Stir crazy (condition)

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Stir crazy is a phrase that dates to 1908 according to the Oxford English Dictionary[1] and the online Etymology Dictionary. Used among inmates in prison, it referred to a prisoner who became mentally unbalanced because of prolonged incarceration. The term "stir crazy" is based upon the slang stir (1851) to mean prison.[2] It is now used to refer to anyone who becomes restless or anxious from feeling trapped and even somewhat claustrophobic in an environment perceived to be more static and unengaging than they can any longer continue to hold interest, meaning, or value in.

"Stir crazy" could be classified as a more specific form of boredom, but combined with elevated and often increasing levels of anxiety, frustration, agitation, fidgeting, bipolar type mood swings, and accessory episodes of acting out impulsively or otherwise antisocially on those feelings, the longer the unengaging non-stimulating environment is persisted in.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Stir, n.3" Oxford English Dictionary online, accessed June 30, 2007.
  2. ^ Concise Oxford Dictionary 4th ed 1954 pp1243
  • "Dictionary of American Underworld Lingo" (Twayne Publishers, 1950)

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