Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Insanity (sometimes, madness) is the condition of being in some way mentally "out of touch" with the real world or with "normal" human functioning, often assumed to be a result of a mental illness. A person may be said to be insane for a number of reasons. In many countries' legal systems, insanity is a legal category, designating a person as either unaware of their actions, or aware of them but unable to determine whether those actions are right or wrong. A determination that someone is insane may be used against them in some countries to involuntarily commit them to a mental hospital even if they have committed no crimes, which has been a source of significant controversy. It may also be used by the person themselves (or, often, their lawyers) in the form of the insanity defense in criminal proceedings, allowing them to claim they cannot be held responsible for their actions. Such defendants typically argue either that they should be treated instead of incarcerated, should receive a mitigated sentence, or, in the case of temporary insanity, should be released outright (see insanity defense for more).
The term insanity is also used in a number of other contexts with a related general meaning. In popular culture, someone may be deemed insane if they have likes and dislikes outside those common for average people, especially if their actions are seen as frantic. While usually taking on negative connotations, this may sometimes include positive connotations, as with some incarnations of the stereotype of a mad scientist (notably those along the lines of Albert Einstein).
Historically, the behaviour of people who would now be regarded as mentally ill has often been interpreted in a religious way. For instance, in the European witchhunts of the Middle Ages, people who behaved in a strange way were suspected of being possessed by the devil. The Malleus Maleficarum manual for witchhunters contained a list of characteristics by which witches could be identified. These characteristics would now be seen by many as symptoms of mental disorders.
Some people disagree with common modern ideas about insanity, thinking that some who are deemed insane by society are truly gifted by God, and misunderstood among the unbelieving masses. A similar position is defended in the book The Indigo Children. Some such as Aldous Huxley commented that some kinds of "insanity" are possibly alternative modes of awareness which were commonplace and respected in other times and cultures, and have a place in human nature.
Sometimes people are born with a type of insanity or a mental illness, it is usually because they were related to somebody with insanity, and insanity can be genetic. There are other people who form a case of insanity throughout life, it may be because of a bad childhood experience, a death in the family, a divorce, or perhaps being in a bad physical condition may sometimes effect how you feel mentally.
-  Research: On being sane in insane places
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