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Johann Heinrich Füssli, Mad Kate, 1806/1807
Francisco de Goya, the sleep of reason bears monsters, 1879

Madness (or Insanity) is a word that can have different meanings:

  • Up to about the 19th century someone who acted strangely, or outside the socially accepted norms was called mad or insane. This could range form having bizarre ideas and phantasies to someone having delusions or hallucinations, as they are common in some mental illnesses, such as psychosis.
  • Today, those having delusions or hallucinations (or other mental illnesses) are sometimes called mad or insane by people who are not doctors.
  • Certain diseases, such as rabies, lead to a markable change in behaviour. People who show a lot of anger may behave similarly; they are called enraged or mad. An animal that suffers from rabies is sometimes called rabid or mad.

Being able to tell right from wrong is the base of a working society and of law; for this reason, the law treats those people differently who are not able to make this distinction.