Mania. Throughout centuries, the word has been synonymous with madness, fury, rage and frenzy. Although its meanings have shifted over time, the word has remained connected, even in clinical descriptions, to the same madness and rage. As a result, it is profoundly affecting individuals living with medical and psychological conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety.
In her latest book, Manic Minds: Mania’s Mad History and its Neuro-Future, Lisa Hermsen, associate professor and chair of RIT’s English department in the College of Liberal Arts, traces the multiple ways in which the word “mania” has been used by popular, medical and academic writers. She also explains the way medical professionals analyzed the manic condition during the 19th and 20th centuries and shares stories of contemporary people living with mental illness.
“Today, we don’t classify people using the terms lunacy, insanity or melancholy, but the word ‘mania’ still appears as a diagnosis,” says Hermsen. “The problem with the word ‘mania’ is that it carries madness with it. Mania lingers and can’t be shaken. The purpose of this book is to talk about what kind of language we can use to change how we think about madness. The word mania and the baggage that comes along with it interfere with people’s ability to manage their disorders.”