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What Is Madness?

Updated on June 10, 2012

Madness is a matter of perception. It is about truth - your truth versus another person or society's truth. How far apart from understanding that truth between two parties or group of individual's defines the person under scrutiny as mad or not.

Wolfgang Amedus Mozart was considered extremely mad in his time. From this madness came a stroke of genius in the form of music. The music that he created may be thought of as a unique expression of madness. For this was his truth in manifest. Alas, no one really understood him in any other form of communication - why should they? He, after all, was mad or was he just misunderstood?

So, what is madness? It is this that we shall discuss further.

Obscured Perception Of Reality
Obscured Perception Of Reality

Insanity Is A Matter Of Social Perception

In the title of the film 'The madness of King George' we can see a clear label expressing the confused world of a loony King. Just because no one could understand his confused state, doesn't necessarily mean that King George was mad. He was labelled this because society considered his behavior as madness personified.

Such is the measurement between what a society considers normal behavior and what an individual displays as a behavior can conflict. Madness, therefore, is a social construction, as the Psychologist Albert Bandura would say (social constructionist theory, see link at the end of this article). It is a label based on what the society of the day would consider normal behaviour.

They are coming to take you away - ha ha!
They are coming to take you away - ha ha!

Influences To Aid Insanity

  • Psychological
  • Psychiatric
  • Physical
  • Social
  • Emotional
  • Leisure
  • Financial
  • Communication
  • Environmental

Madness Is Associated with Genius - Is This Because Most People Might Be Of A Lower Intelligence To Understand? Strange How 'Most People' Make Up The Majority

She looks insane, doesn't she? But then... so does he!  Welcome to the world of Mark Burgess (The Chameleons) - a genius with a touch of madness or is this just a social construction?
She looks insane, doesn't she? But then... so does he! Welcome to the world of Mark Burgess (The Chameleons) - a genius with a touch of madness or is this just a social construction?

Did You Know?

The average I.Q. of a monkey is around 70.

The average I.Q. of a human being is 100.

That makes a difference of 30 points.

Einstein's I.Q. was estimated at 160.

Is it any wonder the rest of society didn't understand him?

Conclusion: There were times Einstein was considered mad!

What Influences Madness?

All behaviors, thus as with madness, can be explained in relation of the following. It is in no doubt that the following subject material has an influence on the mad sufferer. Please note that many of these elements do intertwine:

  • Psychology - ‘Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and behaviour of humans and animals.’ Psychologists concentrate on what is observable and measurable in a person’s behaviour. This includes the biological processes in the body, although, the mind is central to the subject.

This is an interesting concept as to what constitutes as 'normal behavior' as analyzed by Doctors of Psychology.

They, essentially, are looking at behaviors and deciphering what is being biological internalized by the subject concerned, this results in a display of 'mad' behavior. Again, madness is a concept measured by what constitutes as socially acceptable.

  • Psychiatric

Mental disorders as outlined by Doctors of Psychiatry, otherwise known as their social construction of reality or definition of what constitutes as madness.

  • Physical

Madness is a product of the physical because the physical is linked to the mental. This could be a hormonal imbalance, physical illness or something less subtle that might be harder to diagnose. Whatever, mad behaviour, has it's roots within the physical.

Going back to the madness of King George, as an example, it has recently been found that he had large amounts of arsnic in his body (see reference). Arsnic is a poison and creates irratic behaviour in people. Arsnic makes people mad!

  • Social

Social influences can have an impact on people's psyche. It is understandable that many homeless people on the streets might be considered mad, for example. Having to survive outdoor conditions, lack of money, clothes and food is enough to induce madness in the best of people. Again, such influences has an impact on the physical and, therefore, mental.

  • Emotional

Emotional stability is a measure of madness. The more stable a person is, the less mad they will be. Again, I refer you back to the physical and social.

  • Leisure

Leisure can lead to pleasure, provided it is something that rocks your boat! The eratic displays of bad behaviour can soon wain when those endorphines kick in (physical implications, again, are linked). Madness, therefore, can come in waves of high's and low's depending on what the stimulation is.

Losing the Plot - Transition Induced Madness!

Kübler-Ross Model In Brief

  1. Denial – Disbelief at what has happened.
  2. Anger – Seeking blame, feeling hateful and resentful.
  3. Bargaining – Seeking other ways to delay the inevitable
  4. Depression – Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
  5. Acceptance – Accepting the new reality and preparing for the outcome.

  • Finance

Madness is not descriminatory. It can affect the rich as well as the poor. The keen difference, however, is that the perception of other people's mad behaviour might be acceptable within the poorer domains and not within richer domains and vicer versa.

Of course, a lack of money and even the responsibility of too much money, might enduce a fit of madness. Any sort of transition of this nature can have a profound effect as cited with the Kubler-Ross Model. This refers not just to grief but all forms of change in a person's life.

Madness, therefore, can be induced by change.

  • Communication

Madness can measured by the way people communicate.

Communication comes in various different means: Body Language, the spoken word, actions, responses and even the subtle silences.

Of course such forms of communication are social constructions - one culture finds one behavior as socially acceptable, whilst another finds the behavior as just mad!

Living in the Western world would find a man running about in tribal clothes in our streets as mad, for example, but the same man in the jungle would be acceptable.

  • Environmental

The impact from our environments can send a sane man into a mad one.

In a time of war, for example, can test the most stable of men: shell shock, a terrorist attack and even a black out can bring about madness.

A shock from outside sources can have a marked effect on the mentality on the sane, to make the insane!


Conclusion: Insane Truth - What is Reality?

So, what is madness? In this article we have taken a whistle-stop tour into the impact of being mad. Is madness an illusion or is it a true perception of ourselves and others? To conclude, I want to welcome you to a world of misunderstanding... a world where there are many versions of the truth and where we have all been brain washed into a uniform version of truth as a social construction of reality. Our actions can be misinterpreted as being mad. We judge and judge others on the basis of our personal perception of appropriate behavior and help to formulate a cultural reality. Insanity, therefore, is a lottery of delusional interpretation that is influenced by many contributory factors as suggested, including the physical, environmental and social.


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    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Great Britain

      Love it, Ashley! Thank you,

    • ashleybunn profile image


      6 years ago from South Carolina

      Thought-provoking hub, and well-written to boot!

      To quote Alice's Adventures in Wonderland,

      "Alice: But I don't want to go among mad people.

      The Cat: Oh, you can't help that. We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Great Britain

      Exactly klarawieck. As regards to a spiritual 'glitch', maybe not a glitch at all... maybe a spiritual connection that is stronger than many. Perhaps madness is dependent upon how well connected we are? Others might view this statement as insane, but how true this is, depends on what your perception of reality is too!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      You make some very interesting points here. I believe it's a little bit of both - our perception and some kind of illness (whether it be permanent or transitory). I also believe that many of these people suffer some kind of spiritual glitch, that allows them to see a different reality than the one we see - not necessarily untrue.

      This is a thought provoking article. Thanks.

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 

      6 years ago from Minnesota

      I love that theory. This is a really interesting topic. I think we are all mad and it's a continuum of sorts.

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Great Britain

      @Minnetonka Twin - You see, we are all mad! Maybe the mental hospitals are actually filled with sane people who think their mad and, outside of these, the majority are insane! Now, that is a concept that turns things around, don't you think?

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 

      6 years ago from Minnesota

      Very interesting, intriguing and thought provoking. Madness is a personal definition for sure. I hit many buttons on this well written hub.

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Great Britain

      @John Holden: Lol... Give me a behavior modification program!

      @Mr. Happy: The truth of the matter is that we are our own drug factory all conveniently within a whole person ...why search for synthetics, when we have natural? ... But that is a whole different area! Madness is to people as 'dysfunctional' is to society. 80% of families are dysfunctional. It is, therefore, normal to be dysfunctional because that is where the majority are at. Perhaps, therefore as Jeannieinabottle stated, we are all completely mad?

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Great Britain

      @Chris Hugh: Yes, most mental illness does have a fundamental physical link. Either imbalances effect the physical or the physical effects the mental. whatever, we all walk a fine line between madness and sanity.

      @Jeannieinabottle: Didn't Shakespeare say that we are all Actors on the stage - each one playing a part? Welcome to a social construction of reality!

      Thank you all above for your valuable input. Blessings!

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 

      6 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      I don't even want to know what a psychiatrist would diagnose me with. I know they'd find something ... the pharmaceutical companies seem to have joined doctors in finding everyone a problem or other. That way, doctor's visits remain popular (without doctor's visits doctors would be going hungry since the more appointments they have, the more money they earn - at least here in North America) and the pharmaceutical industry keeps selling its pills and making profits.

      We're all mad. That's cool with me though: "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - Hunter S. Thompson


    • John Holden profile image

      John Holden 

      6 years ago

      Shazwellyn, stop it this minute!

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Great Britain

      @MartieCoetser - love the 'normality' comment. Yes, if we were truly 'normal', there would be nothing to leave an impression of. Normal is boring. Normal is abnormal!!!

      @RealHousewife - it is a bit of a lottery, don't you think? Look a bit odd - behave as such - and you might be considered insane.

      @John Holden - if that is what you think, then this is your reality. Are you mad or are you a product of what others think you are? If you are pretending to be something that you aren't, like an actor on a stage, then you just might be hiding your madness. You are, therefore, mad from within!

    • Jeannieinabottle profile image

      Jeannie InABottle 

      6 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      I personally believe we are all completely mad. Just some people fake being "normal" better than others. Interesting hub and voted up!

    • profile image

      Chris Hugh 

      6 years ago

      Schizophrenia is a physical disease of the brain. Medication can help, even cure it. I hope everyone who needs it gets the help that us out there. There are so many free county programs to help you. Maybe I'll do a Hub on the subject.

    • John Holden profile image

      John Holden 

      6 years ago

      So would I be right in saying that we are all mad, and all sane?

      You've certainly given me more to think about than a quick read and comment can cover.

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Very interesting! I love thinking about our mental differences - perceptions and behaviors. You did a great job of brining out some thought provoking material! Am I mad? Or does it just look that way! Hm! Lol

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      6 years ago from South Africa

      shazwellyn, this is a very interesting hub on the topic 'madness'. I agree all the way with you. Normality, just as madness, is relative. One person can be completely 'normal' in certain situations and completely 'abnormal' in others. 'Normal', I guess on a sarcastic note, could be regarded as 'behaving in such a way that nobody becomes aware of your existence'.

      Voted up, profound, interesting and a must-read by all :)


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