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Driven to Madness

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"Madness is the emergency exit. You can just step outside, and close the door on all those dreadful things that happened. You can lock them away forever."

A sister trope to Go Mad from the Revelation, Driven to Madness represents a deliberate attack upon a character's sanity and mental stability.

There are many varied reasons for someone to attempt to drive another person to madness. Perhaps they seek to break the character's will in order to make them more pliable, or it may be an attempt to induce a Freak Out or Face–Heel Turn. They may wish to punish the character or torment them by attacking their loved ones in such a fashion. They may try doing so in order to have someone discredited or declared incompetent. Maybe they're just jerks.

Somewhat less evilly, someone may regard sanity as a prison and seek to release a character from its constraints by any means necessary.

The methods can vary, as well, from making them doubt their perceptions, to the aforementioned torture, exposure to a Brown Note, or even straight-up Mind Rape. Some Eldritch Abominations drive men mad with their mere presence. Sometimes it can come just from going really really fast.

Particularly effective if the character has reason to doubt their own sanity, such as if they have recently been discharged from a mental institution or have undergone a nervous breakdown. Indeed, in such a situation, this often takes the form of a Through the Eyes of Madness plot - at least at first.

May be an aspect of the Mind Game Ship if the reasons for the sanity breaking are part of the appeal.

Can overlap with Break the Cutie.

The subtrope, Gaslighting, is the subtle, insidious form of this. For unintended descents into madness, see Sanity Slippage.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Berserk: The horrific, torturous rape at the hands of Griffith during the Eclipse and watching nearly everyone she cared about getting gruesomely murdered by the Apostles has rendered Casca mute, amnesiac and insane, effectively making her into an Empty Shell of her former self.
  • Chainsaw Man: After Denji defeats The Doll Woman physically, Cosmo destroys her mentally by giving her all the knowledge of the cosmos, reducing Doll Woman and her Dolls into wayward husks that can only say "Halloween".
  • Elfen Lied is a disturbing example of how bullying, abuse, torture, and animal cruelty, can drive a victim like Lucy to mass murder and genocide.
  • What Akito Sohma did to Kana in Fruits Basket. After Akito blinded Hatori for asking for permission to marry Kana, Akito turned against the poor nurse and blamed her so much for Hatori's partial blindness that she went mad. It was so bad that Hatori had to delete Kana's memories of their relationship. Ironically, Akito herself was driven to madness upon years of monstrous psychological abuse coming from her mother Ren. As a little kid, Akito was naive and bad-tempered but not evil; however, she completely snapped and became a massive Yandere with some of the worst issues in the whole cast.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Battle Tendency: Straizo was Driven to Madness by his fear of decaying. Witnessing power as a vampire years ago, he mostly sought the "beauty and eternal youth" bit of it as he is afraid of dying as a withered old man.
    • Stardust Crusaders: Senator Phillips goes off the handle after being unfortunate enough to encounter DIO, experience the effects of The World, and forced to drive through a sidewalk filled with people, ramming through a lot of them in the way.
    • Golden Wind: This is Diavolo's final fate. Upon receiving a thorough Curb-Stomp Battle by Giorno's Gold Experience Requiem, the decisive finishing blow causes Diavolo to be subjected to a never-ending Resurrection/Death Loop, doomed to die repeatedly for eternity. After multiple deaths, he's gone fully insane as he screams at a young girl to stay away from him.
    • Stone Ocean: In the past, Weather Report was a kind man with a strong sense of justice. However, after the Ku Klux Klan members that Pucci unwittingly hired nearly beat him to death, strung him up on a tree, and caused his girlfriend to commit suicide, Weather became enraged at the entire world enough to develop Heavy Weather, which is why Pucci stole his memories after seeing how dangerous he became.
  • Johan of Monster is an expert at driving perfectly sane and normal people to suicide through total More than Mind Control. From the little that is known of his past, his own sanity was methodically attacked throughout his childhood.
  • This is the origin of Tomura Shigaraki from My Hero Academia. Years of abuse from his father, coupled by him accidentally killing his family, before killing his abusive father on purpose followed by being adopted by All For One and driven by his manipulations, drove him insane and transformed him from Tenko Shimura to Tomura.
  • In Naruto, Tobi's talk with Sasuke about Itachi's true intentions ultimately led to Sasuke becoming Ax-Crazy and joining Tobi's side.
  • Eto's torture and manipulation of Kanae in Tokyo Ghoul was done for the purpose of destroying her sanity to the point of making her devoted to her and using her as a tool.

    Comic Books 
  • The Avengers: The storyline The Crossing claimed Hank Pym's infamous mental breakdown had been deliberately caused by Immortus. Avengers Forever retconned this out, with one of Immortus' henchmen saying that nope, Hank's breakdown had nothing to do with them.
  • Batman:
    • Happens to Warren White, a white-collar criminal who finds himself in Arkham Asylum in the limited series Arkham Asylum: Living Hell. As the story progresses, Warren is continually tortured, abused and terrorized by the other inmates, until finally, he is locked inside Mr. Freeze's empty cell by an inmate trying to steal his identity, where he loses his nose, his lips, some of his fingers, and his ears to frostbite. Now a "freak" himself, Warren transforms himself into the villain The Great White Shark.
    • Batman: The Killing Joke: In which The Joker attempts to drive Commissioner Gordon insane and fails.
      • Unfortunately, a detective who has the misfortune of overseeing Joker being processed through to jail in Batman Confident is indeed driven to madness, turning into a cop-killing psychopath who ultimately commits suicide when he realizes how Joker turned him into a monster.
        • Subverted with Harley Quinn, who was was insane but functional when she first met the Joker; Joker simply gave her an excuse to give up control to her crazy side. As someone put it elsewhere on the site, "the Joker might have driven her mad, but Harley was willing to car-pool."
      • After having Mad Scientist Hugo Strange beaten to death, 'Boss' Rupert Thorne is visited by Strange's ghost until he eventually goes mad and is sent to Arkham Asylum.
    • Everyone who didn't die horribly from The Cobblepot Expedition ship in Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham wound up devolving into madness. Professor Cobblepot himself is seen walking around naked in the sub-zero temperatures, having become a part of a group of local penguins, while Mister Freeze is transformed into a crazed undead monster, desperately trying to free the Monster in the Ice that did this to him.
  • The Boys: Black Noir, the clone of Homelander, drove Homelander insane by mailing him photos of Homelander actually Noir dressed up as Homelander eating babies, eating hearts, and committing violent murder-rapes. Homelander became an insane monster because he thought he was already a monster and just didn't remember it.
  • Diabolik: Used to be part of the title character's modus operandi. He stopped doing that, but by that time he had earned himself two formidable enemies in the form of one of these victims and the son of another.
  • Howard the Duck: Howard suffers a psychological breakdown after encountering with several weirdos at some point. Fortunately, he gets better with the help of Daimon Hellstrom and Dr. Avery (but not before causing a complete chaos while he is accidentally possessed by Hellstrom's demonic soul).
  • Seven Soldiers:
    • The Sheeda take great pride in their ability to break even the noblest of people and re-form them to suit their twisted desires.
    • After life has had a good hard go at breaking Sally Sonic, Vitaman essentially forces her to debase herself and then exposes her to Doctor Hyde's Evil Serum to finish the job.
    • The Terrible Time Tailor Zor briefly accomplishes this with magic, turning Zatanna into the person she would be if he had raised her instead of her father. Fortunately, mad "Zorina" is enough of a brat to reverse the spell, just to annoy her "daddy".
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics): Dr. Eggman started suffering a massive one following having his greatest victory — defeating Sonic, capturing just about everyone and turning Knothole Kingdom into a crater — swiped from him. He would ultimately snap after one last victory by Sonic pushed him over the edge.
  • Spider-Man: Incidentally, Spider-Man is very good at this even if he doesn't entirely mean to do it.
    • Kraven the Hunter was so confounded by Spider-Man's humiliating defeats that he went nuts and eventually committed suicide.
    • Electro started off as a typical Jerkass criminal but years of verbal and physical torment had enough of a toll that he is now relegated to asking his mutant girlfriend to shapeshift into Spidey during sex so he could feel in control.
    • While Doctor Octopus was driven insane by the accident that turned him into a villain, it has been noted that Spider-Man's constant taunts and beatings drove him farther over the edge. Also, in two separate incidents, he was mentally scarred after pissing Spider-Man off. One of those times involved Spidey ripping his mechanical arms off.
    • The Chameleon was frightened into a coma when he unknowingly built robot duplicates of Peter Parker's dead parents. It ended up being a case of Beware the Nice Ones.
    • Titania of She-Hulk fame first fought Spidey back in Secret Wars (1984) and instantly acquired a deep fear of Spidey and spiders in general due to the beating/embarrassment she received.
    • Norman Osborn, like Dr. Octopus, was also already crazy when he first went up against the wall-crawler but after his first defeat, he essentially dedicated his entire life to ruining Peter's. In fact, since he was behind The Clone Saga, it was an inverted case since it mentally broke Peter Parker for about a year or two.
    • Several of Spidey's foes have attempted to pull this on him, including Mysterio, Chameleon, Norman Osborn, and even Captain America's foe Dr. Faustus.
  • Superman:
    • Hank Henshaw, better known as the Cyborg Superman, was once a normal scientist until an accident changed him. He watched his friends die, his body disintegrate and, when he had built a robot body for himself, watched his wife commit suicide. When he escaped using a small rocket, he drove himself mad through the incredible loneliness, reasoning to himself that he didn't leave Earth because he was a threat, he was driven off by Superman because he (Superman) was jealous.
    • In Legion of Super-Heroes story The Great Darkness Saga, Darkseid brainwashed the whole Daxamite population into serving him. Darkseid's mind-control was eventually broken, but Ol-Vir remained fanatically devoted to the Lord of Apokolips even after the rest of his race was restored to sanity.
    • Emperor Joker: This is the Joker's objective towards both Batman and Superman after gaining godlike powers from Mr. Mxyzptlk. He basically succeeded with his arch-foe, torturing Bats to death and reviving him each day to do it over again. Supes is half-way there when the comic starts, hunted down as a dangerous criminal by Bizarro each day when he discovers that the now all-powerful Joker is responsible for turning the world into a dark parody of itself.
    • The Strange Revenge of Lena Luthor. Sam, a crook who had been put in jail by Lena Colby's deceased husband, decides to take revenge on Jeff Colby by paying a gang to gaslight his widow until driving her crazy.
  • V for Vendetta: V kills every Norsefire employee who'd once worked at the concentration camp where he'd been imprisoned. Every employee, that is, except for Lewis Prothero, who as the camp commander had selected him, among other prisoners, to be subjects of medical experimentation. Because said experimentation drove V mad, he drives Prothero mad by kidnapping him, sticking him in a replica of the camp, and cremating his beloved rare doll collection before his eyes.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Deborah "Debbie" Domaine was forced into the role of the second Cheetah by Kobra, and eventually went mad due to their control and manipulations of her life.

    Fan Works 
  • In Child of the Storm, Gravemoss is driven mad (well, madder) thanks to long term exposure to the Darkhold. Evil Is Not a Toy.
    • In the sequel, Ghosts of the Past, Harry is finally driven to the brink of insanity after a brutal Trauma Conga Line at the hands of the Red Room, who tortured him and turned his Blank Slate body into the new and improved version of the Winter Soldier. The result? He becomes the Dark Phoenix, and is only barely talked down.
  • This is Maya Lottie's modus operandi in the The Loud House fanfic Revival. Granted as an avatar of the Outer God Nyarlathotep who loves driving humanity to insanity, it makes sense.
  • At the beginning of Tales of the Emperasque, Corvus has been driven to gibbering madness by ten thousand years of trying to find his way out of Fulgrim's ever-changing maze designed specifically to break Ravenlord's sanity.
  • In ''Their Midnight Revels While Ariel and Miranda state that Edith and Thomas were mentally ill before they arrived and would have gotten worse if they had not arrived the Downton Duo show signs of being driven there also by their involvement with magic. Both are exhausted from dancing all night and have the urge to continue dancing. They have heightened senses and their brains are overwhelmed by the clairvoyant abilities that they receive. They also have stronger emotions such as rage against their friends and family, and sexuality particularly when Edith attempts to seduce the housemaid, Emily.
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide, The Emerald Tablet, an malevolent A.I., uses the mental link Asuka has with Unit-02 in an attempt to gradually grind down her sanity by subjecting to constantly low-key mental stress, meant to bring out her Blood Knight urges and her inner fears and insecurities. It eventually starts affecting her by giving her increasingly vivid nightmares, bouts of extreme nausea, and culminates in her viciously attacking Unit-08 and gravely injuring Keiko in the process.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Twelve Tasks of Asterix:
    • The titular hero and his friend are sent to "The Place That Sends You Mad", a building from which they are to receive a certain form - alas, within the building lies a ferociously obstructive bureaucracy. So obstructive, in fact, that it briefly pushes Obelix over the edge. Fortunately, Asterix manages to turn the situation around, driving the bureaucrats mad instead - and allowing him to get the form in the process.
    • Earlier in the film, Asterix also manages to cause a hypnotist to turn his power back onto himself, causing the poor man to believe himself a wild boar. Iris may be a poor man, but it's a funny moment.
      Iris: (eyes glowing) By Osiris and by Apis, look at me...
      Asterix: Can you light those up one at a time?
      Iris: Wha—be quiet! Now, by Osiris and by Apis, look into my eyes...
      Asterix: Can you use them for reading in bed?
  • In Dead Space: Downfall, Hanson finally loses it after being nearly Eaten Alive by a pack of Swarmers and then being attacked by a Lurker not 10 seconds later. He was screaming from stress and fear before the fight, but this is what finally pushes him into giggling psychopath territory, opening him fully to the Marker's Mind Rape.
  • The Penguins are approaching this at the start of Penguins of Madagascar from the rest of the circus playing their Afro Circus/I Like to Move it mashup at the end of Madagascar 3.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • As things become gradually worse for the group in Very Bad Things, Boyd gradually ends up losing his sanity. At the very end of the film, Laura suffers a complete mental breakdown and runs screaming into the middle of the street.
  • In The Big Cube, Lisa's stepmother Adriana forbids her from marrying her boyfriend Johnny, so she and Johnny conspire to drive Adriana insane by slipping her LSD. It works - Adriana represses all memories from the last three months, including her marriage to Lisa's father, his death, and all her interactions with Lisa, and is declared legally incompetent as a result.

  • The Book of Lost Things: A common result of the Crooked Man's tortures, usually after being Forced to Watch.
  • This is the final fate of the protagonists in Alexander Pushkin's The Bronze Horseman and The Queen of Spades.
  • In Alexander Dumas’ adventure novel The Count of Monte Cristo Monsieur de Villefort, a corrupt royal prosecutor responsible for the title character’s unjust imprisonment goes mad after his past crimes get publicly revealed and his sociopathic wife poisons herself and the rest of de Villefort’s family, including his young son. What triggers Villefort’s breakdown is the revelation of who stands behind his downfall — a man he sent to rot in prison.
  • All the Outer Gods of the Cthulhu Mythos can drive one insane, but Nyarlathotep is apparently the only one who seeks to do so For the Evulz.
    • Arguable. Outside of his eponymous short story, Nyarlathotep doesn't just randomly harass anybody. In the Haunter of the Dark he seeks to kill his summoner, because he didn't provide an appropriate sacrifice, in The Dreams in the Witch-House he just played a role as a guardian to the secrets beyond human ken who receives sacrificial tribute in return of allowing individuals to cross that veil, and in the Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath he is seeking retribution against Randolph Carter for trying to see Earth's god's he had sworn to protect (and dominate) for unknown purposes, and is content to have a nice chat over a cup of tea.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Neville Longbottom's parents, Frank and Alice, were tortured into insanity right after Voldemort's first fall by a group of Death Eaters. They've been institutionalized in St. Mungo's ever since.
    • Ariana Dumbledore went mad when some Muggle boys attacked her (it's never specified in what way but it's implied to not be pretty) after they caught her doing magic. She was playing outside and couldn't do the trick for them again. Her family kept what happened to her a secret so the Ministry wouldn't institutionalize her because she posed a risk to the International Statue of Secrecy as she couldn't control her magic anymore.
  • Norwegian author Ingeborg Refling Hagen had this as a common trait in her early production. Most of her main characters were either Driven To Madness, Driven to Suicide or both!
  • In Emperors of Illusions, this is the goal of the protagonists, as far as The Emperor is concerned. They have nothing against him personally (except for Kay, whose home planet was destroyed at the Emperor's order), but a Corrupt Corporate Executive thinks that the Emperor created this universe and wishes to pay him back for that by destroying humankind, so they decide to get rid of the Emperor. However, since Resurrective Immortality exists in this universe, the Emperor cannot be killed permanently. Their plan is to cause him to lose his mind in a way that is irreversible. It nearly works, but the final trigger phrase fails because the Emperor is not the creator of the world, resulting in an Empire-wide manhunt for the conspirators.
  • In a somewhat unknown Swedish novel, Simons Family by Marianne Freddriksson, the Jewish character Isak is training at a boot camp. His squadron leader tries to break the spirit of him by being his antisemitic self. Isak begins to go numb almost to the point of no return.
  • Words of Radiance (second book of The Stormlight Archive): Szeth, the Assassin in White, finally loses his long battle with his own insanity by the end of this book. The realization that his servitude—and the resulting slaughters he created—were completely avoidable sends him screaming over the edge.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angelus does this to Drusilla before turning her into a vampire.
  • Averted in the Sci-Fi miniseries Children of Dune when one of the Cast-out attempts to drive Leto Atreides II insane with too much spice consumption. Rather than going insane, he becomes completely immune to the effects of spice and gains some superpowers into the bargain.
  • This is what the main character of The Cube has to contend with for the teleplay's entire duration.
  • In Doctor Who, Rassilon drove the Master to madness by implanting the never-ending sound of war drums in his mind when he stared into the Time Vortex as a child. The Master's last words before one apparent Final Death (it didn't stick) to the Doctor was him asking whether the drumming would finally end.
    • In the Series 9 finale three-parter, the Twelfth Doctor is driven to madness by a Trauma Conga Line: betrayal and capture by both Ashildr and the Time Lords, his companion Clara being Killed Off for Real, and Cold-Blooded Torture at the hands of the latter betrayer, with absolutely no one around to help him through his agony. The result is that he becomes a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds who almost destroys Time itself in the pursuit of a Tragic Dream. He is ultimately pulled back across the Despair Event Horizon, but must endure the losses of his homeworld and people (for now), possibly his confidante Ohila, Clara and his key personal/emotional memories of her in the process of returning to his best self.
  • River Tam is driven mad by the government and the knowledge she learns from the officials who come to see her.
    • Not to mention the show's Reavers, who will occasionally keep one victim alive and force said victim to watch their shipmates be raped to death, skinned and eaten. The survivor will ultimately go mad from the experience and will only cope by becoming a Reaver themselves.
  • Dr. Prospect does this to Daido Katsumi in W Returns: Eternal by slaughtering the entire village he was trying to save and then rubbing salt in the wound by explaining how this happened because NEVER took them out of the village in the first place. Katsumi snaps completely as a result.
  • In My Name Is Earl, the episode "Crazy Witch Lady" has the titular Lady driven to madness by the citizens of Camden treating her like an evil witch. It is implied she was just a regular quirky Camden resident before this.
  • In The Prisoner (1967), Number 6 goes to work on the Number 2 of the week in "Hammer Into Anvil". (Arguably, breaking Number 6' sanity is the point behind the whole series.)
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Original Series:
      • In "The Doomsday Machine" Sole Survivor Commodore Matthew Decker is driven mad by the experience of losing his crew and command, and harbors a death wish for having sent the men and women under his command to their deaths. Stopped from wrecking the Enterprise in an attempt to destroy the Planet Killer, Decker decides that his death is the only way he can atone for killing his crew, and rams a shuttlecraft down the Planet Killer's maw.
      • Then in "The Omega Glory" Captain Tracey goes insane after losing his entire crew to the Omega IV virus, making him another Sole Survivor. Matters are not helped by Tracey thinking he's found a fountain of youth on the planet and using his technology to aide the Kohm in their war against the Yangs.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has this happen to Gul Dukat after he witnesses the death of his daughter, at the climax of a long string of personal and career setbacks. His redeeming features and likable character traits had been submerged by his arrogance and ruthless ambition many episodes previously, but it's hard not to pity him as he cradles her corpse and mumbles to her in a broken monotone. Dukat eventually comes out of his Villainous BSoD, but becomes steadily more unhinged and even more dangerous for it, even before he becomes the Bajoran religious equivalent of a Dark Messiah.

  • Our Miss Brooks: "The School Board Psychologist" sees the Head of the Board, Mr. Stone, appoint a psychologist to examine the faculty of Madison High School. He's given the broad authority to fire any faculty who he believes is unfit for the teaching profession. The psychologist is already overworked, and is provably unfit to make recommendations (he suggests, for example, Mr. Boynton should be an exterminator). Miss Brooks, Mr. Boynton, Walter Denton, and eventually Mr. Conklin himself gaslight the psychologist until he withdraws his recommendations and takes his much needed rest.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, the mere presence of a demon lord can drive nearby creatures mad. What form that madness takes depends on the demon lord in question: the two-headed Demogorgon might drive people into violent paranoia, for instance, while the vicious Yeenoghu might instill cannibalistic urges into his victims.
  • The Black Spiral Dancers of Werewolf: The Apocalypse force their captives to walk the Black Spiral and go as mad as they have.

  • In Euripides's tragedy, Bacchae, the god Dionysus drives his aunts — and many of the women of Thebes — mad because they dishonored his mother and refused to acknowledge his divinity. The play ends with tragic results.
  • In the play Gaslight (and the two film versions of the play), the husband plays tricks on his wife in order to convince her she's going crazy. It became a Trope Namer.

    Video Games 
  • ANNO: Mutationem: At The Consortium's research facility, a large red sphere of corrupted energy broke loose and caused the surrounding researchers who were consumed by it to lose all sanity.
  • Clock Tower (1995): The birth of the twins triggered Mary's obsession with black magic and the occult, leading to her sacrificing people for the human flesh her babies needed to survive.
  • Darkest Dungeon: This is one of two ways that the enemies can kill your party (the other being relentless murder). The entire dungeon is one big stress-fest, with critical hits that crush morale and enemy attacks solely dedicated to freaking your party out. If they reach the breaking point, they go insane. If they reach the breaking point twice, they'll havea heart attack and be immediately dropped to Death's Door, or if they already were, they'll die instantly with No Saving Throw. Good news is, there is a tiny chance that the heroes can find clarity in the eye of the storm, effectively making them even better than normal, but even that can be stripped away with enough stress.
  • In The Elder Scrolls series, finding inventive ways to drive people to complete madness is within the realm of Sheogorath, the Daedric Prince of Madness. He even considers it a blessing:
    Sheogorath: Madness is a bitter mercy, perhaps, but a mercy nonetheless. It is better to be seen as mad than hopelessly despondent.
  • In Ib, the blue dolls are capable of driving people insane. Late in the game they attempt to do this to Garry and if they succeed the damage may be temporary..or permament, all depending on your previous actions.
  • Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII: Before his physical torment, Hope was mentally tormented for centuries by Bhunivelze, who created an illusionary Lightning to drive him mad, to the point he couldn't tell the difference between reality and fantasy.
  • Mark of the Ninja: The fate of those who wind up marked by the tattoos, leading to them committing suicide in order to avoid becoming a danger to their clan. This practice was put into place after Tetsuji, the clan's founder, wound up obtaining tattoos of his own to restore his youth and went on a madness-fueled rampage. The Ninja begins to have this happen to him as well as the game progresses. If he chooses to kill Azai in the ending, he passes the point of no return.
  • In Middle-earth: Shadow of War, players can actually do this to their enemies with the use of their "shaming" ability which makes orcs drop in level and if used enough times, it will make them permanently deranged. When used against Brûz the Chopper in the story mode, he becomes a sobbing wreck that repeats his Madness Mantra endlessly, while other orcs are only capable of saying a few broken words between screaming and snarling.
  • Overwatch: Sigma was the victim of a Freak Lab Accident when attempting to learn to control the power of a black hole. The exposure to the intense gravity altered him, granting him power over gravity itself, but fractured his mind to the point where he's barely cognizant of the world around him.
  • In Super Paper Mario, King Croacus in Chapter 5 was driven to madness because of the trash the Cragnons threw in the water the Floro Sapiens had to drink. That caused him to abduct and brainwash the Cragnons for the sake of his people and to build a palace filled with gems. Mario and Co stopped and defeated him, prompting the Floro Sapiens to scold them by explaining what was going on. The Cragnons promised to keep the water clean, putting an end to King Croacus' madness and tyranny.
  • The Wedding: Jack begins to become insane and mentally unstable, the longer the portal in his basement is open. Lack of sleep was part of the reason why the demons and monsters roaming his house made it easier for him to go insane. His notes also indicate that his wife apparently summoned some extra demons, specifically to terrify him, but exactly how accurate that is, given Jack's mental state when writing that part.

    Web Animation 
  • Enzo in SMG4's Mario Bloopers episode "Birthday Freakout", after Mario ruins his party by making the castle explode. Ever since then, he has been planning to assassinate Mario. This has been pushed to higher limits when a Policeman arrests him, causing him to plan Revenge.
  • In Red vs. Blue Season 11, Lopez Dos Point Oh becomes so stunned at how outrageously stupid and inept the Reds are that he hijacks a giant robot and goes on a destructive spree.
    Dos.0: (Spanish Subtitles) [...He's insane. They're all insane.]

    Web Comics 

    Web Videos 
  • David Near: Candle Jack will take away anyone who says his name, and trap them before driving his captive insane, up to the extent that they'll gouge their own eyes out once they break completely.
    Candle Jack: I will tie you up and rapture you away to a final resting place. There you will be driven mad with constant mental simulation! And once I break you and your mind snaps completely, you will gouge your own eyes out of the sockets!
  • Gordon Freeman, in Freeman's Mind, starts to behave more and more erratically as time passes and things happen (not that he wasn't a bit of a Cloud Cuckoo Lander to begin with). He has a dead serious monologue about how he's probably going insane and in need of psychological assistance after it's all over.
  • The Nostalgia Chick is usually driven crazy by things in movies she could easily switch off.
  • The Touhou Fan Vid series Koishi Komeiji's Heart-Throbbing Adventure uses this as the prime plot driver: SOMETHING is driving all of Gensokyo insane, and the few sane people left (well...sane and still living) have to figure out who and how to stop it.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: Stan Smith is such an idiot he repeatedly forgets his anniversary despite how terrifying his wife Francine gets when he does. In "American Fung", he hastily gets Francine committed to a mental hospital for a few days so he can have more time to plan. Again, Stan is such an idiot he keeps forgetting the reason Francine was locked up, and by the day she's released, he has nothing prepared. When Stan greets Francine with a bucket of fried chicken and offers an incredibly half-assed explanation of how he did everything "for love", Francine not only states she genuinely hates Stan but she goes insane for real and gets committed indefinitely.
  • Animaniacs: Accordingly, the Warner Kids almost invariably manage to do this to anyone they have adopted as their "Special Friend" (generally someone who is being a jerk to start with).
  • Avatar:
    • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Princess Azula, who in the span of one summer loses the fear (and love, in her own way) of her best friends, learns her father will never love her no matter what she does, loses the Fire Lord title to Zuko in an Agni Kai, and has her philosophies proven completely wrong to her. Too many blows to the psyche send Azula into a frothing madness in which she's actually developed Split Personalities between the manipulative and the lunatic.
    • The Fog of Lost Souls from The Legend of Korra is a prison within the Spirit World for humans. The fog bombards its occupants with images of their greatest fears and failures, slowly driving them mad over the course of decades if not centuries. Zhao has been reduced to a Talkative Loon, and Tenzin and his siblings begin to fall to the Fog's effects after only a few minutes of wandering.
  • In The Batman, Joker does this to Detective Bennett in a situation clearly inspired by The Killing Joke. Unlike his comic counterpart, this Joker actually succeeds and turns Bennett into Clayface.
  • Gargoyles: In "Revelations", Mace Malone describes The Hotel Cabal was developed as a torture technique to learn the secrets of people of interest. But after losing his only method of shutting down the traps, Mace himself is driven mad as he is forced to endure all manner of torture with every door he opens.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: In "Creating Chaos", Eris attempted to have Billy as her apprentice, but his incredibly stupid and inane demands that she's forced to follow (including literally watching paint dry for hours) causes her to break down into a whimpering heap by the time he's finally ready to use her apple of chaos.
  • Kaeloo: A Running Gag on the show is to have this happen to Kaeloo (the culprits usually being Stumpy and Mr. Cat), and for the Reset Button to make sure that her sanity is back by the next episode.
  • Many Looney Tunes characters end up doing this to their antagonists — of particular note are the mice Hubie and Bertie.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic's Discord favors this as a method of Break the Cutie.
  • Sam & Max: Freelance Police: Sam and Max do this to Moral Guardian Kent Standit in "The Glazed MacGuffin Affair". When he banned the titular snack food, Sam and Max went on a crusade to make him lift by getting him to taste one, following him everywhere he went and trying to trick him into eating one. This escalates into a cross-country chase, ending when Kent realizes he's arrived at the factory where Glazed MacGuffins are made and snaps.
  • We Bare Bears: In "Tote-Life", the bears succumb to this with their tote bag hoarding, Panda even tries to date one.


Video Example(s):


Eris loses it

Eris attempts to have Billy as her apprentice, but being forced to follow his incredibly inane demands causes her to break down into a whimpering heap.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / DrivenToMadness

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