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Insanity is a anachronistic term for a spectrum of behaviors characterized by certain abnormal behavioral patterns. Insanity may manifest as violations of any number of potential societal norms and mores. In the psychiatric community it no longer has a clinical use, and has been defunct as a diagnosis since the late 19th century. In modern usage insanity is most commonly encountered as an informal unscientific term denoting mental instability, or a vernacular term connotating a psychotic disorder. DSM categories, as well as the American Psychiatric Association have used the term psycho-pathology in place of the archaic notion of insanity. It does currently maintain a narrow legal usage, in the context of the insanity defense. However, in the 20th century the insanity defense is rarely employed, and even more rarely accepted by local and state courts.

In English, the word "sane" derives from the Latin adjective "sanus", meaning "healthy". The line from Juvenal, "mens sana in corpore sano" (Saturae, Book IV, X, line 356) is often translated to mean a "healthy mind in a healthy body". From this perspective, insanity was considered as poor health of the mind, not necessarily of the brain as an organ (This view would not become commonplace until the beginning of the 17th century). Much of the course of western medicine was dictated by the Roman physician, Galen, who dictated that pathological symptoms were the result or an inbalance in the body's humors. Therefore, it followed amongst early physicians that the cure of insanity, as a disease, as a restoration of mental faculties through attaining homeostasis.

Another Latin phrase related to our current concept of sanity, or insanity, is "compos mentis", or "of a composed mind", and the euphemistic term for insanity is "non compos mentis". As maxims of law, "mens rea" means having had criminal intent, when the act "actus reus" was committed.

Through the centuries, and among different cultures, there have been various theories regarding the origin and treatment of insanity. Many of which have been dismissed as pre-scientific, or misguided theories. However, the current understanding and etiology of the theory of the Schizophrenic mind is still currently unknown by modern medicine.

History of the Perception of Insanity

Mental Illness as 'Woodness'

The term Woodness was originally applied in Anglo-Saxon circles as a condition where the intelligible mind is separated from the vegetative soul. Woodness appears to mean that an individial is literally out of thier mind; or rather, that the rational mind is in a disconnected relationship with itself. Traits attributed to 'Woodness' might be related to the modern notion of Schizophrenia, or split-mindness. This mental condition is reflected in populat English literature as late as Geoffrey Chaucer's work 'Canterbury Tales', in the 14th century. Lines alluding to mental illness include, "What sholde he studie and make hymselven wood", "armed, and looked grym as he were wood", and "the hunted is, for her hunger wood".

Mental Illness as Madness

Mental Illness as Lunacy

Mental Illness as Lunacy

The term lunatic, or Lunacy, is taken from the Roman goddess of the moon: Luna, prefix for the word “lunatic. Greek philosopher Aristotle of Stagira, and Roman historian Pliny the Elder, suggested that the brain was the moistest organ in the body, and therefore most susceptible to the pernicious influences of the moon, which triggers the tides. Belief in the “lunacy effect” in behavior, was common in the medical community well into the 19th century. However, by the early 20th century it was deemed archaic by most psychiatrists, and has no current clinical use. The American Psychiatric Association also has no associated modern diagnosis for behaviors relating to the various phases of the moon.

Theories abound about the origin of the myth regarding lunar activity and psychotic conditions. Many modern studies have been composed in the last fifty years regarding the association between observed behavior and the phases of the moond. No substanital correlation has been determined. In recent years it has been suggested that lunacy was a type of Bipolar Disorder. In the past, individuals with this condition were affected by the increase in moonight, and had their sleep pattern significantly disturbed because of it, thus exacerbating mania/hynomania.

Mental Illness as Dementia Praecox

Mental Illness as Schizophrenia

Mental Illness as Bicameralism