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Insanity has long been generally recognized as a form of disease,
in principle no different from measles or arthritis. But if the erstwhile
lunatic is now considered "sick," yet his sickness remains a peculiar
variety of disease; consciously or unconsciously, most people regard it
as embarrassing or even disgraceful. It is a cliche of humor that the
average man will readily regale his friends with an account of the adventures
of his colon, liver or vermiform appendix, but it is a highly exceptional
man who will favor them with an account of his last bout with paranoia. The stigma that attaches to the disease is shown by the progressive euphemism which is so marked a feature of its lexicon: we have gone from "madness" to "insanity" to "mental illness" to "nervous disorder"; from "raving" to "violent" to "disturbed." Offhand, I can think of but one other instance in medicine in which there has been a concerted effort to soften the harsh name of a dreaded malady: that is the attempt to rechristen leprosy as "Hansen's Disease."

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