insanity, lunacy, psychosis, mania, dementia are the leading general terms denoting serious mental disorder.
Insanity as a technical term belongs to law rather than to medicine. It is used to cover a wide variety of mental disorders, all of which have in common one characteristic—an unfitting of the afflicted individual to manage his own affairs or perform his social duties. Mental deficiency and delirious conditions are usually excluded, the former as inborn and not acquired, the latter as temporary and not long-lasting. Since in law a person's sanity or insanity becomes an issue when he is charged with a crime or when his legal capacity to make a will or contract or to transfer property is questioned, proof of insanity is tantamount to proof of his inability to act rationally and to understand the nature of his act and its natural consequences in affecting his rights, obligations, and liabilities. In general use insanity is commonly distinguished from mental deficiency and from neuroses and is applied to disorders involving unsoundness or derangement of mind.
Lunacy in general use often applies to insanity manifested in spells of madness and fury or interrupted by intervals of lucidity

Cervantes's hero was led into amiable but disastrous lunacy by a belated obsession with the literature of chivalry— Muggeridge


it's the tangle of good and badness; it's the lunacy linked with sanity makes up, and mocks, humanity!— Stringer

Lunacy sometimes is used interchangeably with insanity in law

a lunacy commission


filed a lunacy petition against the attorney general so that a court could pass on his mental condition— Time

Psychosis is the psychiatric term for a profound disorganization of mind, personality, or behavior resulting from an individual's inability to cope with his environment. Though in content often coextensive with insanity or lunacy it carries none of the special implications of these two terms.
Mania (for fuller treatment see MANIA 2) denotes a phase marked by sustained and exaggerated elation, excessive activity (as in emotional expression or physical action), or delusions of greatness that characterizes certain psychoses.
Dementia implies a marked decline from a former level of intellectual capacity often accompanied by emotional apathy and is applicable to most psychoses that involve organic deterioration, not only those manifesting themselves in spells of excitement but those manifesting themselves in apathy, depression, flightiness, or personality disintegration.
Analogous words: alienation, derangement, *aberration: frenzy, delirium, *mania, hysteria
Antonyms: sanity

New Dictionary of Synonyms. 2014.


Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Insanity — In*san i*ty, n. [L. insanitas unsoundness; cf. insania insanity, F. insanite.] 1. The state of being insane; unsoundness or derangement of mind; madness; lunacy. [1913 Webster] All power of fancy over reason is a degree of insanity. Johnson.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Insanity —    Insanity and Civilization    That insanity is a form of freedom became the basic assumption of Foucault s most widely read work, Madness and Civilization (1961). The dichotomy is significant; in the precapitalist West of the Middle Ages and… …   Historical dictionary of quotations in cognitive science

  • insanity — [in san′ə tē] n. pl. insanities [L insanitas < insanus] 1. the state of being insane; mental illness or derangement, usually excluding amentia: not a technical term 2. Law any form or degree of mental derangement or unsoundness of mind,… …   English World dictionary

  • insanity — 1580s, state of being insane, from L. insanitatem (nom. insanitas) unhealthfulness, noun of quality from insanus (see INSANE (Cf. insane)). Meaning extreme folly is from 1844 …   Etymology dictionary

  • insanity — [n] mental illness; foolishness aberration, absurdity, alienation, craziness, delirium, delusion, dementia, derangement, distraction, dotage, folly, frenzy, hallucination, hysteria, illusion, inanity, irrationality, irresponsibility, lunacy,… …   New thesaurus

  • Insanity — For other uses, see Insanity (disambiguation). Insane redirects here. For other uses, see Insane (disambiguation). Engraving of the eighth p …   Wikipedia

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  • insanity — /in san i tee/, n., pl. insanities. 1. the condition of being insane; a derangement of the mind. 2. Law. such unsoundness of mind as affects legal responsibility or capacity. 3. Psychiatry. (formerly) psychosis. 4. extreme folly; senselessness;… …   Universalium

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