Insanity: Its Real Meaning Is Not What You Think It Is

True or False: Insanity, rather than being the synonym for mental illness that most people seem to think it is, is actually a legal term.

Answer: Kinda True/Kinda False

True, it’s best used as a legal term. It’s not appropriate for use in medical or psychiatric settings. However, many years ago it was acceptable in these realms.

False, because words have a funny way of wheedling their way into common parlance and commanding respect for how people choose to use them versus how they’re “supposed” to be used.

In the definition given below by Merriam-Webster, you’ll find “insanity” to be all three of the following: a mental disorder, a legal status, and a casual way to label something/someone considered “off.”

  1. a deranged state of the mind usually occurring as a specific disorder (as schizophrenia),
  2. such unsoundness of mind or lack of understanding as prevents one from having the mental    capacity required by law to enter into a particular relationship, status, or transaction or as removes one from criminal or civil responsibility,
  3. a: extreme folly or unreasonableness, b: something utterly foolish or unreasonable.

Some Quotes About Insanity

Ray Bradbury: “Insanity is relative. It depends on who has who locked in what cage.”

R.D. Laing: “Insanity – a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world.”

Nora Ephron: “Insane people are always sure that they are fine. It is only the sane people who are willing to admit that they are crazy.”  

Rita Mae Brown: “The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four people is suffering from a mental illness. Look at your 3 best friends. If they’re ok, then it’s you.”

Christopher Moore: “If you think anyone is sane you just don’t know enough about them.”

Sam Levenson: “Insanity is hereditary; you get it from your children.”

Narcotics Anonymous (1981): “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.” (This attribution is thanks to Cara Santa Maria, who acknowledges that Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, and Mark Twain are all wrongly but frequently given credit for this quote.)

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