Do you think there is a limit to human sanity?

Thinking about immortal characters in fiction, often they are portrayed as becoming if not insane then very bizarre in personality due to their unique perspective.

I’ve seen older people who basically seem to “give up” and no longer care about what happens.

Do you think all people have a limit to what they can endure and keep going?

I feel certain that after a global nuclear war, or a mega-disaster such as the possible Yellowstone eruption and ensuing nuclear winter, insanity would run rampant over the survivors.

Eh. Insanity is awfully ill-defined. Assuming that you’re talking about anything on the spectrum from “gibbering lunatic” to “schizophrenic” to “psychopathic”, I don’t necessarily think a major disaster would give rise to significant amounts of “insanity”, though I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw lots of mental illness–OCD, depression, PTSD, etc. Depression, I suppose, fits the OP’s idea of old folks “giving up” more or less.

But generally, people are built to survive; we can take quite a licking and keep on ticking.

Is mental collapse under too much stress the same as “insanity?”

I know damn well that events can become so chaotic, so stressful, so uncontrolled, that my feeble little mind collapses, and I fall into inanition, passivity, and helplessness (sometimes accompanied by weeping.)

Some people are a whole lot tougher than others. I guess everyone has a limit, but there are some people who have been tested in severe crises and have coped. God bless 'em! I hope one of them is around to help out in the next big crisis that strikes anywhere near me.

(A lot of people who are too weak to cope in a major crisis can, nevertheless, function when given good leadership. The leader is wise enough to give them lesser tasks which they can perform. “Okay, you’re clearly not doing well giving first aid to the critically wounded, so, I want you to go over there and start filling those buckets with fresh water.” Yes, sir!)

Yes. I reached mine so long ago I forget exactly when it was. Or maybe that’s when my sanity started. I can’t be sure, but I don’t think I want to go back.

Whenever someone mentions losing one’s mind, I always point out that in my experience you don’t even miss it after a while.

Like I’ve been saying for 35 years;

Everyone is insane. The only question is the degree.

And yes, everyone has their own limits to what they can take before they break. The suicide rate is more than enough evidence of this.

Me, I’ve been broken many times. I just refuse to be destroyed.

Depends on what you mean by insanity. I think probably fewer people would go absolutely psychotic than you’d think, more would go essentially catatonic than most people envision, and a lot would develop minor delusions that don’t necessarily interfere with them coping. It’s entirely possible to believe that, say, the ghost of your dead husband follows you everywhere and provides commentary on events, and still be able to cook, clean, and maintain yourself while talking to the air. Depending on what the delusion is, it might be pretty difficult to notice.

I base this on personal experience with a lot of people who are functional in a way that precludes getting them committed or medicated, but are nonetheless completely bonkers. It usually dawns on you all of a sudden after you’ve been talking to them a while.

This may seem like “insanity” from your point of view. From their point of view, their priorities have shifted. I no longer care about many of the things I thought were important when I was younger. That’s not insanity.

Yes. Things like sensory deprivation can drive anyone mad. Our minds aren’t any more indestructible than the rest of us.

I wasn’t trying to say it was insanity, and I wasn’t really talking about shifting priorities.

My step-grandfather was as healthy as it is possible to be close to eight decades, he still did yard work with my grandmother, he had energy and wasn’t depressed. Then she got liver cancer and had a really horrible period of sickness and a prolonged death, he seemed to broken mentally. Stopped eating, bathing, doing anything. Sister moved in with him, he died within a year of a heart attack.

You could say he was just depressed but I don’t know if it fits exactly, I surely don’t think medication would have helped.

Not can. Will. Have you seen the results of the experiments done on humans in isolation? It’s considered worse than sense-dep, and roughly on par with sleep-dep.

People have different thresholds, but nobody’s is above reach. Take even the toughest person and put them under harsh enough conditions for long enough and you wouldn’t even recognize them as once having been a dignified human being.

Look at those Buddhist monks who are so skilled at meditation they can supposedly dry wet towels with their body heat. I bet they’ve got some A-level methods of coping with stress. Now stick them somewhere truly hellish, for example Auschwitz, a rape camp, or the trenches of WWI. After 5 years you’d see stress casualities, maybe at lower rates than the general world population, but there would be some. After 20 years, many more. After something like maybe 40 years, every remaining one would have some kind of Stockholm syndrome, complex PTSD, psychosomatic paralysis/mutism/etc, or be completely catatonic. Nobody can take those kind of conditions indefinitely.

It’s not that after a certain age no one gives a shit about life. In the hypothetical case of an immortal, I’m pretty sure it’s a matter of what happens in between life’s traumatic events. If you keep piling tragedy on tragedy anyone is going to “break” in some way eventually, but if you have periods of the level of self-care you’d probably see in someone immortal, a decent living environment etc in between theoretically they could thrive indefinitely.

I don’t think what happened to your step-grandfather was quite the same as breaking down, nor quite the same as depression. I think that was something like natural grief, only without a lot of the factors that usually garauntee recovery from grief.

Yes I think there is a limit, and I have reached mine. Although not immortal or anything, I have been my mother’s carer since, well forever really. During my absence from the Dope I have been doing some research online and found a diagnosis for her behaviours (which thus far as been vaguely diagnosed as Bi-Polar Disorder or some form of Schizophrenia), all I need to do now is find proper medical notes [and not the Wikipedia article] to show my (“you don’t want to be believing everything you read on the internet”) GP, to see if it can help my cause to have her placed in full time residential care.

I have been her primary (read sole) caregiver for over a decade, since she was diagnosed with normal pressure hydrocephalus. Her default setting is to be arrogant, argumentative, self centred and spiteful. Her behaviour post diagnosis had been to not tell anyone what she was diagnosed with, and ignore anything any medical person says to her.

She has since slipped into a form of dementia where she hallucinates, and her old arrogant, argumentative, self centred and spiteful behaviours have reared their heads again (they’d been quelled by her initial dementia behaviours)

A few months ago I started to notice I was suffering from depression again. I was near suicidal and felt so physically ill I couldn’t bare to get out of bed. When I did get out of bed I’d spend the day staring at Facebook and two other sites that I’ve been using for years and years, as well as a newer site (well new to me).

A few weeks ago I noticed my kidneys seemed to be “itchy”, so I took a pee sample to the docs and was told it was ‘tainted’ and was sent off for further analysis, in the meantime I was given an antibiotic. A few days later I was urgently contacted to pick up a different prescription as the meds I was on were completely the wrong one. The new one didn’t seem to be much better and affected my blood sugar levels (I’m type 2 diabetic).

After that course of meds I took a sample down again and was told it was clear, but it was to be sent away to make sure. I went back to check what the story was and they had no results back yet, so I peed in a bottle while I was there and that sample was ‘tainted’. So I’m back on the meds again.

I feel and look like death warmed up. Mother has been a thorn in my side the whole time - the more ill I feel the worse her behaviour. To the point were she let herself out the front door while I was upstairs showering. She fell over. She’s fine though.

So now I have to keep the door locked and all keys hidden or out of her reach at all times, I can’t turn my back on her for a second.
I’m done. I can’t do this any more.

I don’t know what to say… that sounds like the worst thing ever. Hang in there, and the dope is here for you however we can.


After serving as a paramedic for 6 years in Los Angeles, I can honestly say, I have little faith in the Human Species.

Yes, there is a limit to human sanity. Try working at a grocery store and you’ll know what I mean! (I leave there feeling insanely annoyed half the time).