Insanity, craziness or madness is a spectrum of behaviors characterized by certain abnormal mental or behavioral patterns. Insanity may manifest as violations of societal norms, including a person becoming a danger to themselves or others, though not all such acts are considered insanity; likewise, not all acts showing indifference toward societal norms are acts of insanity. In modern usage, insanity is most commonly encountered as an informal unscientific term denoting mental instability, or in the narrow legal context of the insanity defense. In the medical profession the term is now avoided in favor of diagnoses of specific mental disorders; the presence of delusions or hallucinations is broadly referred to as psychosis.When discussing mental illness in general terms, “psychopathology” is considered a preferred descriptor.
Madness, the non-legal word for insanity, has been recognized throughout history in every known society. Primitive cultures turned to witch doctors or shamans to apply magic, herbal mixtures, or folk medicine to rid deranged persons of evil spirits or bizarre behavior, for example. Archaeologists have unearthed skulls (at least 7000 years old) that have small round holes bored in them using flint tools. It has been conjectured that the subject may have been thought to have been possessed by devils which the holes would allow to escape. However, more recent research on the historical practice of trepanning supports the hypothesis that this procedure was medical in nature and intended as means of treating cranial trauma.