Crazy in the same way?

This reminds me of a very fascinating/disturbing piece, “A New Way to Be Mad,” that ran in the Atlantic a few years back. When I think about these instances of disease (or description of disease) as a deeply cultural phenomenon, the phrase that invariably springs to mind is, “The Spirit of the Age.” It seems apt.

The Evolution of Delusions,” the VSL Science post for 5 November 2008

Does the nature of psychotic delusions change over the centuries? Or are “crazy” people crazy in the same ways regardless of where and when they lived and died?

Slovenian researchers analyzed more than 120 years’ worth of patient reports from the Ljubljana mental hospital, and their findings suggest that psychotic delusions are profoundly shaped by contemporary society, with the technology of the day—be it the telegraph or the television—playing a prominent role. The researchers also found that the “persecution delusion” (a paranoid narrative in which the subject feels hounded by evildoers) is a relatively modern phenomenon: a reaction to the possibility of nuclear war and to Cold War conspiracy flicks like The Manchurian Candidate. In this sense, schizophrenic delusions are a twisted mirror to the world we live in.

Originally published at

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