the defendant know that the alleged behavior was against the law at the time the offense was committed. Additionally, some jurisdictions add the question of whether or not the defendant was in control of his behavior at the time of the offense. For example, if the defendant compelled by some aspect of his mental illness to commit the illegal act, the defendant could be evaluated as not in control of his behavior at the time of the offense. The forensic mental health specialists submit their evaluations to the court. Since the question of sanity or insanity is a legal question and not a medical one, the judge and or jury will make the final decision regarding the defendant's status regarding an insanity defense.
In most jurisdictions within the United States, if the insanity plea is accepted, the defendant is committed to a psychiatric institution for at least 60 days for further evaluation, and then reevaluated at least yearly after that.

Feigned insanity

Feigned insanity is the simulation of mental illness in order to avoid or lessen the consequences of a confrontation or conviction for an alleged crime. A number of treatises on medical jurisprudence were written during the nineteenth century, the most famous of which was Isaac Ray in 1838 (fifth edition 1871); others include Benjamin Rush (1827), Ryan (1832), Taylor (1845), Wharton and Stille (1855), Ordronaux (1869), Meymott (1882). The typical techniques as outlined in these works are the background for Dr. Neil S. Kaye's widely recognized guidelines that indicate an attempt to feign insanity.
Today feigned insanity is considered malingering. In a 2005 court case, United States v. Binion, the defendant was prosecuted and convicted for obstruction of justice (adding to his original sentence) because he feigned insanity in a Competency to Stand Trial evaluation.

References

insanity in German: Wahnsinn
insanity in Spanish: Locura
insanity in Finnish: Hulluus
insanity in French: Folie
insanity in Indonesian: Gila
insanity in Hebrew: שיגעון
insanity in Dutch: Krankzinnigheid
insanity in Portuguese: Loucura
insanity in Russian: Сумасшествие
insanity in Simple English: Madness
insanity in Slovak: Šialenstvo
insanity in Urdu: پاگل پن
insanity in Yiddish: משוגע

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

aberration, absurdity, alienation, amentia, arrested development, asininity, backwardness, battiness, blithering idiocy, brain disease, brainlessness, buffoonery, clownishness, crack-up, crackpottedness, crankiness, craziness, cretinism, daffiness, delirium, delusion, dementia praecox, derangement, desipience, distraction, dotage, dottiness, eccentricity, emotional disorder, emotional instability, fatuity, fatuousness, folly, foolery, foolheadedness, foolishness, frenzy, frivolity, frivolousness, functional nervous disorder, giddiness, goofiness, half-wittedness, hallucination, hysteria, idiocy, idiotism, illusion, imbecility, impracticality, inanity, ineptitude, infantilism, insaneness, irrationality, irresponsibility, lunacy, madness, maladjustment, mania, manic-depressive psychosis, melancholia, mental defectiveness, mental deficiency, mental derangement, mental disorder, mental handicap, mental illness, mental retardation, mindlessness, mongolianism, mongolism, mongoloid idiocy, moronism, moronity, nervous breakdown, nervous disorder, neurosis, niaiserie, nonsense, nugacity, nuttiness, paranoia, personality disorder, preposterousness, problems in living, profound idiocy, psychoneurosis, psychopathy, psychosis, queerness, reaction, retardation, retardment, sappiness, schizophrenia, screwiness, senselessness, silliness, simple-wittedness, simplemindedness, simpleness, simplicity, social maladjustment, stupidity, subnormality, thoughtlessness, triflingness, triviality, unbalance, unreasonableness, wackiness, weirdness, witlessness, zaniness, zanyism
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