What Is Crazy, Exactly?

In my day-to-day as a clinician, I hear a lot of expressions using crazy. For example, “Am I crazy?” or “Phew, I thought I was crazy” or “Glad you don’t think I’m crazy”.

So, what is crazy? What does a crazy person look like? I think most people would picture the mad hatter, a homeless person talking to themselves, crazy cat lady or other stereotypes.

At the same time, we also use the word crazy as a casual descriptor. Phrases like “work was crazy today”, “this pizza is crazy good”, “my schedule is crazy”, “I graduated high school 10 years ago, isn’t that crazy?”, “I painted my nails a crazy color”, etc. are pretty common. I hear these more often than crazy in the psychopathological sense of the word.

As a counselor, I tend to think crazy means out of touch with reality, psychotic, and/or manic. However, it seems that our society uses crazy in a much lighter and casual way in conversation. Most people are using the term in a casual way that doesn’t imply insanity which puzzles me as to why so many people are afraid to be labeled as crazy. No one wants to be crazy, even if it means “silly, annoying, out of the ordinary, absurd or enthusiastic”.

I’m guilty of using crazy and insane ubiquitously, and I’m typically not one to stress politically correct language. However, I do think we should be careful of our language, especially if we are clinicians. Imagine for a moment that you had a psychotic experience in your life and then heard someone say that their work commute is crazy. I don’t know about you, but I imagine I would be pretty angry and think “you have no idea what crazy is…”.

What are your thoughts on the c-word? Are you okay with casual use? What does crazy mean to you?

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