How to Know The Difference Between Mental Illness and Insanity

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A simple quirk, mental illness and full-blown insanity – sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between these categories. The study of the human mind is still far from complete and is difficult to understand even for those who devote their lives to its study. While there is no certain insanity test, there are distinctions that can be made to show when someone has a mental illness and when someone is insane.

Recognize that everyone has some issue or another that others will find strange. Perhaps when doing the laundry someone always has to wash the whites before colors. This does not mean that he has obsessive-compulsive disorder any more than that someone who has a bad week suffers from major depressive disorder.

Since the mind operates on a spectrum, everyone will be unusual in some way or another. Preferences, quirkiness, and habits are usually harmless and fall on what is considered the high functioning side of the spectrum.

So while some symptoms that can be associated with mental illness do not necessarily mean that there is a disorder, there is a way to tell when something becomes an issue. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, if “symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning” it might be a mental illness. Which specific disorder or disorders are causing the problem can be determined through clinical interviews with qualified professionals and/or psychological testing.

When symptoms cause distress even beyond the scope of problems mental illness comes with, it might be considered insanity. This is a condition where the person can no longer be seen as responsible for his or her actions. Hallucinations and delusions appear at a higher rate in what is considered insanity. While insanity is no longer a diagnosis, it is relevant in the legal system when determining whether or not someone is accountable for the crime committed. Serious mental illness can be considered insanity in layman terms and might require permanent hospitalization and rigorous treatment.

While not all mental illness is insanity, insanity is almost certainly not seen without mental illness. Both conditions can be very difficult to live with, both for the person struggling and the ones that they are surrounded by. The distinction between insanity and mental illness is important in making decisions when it comes to treatment options and lifestyle choices. Mental illness is considered more treatable than insanity; however, there is hope for both improvement and even remission with both conditions.


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