- This articles describes the psychological condition. For other meanings see Stir crazy (disambiguation).
Stir Crazy is a phrase that dates to 1908 according to the Oxford English Dictionary and the online Etymology Dictionary. Used among inmates in prison, it referred to a prisoner who became mentally unbalanced because of prolonged incarceration. It is based upon the slang stir (1851) to mean prison. It is now used to refer to anyone who becomes restless or anxious from feeling trapped and even somewhat claustrophobic in an environment, usually a confined space, perceived to be more static and unengaging than can any longer continue to hold interest, meaning, and value to and for them. 'Stir crazy' could be classified as a more specific form of boredom, but combined with elevated and often increasing levels of anxiety, frustration, agitation, figeting, manic depressive type mood swings, and accessory episodes of acting out violently or otherwise antisocially on those feelings, the longer the unengaging non-stimulating environment is persisted in. 'Stir crazy' has a similar meaning to cabin fever, except minus the urge to disengage and sleep more, plus the urge to engage and attempt doing anything perceived to be even slightly more constructive and productive, given the extreme limitations of the environment, even if plainly destructive, than doing nothing at all. Prisoners will sometimes initiate otherwise easily avoidable conflict for no other reason than they perceive they have nothing else better or more worth while to do.
- "Dictionary of American Underworld Lingo" (Twayne Publishers, 1950)
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