• Question: how do people go mad?

    Asked by puddings on 20 Jun 2019.
    • Photo: Matthew Bareford

      Matthew Bareford answered on 20 Jun 2019: last edited 20 Jun 2019 11:14 am


      People can ‘Go Mad’ for all manner of reasons. Sometimes this is a temporary loss of control,. and some times it can be permanent.

      A lot of people attribute mental health issues to being ‘mad’. But often this isn’t the case and it is merely an imbalance within the brain that requires some form of correction.

      Insanity as madness is often termed is actually quite a broad and difficult subject to diagnose. Requiring multiple assessments and tests from multiple health professionals.

      Another reason for someone ‘going mad’ might be due to an illness/disease that they have which affects their brain.

    • Photo: Rebecca Moon

      Rebecca Moon answered on 20 Jun 2019:


      Mental illness is very common – about 1 in 4 people suffer from some form of mental illness at some point in their life. I think the exact reasons as to why an individual might experience mental illness are not fully understood, but risk factors include family history of mental illness, chronic (long-term) medical problems (eg cancer, diabetes), stressful life events (bereavement, rape, divorce, pregnancy/birth), traumatic brain damage, high alcohol intake, recreational drug abuse, childhood abuse or neglect. It is believed that mental illness results from an imbalance in neurotransmitters in the brain, and many of the drug treatments for mental illness try to address this imbalance.

    • Photo: Thiloka Ratnaike

      Thiloka Ratnaike answered on 20 Jun 2019:


      Such a complicated topic and so common too. Mental illness is a very real threat within our society and can affect us all, it can take many shapes and even those around you who appear to be coping well on the surface may be struggling with some real difficulties in the background in terms of their mental health. There is need for more resources for both treating and discovering the true issues around the causes of mental illness. If this is something you are interested in, you could develop an amazing career around the question (although I might rephrase it).

    • Photo: Kaitlin Wade

      Kaitlin Wade answered on 20 Jun 2019:


      The others have answered this really complicated question really well 🙂

    • Photo: Nina Rzechorzek

      Nina Rzechorzek answered on 20 Jun 2019:


      Yes, much more research is needed, and I don’t think I can add much more to the answers above. There is good evidence now that, alongside many other things, poor sleep can seriously impact on mental health, so if there is one thing I would advise it’s making sure you get enough of it! One reason that sleep is so good for our wellbeing is because dreams nurture our emotional and mental health. During REM sleep dreaming, key emotion and memory-related regions of the brain are reactivated, whilst a key stress chemical (noradrenaline) is shut down within our brain. This allows us to almost ‘re-live’ and therefore learn from important life events without being crippled by the emotional baggage that came with them the first time. In this way, REM sleep dreaming acts as a kind of therapy to ‘heal’ emotional wounds. This disconnection of useful information from extreme emotion fails in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) where the levels of noradrenaline apparently remain abnormally high.

      Recommend reading ‘Why We Sleep’ by Matthew Walker to learn more about this

    • Photo: Anabel Martinez Lyons

      Anabel Martinez Lyons answered on 21 Jun 2019:


      This is an area that is being heavily looked into at the moment (and for good reason as much remains unknown). There are academic labs where I work whose entire focus is finding biological markers for these disorders (detectable changes to the DNA or the proteins in our cells that correlate with a certain mental disorder). As the others have answered really well, our currently understanding of how someone “goes mad” is that they suffer a chemical imbalance in the brain, often brought on by a stressful event or traumatic trigger (the common ones are as Rebecca said below), and often these individuals will have a predisposition to developing such disorders if it runs in the family.

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