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With Great Power Comes Great Insanity

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My head is a cloud, your argument is invalid!
EPA Official: Sir, I'm afraid you've gone mad with power.
Russ Cargill: Of course I have! You ever tried going mad without power? It's boring! No one listens to you!

It seems like any major military- or corporate-backed venture to give a mundane person superpowers or just enhance their normal abilities results in the test subject going uncontrollably berserk as a side-effect.

Sometimes the choice of test subject is clearly to blame. Convicted criminals are convenient ("One swallow and ten years go off your sentence!") but unreliable guinea pigs if you're trying to develop a Super-Soldier who can punch out a tank. Nobody in any of these programs ever seems to have been given the most basic psychiatric evaluation. The evidence indicates a connection between morals and one's ability to remain "sane". Normally, using the power makes you crazy the longer you use it, because Evil Feels Good, but a noble, heroic character is better able to stay in control.

Other times, it seems that insanity happens as a side effect for no discernible reason other than to justify the needs of the plot and/or give the super individual a weakness that they must struggle to balance and maintain. This also gives the Badass Normal their one edge over the competition as they lack this weakness. There will be some Technobabble, but this will be the real reason.

Sometimes, the creators of the super being realize the error while in the prototype phase and will seal the subject away, hoping everyone just forgets about them. Often, the first subject to undergo the process — or a single subsequent subject — will turn out okay, so on top of all the various other issues that the treatment has, it's usually their job to clean up the mess made by subsequent failed attempts. If it's a Science Is Bad story, the sponsors of the program are likely to just keep pumping out nutty prototypes hoping they'll eventually make one that is not insane.

This trope can also arise if the principle that knowledge is power is extended to These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know. If all else fails, it'll seem like it happened just to make the Aesop "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely" appear in the story. Karmic Death is a frequent end for not only the subject, but the scientists who created him/her/it.

May be either the cause or the result of Science-Related Memetic Disorder, especially if the person is already a Mad Scientist to begin with.

Invisibility seems to drive one insane (because when you're out of your sight, you're out of your mind), or at least evil, more than any other power, because it lets you spy on people undetected and escape easily without consequences. H. G. Wells' novel The Invisible Man is the Trope Codifier for invisibility letting you be evil in the modern era, but the germ of the story is much older than that; if you asked Wells where he got the idea he would probably have mentioned Plato's tale of the ring of Gyges (from The Republic).

Shapeshifting and telepathy are close seconds to invisibility as potential causes of this trope, probably due to Personality Powers; after all, changing identities too often might result in losing track of the real you, and having other peoples' thoughts in your head is a lot like voices in your head (or can be abused for Big Brother Is Watching). It's crazymaking when telepathy tells you people are lying and you can do nothing to prove it. Anything can theoretically trigger it. Getting your powers from otherworldly beings might make you mad by themselves. Getting energy blasts can result in Psycho Electro. Getting Charles Atlas Superpowers can result in Ax-Crazy. Getting Flying Brick powers can result in Beware the Superman. Knowing that one is a Reality Warper will cause A God Am I and the warper to remake the world in his own image. Think of all the Power Perversion Potential!

Cast from Sanity is the gameplay form of this trope: apparently "Sanity" has a gauge/number and is some kind of resource/payment to do a skill, i.e., you lose your sanity the more you use it.

This is the inverse of Power Born of Madness. God-like powers often give someone a god complex and thus this trope. One possible way to stave this off is to think "A God I Am Not." It always occurs when someone makes serious use of an Artifact of Doom, provided the user isn't eaten on the spot by said artifact.

Not to be confused with With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility. Compare The Corruption, Almighty Idiot, Drunk with Power, Power High, God for a Day, Mad God.

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  • The previous Game Master from Infinity Game was driven completely insane by the infinite power he wielded in his world, so he drove everybody else insane and made them kill each other. He eventually grew bored of it and killed everybody.

  • The witches of Witch Hunter are a bag of mixed nuts. The magic powers they wield have different effects on all of them. Some stay the same sweet person they were before, the only change they undergo being the magic they now wield and their now immortal bodies... Others not so much. The main character's sister went completely insane upon gaining her powers, murdered her own father, her brother's beloved mentor, and countless tens of thousands of people and only approaches her normal mentality as she uses her magic too much and starts running out. Almost all witches introduced who are not on the side of the humans are sadistic and cruel, viewing human life as something deserving of only destruction, despite all of them having once been human.


  • Elvenquest: Anyone who holds the Sword of Asnagar for even a moment immediately turns into a cackling, raving maniac. Except Amis, which is why he's the Chosen One. Problem is, Amis is also very suggestible. The perils of your chosen one being a dog turned into a human.

  • In Ruby Quest, as the Cure mutates its victims, they become progressively more powerful but also more unhinged.

    Visual Novels 
  • A major part of Tsukihime; whenever most characters use more of their potential powers, a direct effect is the deterioration of their sanity. Examples are Akiha's inversion impulse, Arcueid's blood-lust taking over (often called 'Warcueid'), and the protagonist upon using his Mystic Eyes of Death Perception too much. The entire Tohno family has this. In spades.
    • Arcueid's case is kinda special in that she does not gain additional power during her "blood-lust" mode; she always had that power, "blood-lust" simply makes her no longer hold back. Well, unless she's fighting against Shiki, because only normal women can resist the Nanaya glands.
  • In Type-Moon's same-universe series Fate/stay night, the Servant class Berserker is defined by the class trait "Mad Enhancement". In exchange for their sanity and access to skills requiring a clear mind, the Servant receives significant boosts to all physical parameters.
    • In Heaven's Feel, Shirou loses his arm and receives Archer's arm as a replacement. Accessing the knowledge contained within the arm to perform magecraft causes increasing mental damage to him, both psychological and physical.note 
  • Doki Doki Literature Club!: When a character from within the game has the position of the literature club's president, it gives them the power of being able to re-code the entire game...and also the knowledge that they're inside a game and their clubmates aren't capable of experiencing free-will. The two characters we saw having this position we're Monika (since the beginning) and Sayori (after the former is deleted), and both of them were transformed into yanderes crazy for ''the player''.
  • In the Bad End of Spirit Hunter: NG, Akira's Bloodmetry becomes so powerful that it starts to deteriorate his physical and mental health. A mysterious voice tries to help out by transforming him into something inhumane — with the new form comes new powers, and the complete degradation of Akira's personality into something primal.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • The Meta has the abilities and A.I. of every Freelancer it has killed so far. That many A.I. in one body, however, have caused it to be more than slightly snarling mad. To the point where it doesn't seem able to speak itself, only growl. (Church was naturally "thrilled" when he heard this.)
      Church: Oh great, powerful and crazy. What a winning combo.
    • When Simmons takes power after Sarge's "death" (he wasn't):
      Grif: You've gone blind with imaginary power, Simmons.
      Simmons: Oh hoh hoh, on the contrary. I think I've gone blind with very real power.
  • In The Transformers: Combiner Wars, Starscream goes completely insane soon after using the Enigma of Combination, and he goes out of control, attacking everything.

    Web Original 
  • Parodied by the Babylon Bee: "Governor Whitmer Refuses to throw Ring of Power into the Fires of Mount Doom"
  • Brennus: This trope is the reason why the world is so dangerous. The more powerful the metahuman is, the more likely they are to be insane (and the odds are doubled for mad scientists). Most of the really powerful metahumans are crazy in one way or another, and Desolation in Light, one of most powerful, is an Omnicidal Maniac. Not a good combination for anyone nearby.
  • Defection: The greater effect your superpower has on your mind, the greater the chance is that you are bug-out nuts. The villain Prysim remarks several times that no, she isn't evil — just insane, whether that is just a bad excuse or not is left up to the reader.
  • Dream Shorts: Sapnap has a tendency to do this in the skits.
    • In "Dream Team goes to Hogwarts", Bad teaches Dream, George, and Sapnap the Killing Curse, which they are meant to practice on some chickens. All goes well until Sapnap kills his chicken... and all the other chickens... and the whole class!
    • In "With Great Power comes Great Responsibility", Sapnap gets the ability to levitate blocks and explode them. He gets a flashback of Bad telling him that With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility... and proceeds to wreak havoc on a city with his power.
  • Orion's Arm, being a civilisation built by Transhumans, has a few interesting thoughts about how radically changing and augmenting one's thought processes could go wrong. Many baselines ("modosophonts") try to boost themselves through the first toposphic singularity to gain vastly more capable (and somewhat alien) modes of thought, but it doesn't always go well...
    • Ultraconscious Depersonalisation Disorder results from the new mind being a little too introspective, and deciding even its own sense of selfhood is merely a symbol (like the colour red, or the notion of friendship) and view themselves as robots driven by external forces. Sad, but not dangerous to others.
    • Hyperautistic Sociopathy occurs when the new mind understands the baseline minds of its former peers so well it cannot view them as sentient or capable of independent action, and instead regards them as easily controllable tools or merely animals. The results are seldom pretty.
    • Transcendence Perversities are dangerously damaged minds that are quite insane, even by the standards of their fellow transapients. Perhaps the transcendee went mad from the revelation due to poor mental fortitude and preparation, or perhaps they devoured the minds of bystanders and developed something a little like schizophrenia combined with multiple personality disorder. And sometimes they feel that eating more minds might sort them out.
    • Transcendence Blights result when the transapient decides to expand into all the handily available process space around it by becoming The Virus. Sometimes a new transcendee can subsume the minds of those around them effectively by accident, but sometimes they just carry on doing so, probably as a result of something related to Hyperautistic Sociopathy. Some blights have consumed entire planets, planetary systems, and sometimes even spread through space before being beaten back.
    • And then there's Bloatware, where a mind tries to access vast amounts of data and tooling and secondary systems without actually boosting its intelligence to the point where it can comprehend all the data it suddenly has pouring into its mind. Some just go catatonic, but others can easily turn into Blights or Perversities.* Pay Me, Bug!: Telepaths are in danger of going insane if they aren't trained to handle their power early enough.
  • The Questport Chronicles: The Master of Darkness, one of the most powerful sorcerers in the world, is also utterly insane. It's implied that part of this is due to returning from death.
  • Unsurprisingly for such a Troperiffic series, Whateley Universe has a number of described — and sometimes treatable — psychological conditions that can result from possessing superpowers. Aside from Deidrick's Syndrome (which can affect almost any mutant, but is most common among Devisors and electrical Manifestors), there are Quinzel-Osborn Syndrome, which makes the sufferer Drunk on the Dark Side; Hercules Syndrome, which causes Exemplars — all Exemplars — to have difficulty controlling their emotions; and Galahad Syndrome, which causes monomania (often of the Chronic Villainy or Chronic Hero Syndrome varieties), again being a more or less universal tendency in Exemplars. Part of the justification used by the hate groups Humanity First! and the Knights of Purity is their claim that mutants invariably go off the deep end, making even those with harmless powers too dangerous to allow in society.

    Web Videos 

Alternative Title(s): Comes Great Insanity


Strange Supreme

Strange Supreme goes mad with power.

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