The Definition of Insanity
Have you ever heard the expression that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result? Rest assured, you probably didn’t hear it from a psychiatrist, because it’s utter nonsense.
Psychiatrists use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as the standard listing of all the recognized disorders that the American Psychiatric Association (APA) agrees upon.
Know what condition is not in there? Insanity.
As it turns out, insanity is a rather generic term used in the legal realm for many disorders that would in fact be listed in the DSM, that would render a suspect unable to distinguish right from wrong, and therefore unable to assist in their defense.
Any numbers of diseases could be cause for finding someone legally insane, but the APA calling you insane, would be akin to the American Medical Association (AMA) giving you an official diagnosis of “Having a cold.” It’s simply a very broad and generic term that isn’t really used in the clinical world in any official capacity.
This quote has been attributed to Ben Franklin, Albert Einstein, and others. None of whom seem to pan out as the actual origin of the quote.
However, all that being said, there are many conditions and behaviors insanity could be attributed to. Certainly one of them might be someone who bangs their head up against a wall and thinks, “Ouch, that hurt.” Then, does it again nonetheless.
So while someone who does the same thing and expects a different result might in fact have a condition that would qualify them for an insanity defense in a court of law, it is in no way the definition of insanity.
So I’d like to quash this silly anecdote by not using it, and explaining to those who do, that it’s incorrect. Why, you might ask?
Because, as P.C. Hodgell once eloquently wrote in Seeker’s Mask, “That which can be destroyed by the truth, should be.”