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Can we really identify if someone is crazy or not?

Being crazy actually has no boundary at all. An "eccentric" behavior condemned in one culture may be highly welcomed in another. How to define "norm"? And how to define "craziness"? A person who transcends the limitation of the environment he or she lives in may be called "crazy". Like 1000 years ago no one ever will think about using cell phone to connect with others. So is it necessary for us to explore the world of those so called crazy people ? What may be the potential benefit and what may be the potential harm?

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    Aug 17 2011: Craziness and genius are very close. Some of the best ideas were thought crazy at the time.
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      Aug 17 2011: Yes I agree with you! I once read a very interesting book (although it's in Chinese) called "The Genius on the Left, the Crazy on the Right" ,which collected more than 100 conversation between a "normal" man and those "crazy people". Some of the ideas are really really brilliant!!! Sometimes I even think that their theories may be really true and they are just fortunate to know them earlier!
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    Sep 15 2011: I am enjoying some of the light hearted responses on a topic that can be very serious indeed. It has been reported that one person in ten will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. That includes many conditions, some temporary and others life long - from a manic episode to depression to schizophrenia. Some conditions like the manic phase of bipolar disorder make the people feel great for a time and others torture the person without pause as is the case in some types of schizophrenia. Because our understanding of the brain and its interactions with the world are still incomplete many mental illnesses can only be managed and some cannot yet be managed all that well. We do not even know if something like schizophrenia is caused by a viral infection of the fetal brain during gestation.
    We are gradually growing in our understanding but that understanding cannot come fast enough for many of the sufferers. What we can do is stop stigmatizing people by realizing that the brain is an organ that gets sick or damaged. Mental illness is a physiological disease of an organ whose job it is to generate thought processes that interpret the world. We have to reduce the stigma and understand that it is disease as certainly as diabetes, kidney disease or the disease of any other organ is and that sufferers deserve compassion rather than ridicule, avoidance or unkindness.
  • Sep 15 2011: I suppose a very simple definition and way to distinguish "crazy" from "genius" would be ...

    "crazy" is a particular mental capacity that reaches a point where a person or group of people become a threat to those around them and/or society, whereas "genius" is when this party becomes a benefit.

    The blurry line comes when we label people who are socially inept due to their divergent mental capacities, at which time their benefit to society in unclear.

    But what if this party becomes a threat to itself?
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    Sep 14 2011: Maybe it is better to erase the word crazy from our language. There is no such thing unless you use it in a positive way as one that is funny.
    Every person tries to do his/her best in accord with their ability. What other people think of it has nothing to do with that person but with their own shortsightedness.
  • Aug 20 2011: My mother has schizophrenia and when you really break it down and do research on it what you find out is that the level of stimuli required to reach a conclusion is much lower than it would be in someone who is not afflicted with such disease causing them to react to things we would not react to.

    For example, if she were to walk into the living room and the couch was 2 inches to the left, she may think "the couch seems to be in a different place, i do not remember moving it, my doors were locked, maybe someone broke in and moved it, maybe god moved it to tell me something, or people are breaking into my house moving my furniture, i should be scared because if they can move my furniture maybe they want to hurt me, i am going to sleep with a gun under my pillow tonight just in case because i can't let them hurt me"

    if i were to walk into the same room with the couch moved i might think "the couch is in a different place, did i move it and forget? did someone else move it? i was here alone with the doors locked, it doesn't look like anyone else was in here, i wonder if i bumped into it and didn't notice, or maybe it was always there and i am just remembering it wrong, either way, it doesn't really matter because there does not appear any imminent danger from the couch being moved and i have other things to do so forget why and move on"

    Why this happens science still does not have an answer but all my research has told me this.. there is definitely a scale of what we will take as proof of a threat and how likely we are to react, and to paraphrase the wise Richard Dawkins "in terms of survival it was almost always better to get spooked and run from wind in the grass thinking you saw a snake than to always ignore rustling grass and get bitten by a real snake one day."

    I see a correlation here in those traits being dominant in both the very religious and the mentally ill.. and what made us better fit for survival historically is now an impairment to modern life.
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      Aug 20 2011: Ryan - what you have said here is very interesting. I have done research into depression, but not schizophrenia, as you have.

      You have alluded to this already, but more specifically, I wonder what you think of the notion that schizophrenia is only seen as craziness from the standpoint of our current framework of reality? Some would say that in earlier, traditional societies, schizophrenics may have been revered - perhaps as shamans, medicine men etc, because of their propensity towards envisioning those things that others may not naturally see?

      Maybe this is me being crazy, but I believe that many of today's mental 'illnesses' are unlikely to be illnesses at all, and that it is more likely that our current take on reality is the thing that is 'ill', with accepted thought patterns that are almost entirely scientific, linear, empirical. What has happened to thought patterns that are panoramic, far-reaching, metaphorical? It does seem as though pure scienctific thought has become the norm, but thinking in metaphor has now become crazy.

      I wonder which thought pattern has moved society forward more rapidly and deeper into pioneering territory? 'Normal' science, or 'crazy' metaphor?
      • Aug 20 2011: the most notable distinction that makes them labeled as a liability to themselves or others is the modern world and science and education, what we have learned as a society.

        3000 years ago when no one could explain why it rained someone who could easily jump steps in logic and believe it was the result of an angry god in the sky throwing his spear into the ocean was likely to be revered because no one else had any other explanation. A true schizophrenic sees that this is true in spite of any evidence or logic placed in front of them and preach their conclusion with great conviction, if no one knows enough to fault their logic they would indeed be seen as visionary.

        In the modern world we have done research and we now know why it rains so when someone makes that same jump in logic to reach the same conclusion and will not accept any other answer that their logic is faulty we know they are incorrect.

        As far as perception of reality goes.. we know posiden is not making it rain with his trident, therefore what we really need to achieve is a way to help the schizophrenic understand reality and train them to reach more logical conclusions and reduce the noticeable symptoms of the disease.
      • Aug 26 2011: I may be wrong about this, so feel free anyone to shoot this down, but my understanding is that labels of mental illness are not about defining a condition as such, but merely a collection of symptoms. When we say that someone is ADHD for example, what we are saying is that their behaviour exhibits these traits. ADHD is not a condition as such, and can't really be treated, just an observation and a shorthand for people that behave in a certain way. It does not take into account outside influence, or other causes that may be relevant either – only a list of symptoms. This is important I think. What is depression for example? In isolation, it can be seen as a mental condition, but what if you have something to be depressed about?

        When these categories were defined, what happened is that perfectly ordinary people were going to doctors asking to be cured of what they interpreted as divergence from the norm - a norm that nobody realistically conforms to anyway. We have in a sense been conditioned to expect or move towards perfection, and anything other than that is deficient in some way.

        I also firmly believe that we have filters in place. The world is full of detail, sound, visual, olfactory, and we couldn't hope to process it all all the time, so our brains tune out the things it doesn't think we need. If these filters are not in place, it seems reasonable that we could become distracted and tortured by the things that other people just aren't aware of (if thats what we are conditioned to think) or equally we could become powerful witchdoctors, or psychics, or holy men.

        Check an Adam Curtis documentary called The Trap. Has a fascinating first part about psychiatry and the development of psychiatric treatments. Game theory and social pressure seem to play an extremely important part, which seems to be why psychiatric treatments and drugs are often only effective while you take them. They 'cure' nothing. They only mask symptoms.
  • Aug 19 2011: To me, "crazy" is not a fact. It is an idea. A man may think he is insane; therefore, to him, he is. Everyone else may think he is insane; therefore, to everyone else, he is. You're right about eccentric behaviours being defined by culture. A man termed schizophrenic here may be hearing angels somewhere else.
    I see sanity as a scale. There's a range that is called normal. When someone steps outside of that range, either he or somebody else is going to feel uncomfortable.
    Craziness is usually defined by the people who aren't crazy. It's something we decide for ourselves. We invented tests to decide it for us, so instead of simple observation, we get it all down on paper.
    Wondering if someone has a mental illness? Does it interfere with their life and with other people's lives?
    Did you know that if you have an illness, but it is not in the DSM book, insurance won't pay for it because it's not "official"? Addiction to TED videos could end up in there someday, and then great! Won't that be an excuse for money?
    Craziness is indefintely in our minds, but like the great Professor Dumblore once said "Of course it is happening inside your head, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?"
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    Aug 17 2011: Can we really identify if someone is crazy or not?


    But, of course, it depends on how we define crazy.

    Proposing that the world is spherical or that the universe has 11 dimensions might be considered crazy by some.

    Thinking you are Kong Zi (or a hedgehog) might be considered crazy by others.
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      Aug 17 2011: Thomas wrote:
      "Thinking you are Kong Zi (or a hedgehog) might be considered crazy by others."

      On the other hand, Kong Zi and hedgehogs would probably think you were the only one of those crazy humans who was actually sane.
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        Aug 17 2011: Yes, as the saying goes: "To a dog, a human being is an extremely long, and very cunning, dog."

        [Not ever having been a dog - that I can remember - I am not sure if the saying is really true.]

        I'm not sure about Kong Zi either. He might not have taken too kindly to someone claiming to be him.

        As Mark Knopfler said: "Two men say they're Jesus - one of them must be wrong."
        • Sep 14 2011: So is "crazy" just a manifestation of "industrial disease", a product of the modern era? And if so, is it the craziness that's new, or only the label?
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        Sep 14 2011: Hi Jacob,

        I suppose we could say there are two kinds of "crazy:" the "crazy" of nonconformance; and the "crazy" of organic brain syndromes.

        One would essentially be a social evaluation; the other a congenital or pathological condition.

        So, I suspect both have been with us for as long as humans have been around.

        What do you think?
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    Sep 16 2011: The question as stated is simple. Yes we can identify people as crazy. Where it becomes tricky is in understanding what we mean by crazy.

    It is important to remember that "crazy" isn't a clinical term. "Crazy" is an emotion response to an observed behavior or behaviors. it's not generic, it's personal. It's about how one individual relates to another.

    The impulse to disguise "crazy" as mental illness is actually an impulse to hide the judgmental side of ourselves. It's one thing to observe a behavior and consider a possible mental health problem. It's something altogether different to observe the same behavior and think "CRAZY".

    It becomes less about whether or not we an identify "crazy" and more about what it says about us when we do.

    Cheers, Winston
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    Aug 19 2011: Throw a stick in a crowd and chances are you will hit a crazy person. The hard part is finding a person who is sane, and usually they are not culturally recognized.
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    Aug 18 2011: Being Crazy is something that might bring suffering to the person, which is way different from being Different.
    There is no craziness; there are people with clearness to believe and to be.
    I can't myself live someone else's life or place myself inside other bodies. I'm living this experience and I hope not to become a selfish judgemental person in any way, because if this happen I'll probably be crazy and certainly in suffer.
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    Aug 18 2011: "Crazy" is not a precise term. Someone who is psychotic had made a split from the reality that most of us perceive. This usually happens after a crisis or build up of stress and tension. Once a person has split, they cannot simply choose to return to the reality we share and most often the reality they perceive is not very pleasant.

    You can tell someone is psychotic by interacting with them and observing if they are responding to the same sensory input that most of us believe to be our version of reality.
  • Aug 17 2011: I believe there are different levels of crazy. One may be able to say they're crazy about something or someone. Its when crazy is detrimental or dangerous that it becomes a concern. Beyond that, the idea of crazy is unlimited. Each one of us has our own version of crazy, just like artists and photographers have their version of the night sky. Or a baker has their own version of any specific pie, a cook his chili or a designer his building. So, crazy is truly very relative to the perceived, and not necessarily the source. Then again maybe I am crazy.
  • Aug 17 2011: well.... only time will tell.....