Re-defining Madness Revised

Re-defining Madness Revised
Thinking about Therapy?
Take our quiz to see therapists who are a good match for you.

*Post was originally written by myself and posted on April 8, 2017. The post was revised on April 28, 2023. *

As someone with a background in psychology, it’s essential to acknowledge the field’s contributions and shortcomings. Psychologists seek to understand human behavior by examining various factors, such as coping mechanisms, social networks, diet, sleep patterns, family history, external stressors, and brain chemistry. There is much support for human variation and defining “typical” vs. deviation from this. Societal norms and expectations heavily influence what is considered “normal” versus “abnormal” behavior. This binary classification can often lead to stigmatization and harm toward those who deviate from the norm.

Living with mental unwellness can be a challenging experience that shapes how individuals interact with themselves and the world around them. Mental unwellness can dictate behavior and alter how others perceive and interact with a person with a diagnosis or not an assumed diagnosis. Although mental unwellness may be an enduring aspect of someone’s life, learning coping mechanisms to manage its impact is possible. My hope for the future is not to find a cure for wellness but to disrupt the stigma and discrimination faced by neurodivergent folks.

One way to address the stigma surrounding mental illness, or “madness,” is to shift the conversation away from treating neurodivergence as a pathology to acknowledging it as an integral part of an individual’s identity. As Ekaterina Netchitailova wrote in The Mystery of Madness through Art and Mad Studies, individuals can be encouraged to take ownership of their “madness” and recognize it as part of themselves (2017). It’s important to acknowledge that the experiences of those with mental illness are valid, regardless of their behaviors, perspectives, attitudes, etc., and differ from what society considers “normal.”

While practitioners and students of mental health aim to understand human behavior, it’s important to recognize that personal experiences are complex and often difficult to fully comprehend without experiencing them firsthand. People with mental unwellness have been historically stigmatized and labeled as “other,” which can be frustrating and dehumanizing. Netchitailova noted that some individuals with mental illness might choose to continue living in a “mad” state because it gives them a sense of freedom from societal norms. This idea is echoed in Michael Cross’s poem, “Madness Vs. Sanity,” which recognizes the sense of liberation that can come with embracing a non-normative state of mind.

While the field of psychology can provide insight into human behavior, it’s beneficial to acknowledge that abnormal/atypical and normal/typical are arbitrary. Mental unwellness can be a challenging experience not just because of the symptoms but also with how folks are treated with disdain. It’s important to shift the conversation away from stigmatizing those with neurodivergent experiences and instead recognize them as integral aspects of an individual’s identity. By doing so, we can work towards more inclusivity and acceptance in society.

Work Cited:

Cross, M. (2014, November 10). Madness Vs. Sanity. Hello Poetry.

Netchitailova, E. (2017). The Mystery of Madness through Art and Mad Studies. Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 22(5), 37-45.

You May Also Like