In order for one to fully
understand the term "madness", we first need to show what the word really
means. After looking through numerous definitions and asking others on their
views, the definition from the oxford dictionary seemed to sum up the general
thoughts of my family and friends.
"...a departure from what is normal or accepted, a moral or mental lapse."
These views might differ from person to person as morals and ideas change and
societies accept different behaviors. Thus I believe "madness" generally
changes it’s true meaning according to different societies perceptions.
Personally my belief is that "madness" comes in different "packages" such as
mental illnesses like eating disorders, manic depression, schizophrenia and
I only have personal experience with manic depression but for the purpose of
the assignment I will also discuss others experiences with madness and will
address how society in South Africa understands "madness".
My first experience with madness was a highly traumatic event, when my older
cousin of a few years attempted to kill himself.
My cousin was diagnosed as having a chemical imbalance in his brain and
suffering from manic depression. In order to help him the doctors advised him
to stay in Tara, a psychiatric clinic, for a few months with therapy and
medication providing him with the help he needed. All my family has been able
to do is provide the much needed support, love and encouragement as the
nature of my cousins "madness" are feelings of worthlessness, hopefulness and
helplessness as well as a destroyed self-esteem. This was my first experience
with a so- called "madness".
It is believed that "madness" often occurs at adolescence because of
developmental demands and a variety of biological and social changes. I can
see through my experience with my cousin that the demands set by himself, his
family and society as well as the chemical dysfunction led him to this
In discussing my ideas of "madness" I came across others, which had
experienced different types of madnesses such as eating disorders. One
experience that someone had was with as sister that was diagnosed as having
Anorexia nervosa is a disorder characterized by deliberate weight loss,
sustained by the patient. The disorder occurs most commonly in adolescent
girls and young women, but adolescent boys and young men may also be
affected. The experiences that I heard about, showed the characteristics of
this disease to be a very depressed, anxious, fearful person.
This disease seems like madness to a normal healthy person, and it is
difficult to try and understand one wanting to starve oneself. It is however
our society that deems a thin girl to be the epitome of beauty and popularity
Society plays a large role in the causes of this disease, this is relevant to
South African societies as well where thinness and academic achievement are
highly valued. Development of this disease serves as an attempt to cope with
cultural and identity conflict. However in a case study done on anorexia
nervosa, a population of patients with Anorexia were studied and it was found
that less than 5% of the anorexic patients were black.
This shows again that society influences the degree of "madness" by deeming
was is socially to be accepted .We can see that the way that South African
society understands the degree of madness is different to the way in which
American society might see it.
In conclusion I believe that "madness" is very difficult to define as
many different people and societies will argue about
the degrees of madness, what madness entails etc. Therefore my understanding
of what madness really is, comes only from what I have heard from others and
what I have personally experienced in my life.