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With Great Power Comes Great Insanity
aka: Power Corrupts

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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 super powers 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 Techno Babble 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.

A.K.A. Comes Great Insanity for short. To go with the original version, Comes Great Responsibility. Compare The Corruption, Almighty Idiot, Drunk with Power, God for a Day, Mad God.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Anime classic AKIRA centers around the results of government experimentation on a Japanese gang member with a serious inferiority complex. As a result, the newly created Big Bad Tetsuo runs amok with his telekinetic powers until he mutates, explodes, and forms either a new universe or... something.
  • In Berserk, the main character finds that he can enter into an Unstoppable Rage like never before due to his recently obtained Upgrade Artifact. However, he finds himself Blessed with Suck due to the incredible physical strain it puts on his body, and he could accidentally Face–Heel Turn at any moment and kill all of his companions.
  • In The Big O, Straw Nihilist villain Schwarzwald is the only known character to figure out the big secret. As a result, he goes batshit insane, wraps himself up like a mummy, and spends the rest of the series raving about philosophy, leaving typewriters lying around everywhere he goes, and showing up in a robot several weeks after his death to chew out another villain who gets killed trying to use it.
  • In Bleach, Ichigo's powers are greatly amplified when his inner Hollow is released, but he suppresses it in order to preserve his sanity. Even then, suppressing it doesn't work in the long run. It takes a major Battle in the Center of the Mind for him to gain control over it. During the third battle, the Hollow isn't trying to hurt Ichigo, his goal is to make Ichigo accept him as part of his soul instead of suppressing him. Once Ichigo does that, he becomes a Physical God.
    • Aizen has never been entirely sane, but his insanity slowly becomes more and more obvious the greater his power becomes. By the time he's fused with the Hougyoku, he's fullblown crazy.
    • Kouga (from the third anime filler arc) fits this trope perfectly. His power (to force others' zanpakutou to do his bidding) is truly enormous, and he quickly goes insane. Kouga had plenty of external help on that trip to insanity, but his obsession with his own great power made him a little unbalanced even when he was still one of the good guys.
  • Human-type homunculi of Busou Renkin are a borderline example, as while becoming a homunculus does grant a human great power, none of the ones seen seem like they were particularly sane beforehand. Victor, though, is a dead-on example, as becoming a Victor made him do a Face–Heel Turn from an alchemic warrior to a demigod attempting to destroy all alchemy.
  • In Chrono Crusade, Joshua Christopher is given the horns of a demon by the Big Bad. The power is too much for the small boy, however — within minutes he's gone completely insane, using his powers to freeze everyone around him in time and destroy the orphanage he lived in. It gets so bad that later he can't even remember his own sister.
    • It's even worse than that in the manga. It turns out that a demon's horns, in addition to granting them direct access to the Astral line, are also what connect them to their "mother", Pandemonium. That constant, painful noise that Joshua was complaining about? It was an Eldritch Abomination constantly mind-raping him.
    • In the anime, though the horns did damage his mind on their own, the "noise" he complained of was the thoughts of every human around him. In other words, uncontrollable telepathy that forced him to hear what every single person around him was thinking, all at once, all the time. No wonder he went mad if he had to be near people.
  • Claymore: A Claymore who activates her demonic powers (i.e. "Awakens") gains great power but stands a chance of losing her humanity and turning into a human flesh-craving demon permanently.
  • Cowboy Bebop, "Pierrot le Fou": A government test subject is given superhuman assassin skills, and then goes crazy as a side-effect. Given the methods shown (the fact that no explanation of any sort is given for what, precisely, is being done, it's all the more disturbing), it's not too surprising.
  • DNA² has The Rival become the Big Bad when he gained the power to "absorb other people's DNA". Don't ask how that works or why it gave him a Battle Aura and shapeshifting powers, it just did.
  • Contractors in Darker Than Black appear to have "complete lack of conscience" as one side-effect of gaining their powers (and their powers are usually destructive in nature). Even the sanest among them are Affably Evil or Anti Heroic at best and have no problems with taking lives, though whether it is the powers themselves that cause it or the result of the extensive masquerade surrounding them and how their fellow humans treat them is up to debate.
  • Death Note drops some hints that Light Yagami wasn't entirely stable before gaining the power to kill anyone in the world at any time, but his sanity certainly heads downwards after that. In fact, all the Kiras in the series seem to go bonkers after picking up a Death Note, since it seems to take the major flaw in their personality and magnify it — Light and Takada's narcissism, Mikami's fanatical desire for justice, Misa's obsessiveness, and Higuchi's greed.
    • It even says in chapter 19 that "with great power comes great...evil!?" which is pretty darn close, in Light's case.
    • When he briefly lost his memories of the Death Note as part of a Memory Gambit, he immediately becomes a Nice Guy that has almost nothing in common with "Kira", to the point that he finds the very notion that he might have been "Kira" to be horrifying. The shock of his first kill and the resulting god complex he manifested to avoid the guilt really messed him up.
    • Near casts some doubt on this in his "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Light, claiming that a sane and decent person would use the Note out of curiosity, be frightened by the consequences, and get rid of the Note out of regret. A sane and evil person would use it for self-interest. Light on the other hand deluded himself into believing the Note made him a god.
  • In Devilman Lady, the entire story centres around evolution and the gaining of vast, beast-like powers by ordinary people, many of whom go insane. The main character, Jun, for much of the series appears to be descending into insanity herself despite her best efforts not to. The climax moment of this aspect of the series is when, having been prevented from indulge her bloodlust by the Human Alliance, she attacks a nurse, but ultimately overcomes her instincts by drawing her own blood.
  • Both played straight and averted in Digimon. On the one hand, you have Digimon like Omnimon, who are immensely powerful, but perfectly sane, noble, and benevolent. On the other hand, you have Beelzemon and Diaboromon, who are driven only by their desire to gain power and cause destruction.
    • Myotismon is already incredibly powerful, but becoming his mega form, the colossal VenomMyotismon, turns him from The Chessmaster to an all devouring mindless monster.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • The Dragon Ball Z movies have Broly who became a berserker warrior because he was born with immense power. It is also heavily implied that the life-threatening experiences of his childhood also contributed quite a bit to his insanity as well.
    • It's all but stated in the manga that reaching new levels of Super Saiyan cause Goku and Gohan to become more aggressive and ruthless, which is particularly jarring to the other characters (Vegeta was already pretty bad, so he just gets more and more arrogant). Vegeta says that to become a Super Saiyan, you must have a pure heart (pure evil or pure good doesn't seem to matter) and be in a state of pure rage, with (except for SSJ3, which is achieved off-screen) the new levels involving them getting more enraged than they have ever been before. While this doesn't last, and any future transformations allow them to stay 'normal' it is still pretty unclear how changed they are as a result of this brief spurt of maddening rage. Basically, at each newer Super Saiyan level, they tend to revert to the typical Saiyan brutality. Vegeta doesn't have any similar problem because extreme brutality is his default state.
    • Gohan is truly shocking in his beatdown of Cell as he goes from restraining himself because he doesn't want to fight to torturing Cell in the space of a few minutes. Even Goku is shocked by what the transformation does to his son.
    • In Dragon Ball GT, Goku loses his reason and turns into a giant, supremely powerful golden ape when he first transforms into a SS4. This was simply the latest in a long list of giant ape transformations from Dragon Ball and early DBZ, which had the same effect: multiplying the Saiyan's power level by a factor of 10, but causing their minds to become animalistic. Vegeta was the only one to remain sane in this form... presumably due to actually being trained in its use.
    • Frieza's reason for using transformations to hide the bulk of his power is heavily implied to be due to losing what little sanity he already had if he went all out.
  • Any Diclonius in Elfen Lied, except Nana. Maybe. It's heavily implied that their murderous tendencies might actually be a result of abuse, particularly at the Institute. Might. It's ultimately left ambiguous.
  • Fairy Tail:
    • This was the result of Elfman's failed Take Over spell against a monster called The Beast a few years before the story started. In order to save his older sister, he used his magic on a gigantic magical monster, but wasn't quite strong enough to control it. He saved his older sister, and killed the younger they thought). Out of fear of this happening again, he stopped using full-body Take Over magic (eventually, he becomes able to control his power).
    • It's eventually revealed overusing the power of Dragon Slaying Magic has the potential to do this as it matures and the human gets closer and closer to the power of an actual dragon. The final stage involves turning into a dragon and becoming consumed by the god-like power and arrogance it brings. This is how Acnologia went from a Nominal Hero on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge to an Blood Knight Omnicidal Maniac.
  • In Fate/Zero and Fate/stay night, Berserker-class Servants get Mad Enhancement, a Class Skill that trades one’s sanity for added power.
  • In the first anime of Fullmetal Alchemist, Ed gets a power overload from contact with a huge amount of unfinished Philosopher's Stone and goes full-on uncontrollable with so much power it is described that if this goes on, he can attain enough power to be god-like (even freaking out the Homunculi) until a Cooldown Hug snaps him out of it.
  • Played with in Future Diary, where some individuals who're not so mentally sound to begin with are given the ability to predict the future and told by God to kill each other Highlander style. Whether the ability, situation, or just generally being that nuts before drives them crazy is up for interpretation.
  • Gasaraki has mecha pilots who were given a cocktail of boosting drugs in order to improve their battle performance (without their knowledge or consent, and said drugs was actually fluid extracted from the muscles of a 1000 year old demon), and the inevitably go berserk from the effects, before either lapsing into a coma or suffering cardiac arrest.
  • In Get Backers, Ginji and Kazuki have this as a side effect of their Superpowered Evil Sides. Ginji's "Lightning Lord" aspect is quiet, cold, and utterly ruthless, while Kazuki goes absolutely berserk when he releases the seal on his "Stigma," becoming vicious and blood-thirsty. They're always sorry afterward.
  • In New Getter Robo, Ryouma lets himself get hopped up on Getter Energy, powering him and New Getter-1 to new heights to combat the Four Heavenly Kings. However, Ryouma loses himself and Hayato and Benkei have to try to reel him back in before his actions get them killed.
  • In Haruhi Suzumiya, the titular character is kept Locked Out of the Loop regarding the fact that her friends are all examples of the very weirdness she seeks to find for this very reason. Already a Jerkass Tsundere, they're afraid that if she discovers that aliens, espers, dimension/time travellers and other such entities are real, she will manage to make the intuitive leap and realise that she is a Reality Warper of such power that she is, in all practical terms, a goddess. Given how much strain she can put on the fabric of reality even while she's unaware of her power, they naturally fear that allowing someone of her attitudes and ethics full control of her abilities would effectively bump her to Eldritch Abomination status.
  • 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.
  • InuYasha's heritage of demonic power from his Greater Demon father is so strong that it is too much for his half-human body to handle. That's why his father created the Tessaiga, to serve as a Restraining Bolt on Inuyasha's demonic power and thus preserve his sanity (while also making up for the power suppressed with the sword's own usefulness). If the sword is taken from Inuyasha or broken, he must refrain from getting too emotionally excited, or he risks unleashing his full, uncontrollable strength. Worse, each subsequent overload renders him more insane than the last, and it becomes harder to snap him out of it. If left unchecked, Inuyasha would eventually be reduced to a mindless monster killing and destroying everything and everyone around him, permanently. Initially, the sword was effective in this role no matter how far away it was, but after it was broken the first time the sealing effect was weakened and even after it was repaired it has to be kept close at hand at all times.
  • In Kumo Desu Ga, Nani Ka? the Skills corresponding with the Seven Deadly Sins and Seven Heavenly Virtues grant the bearer powerful abilities and Ruler authority at the cost of slowly warping their soul to reflect the sin or virtue. The only way to avoid this is by not activating the Skill or gaining Heresy Resistance, which reduces the damage to the soul.
  • During an episode of Magical Project S, Misao dreams about having magic powers and the "fun" she would have using them. When she actually got said powers, she becomes the arguably insane persona of Pixy Misa (who tortures the entire main cast).
  • In Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force, this is happens to everyone who succumbs to Eclipse disease. Aside from Anti-Magic and insane regeneration, the Eclipse seems to have a rather detrimental effect on the victim's mind by stripping them of their morality and them into sociopathic assholes. In particularly bad cases, the infectees completely forget who they are, picking up Fake Memories in the process. Finally, once they start abusing their regeneration, it goes haywire and they become nothing but a lump of flesh.
  • A few of the characters in the Mai-HiME mangaverse are given special earrings created using SEARRS technology, which allows them to summon more powerful CHILDs than any of the HiME, and they don't need an emotional anchor to use said powers. However, relying on this ability too much can drive them insane.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: A common theme in the franchise, most notably Zeta Gundam and Gundam ZZ where all Newtypes are often mentally unstable in some fashion, may have forms of amnesia, be brainwashed, though in some other cases they're just plain stubborn. This is particularly true of "Cyber-Newtypes", people who originally had no special powers but had their brains surgically altered (almost always against their will) to become Newtypes.
    • Gundam SEED plays on this by giving performance-enhancing drugs and treatments to criminals who are doing it in exchange for a full pardon. Naturally, this drives them to insanity in combat... which is what was planned. As a result, they are given drugs in such doses that by the time combat is over, they are having withdrawal symptoms and are manageable again. Withdrawal will also kill them if they are deprived of the drugs for too long, thus ensuring their loyalty.
    • In Gundam SEED Destiny, Blue Cosmos has been attempting to create "Artificial Coordinators" through depraved combinations of surgery, hypnosis, insane training, drugs, and other horrors. Of the dozens of children selected for the project, only a few survived, and those seen in the series are all, understandably, raving mad and almost incapable of functioning normally in life. Without routine "maintenance", their bodies break down and they die. The sad thing is that in comparison to SEED's pre-Extended (see above), they're all poster children for Mental Health Week: Stellar Louissier, for example, is a sweet if incredibly childish and still very sympathetic young woman who loves to dance, as long as you don't tell her that either she or her friends will die, in which case an alternate personality emerges that could give even the drug-enhanced pilots of the previous series some lessons in brutality.
    • In Gundam Wing, the ZERO System gives the person who uses it incredible reaction times and tactical predictions bordering on prescience. The problem is, without any guidance, the System evaluates everything as a potential threat, and plugs into the user's mind all of the possible attacks that could happen. If he can't focus his mind and give the System the necessary context (which is hard to do when you're conflicted as to why you're fighting), those violent predictions start afflicting whatever he starts thinking about (like, say, his girlfriend, or that nice peaceful space colony over there), and soon enough he's a psychopath slaughtering whatever the System says is his enemy.
    • In Mobile Fighter G Gundam, being infected by DG Cells has this effect. Lower-tier Gundam Fighters like Michelo Chariot, Jean-Pierre Mirabeau and Gentle Chapman (a top-tier Fighter in the past, but one who has aged badly and is addicted to painkillers in the present day) all get massive power-ups after being infected by the Cells, but they all lose their sanity to greater or lesser degrees (Michelo, a malevolent man even before the DG infection, is largely unchanged except for becoming more aggressive and less inclined to self-preservation, while Chapman, a Fallen Hero, is reduced to a barely-sentient attack dog).
  • In Naruto, Sasuke seems to grow progressively more irrational the stronger he gets (as, to a lesser extent, do Itachi and Obito). Eventually it's revealed that this is part of how their powers work; whenever a member of the Uchiha clan experiences strong emotion, it creates a burst of energy that increases the power of their Sharingan… and also damages their brain. In short, the best way for an Uchiha to become extremely powerful is to Mind Rape themselves into oblivion, a lot.
    • The Sage of Six Paths explains that this happened to his mother and Madara when they gained the power of the God-Tree. Not coincidentally, both struck upon the idea of executing an Assimilation Plot where they would effectively become gods because a servant of Kaguya had deliberately planted information to recreate said plan.
  • Pokémon:
    • Pokémon Adventures uses this in the Ruby/Sapphire arc. The Red and Blue Orbs can be wielded by mortals to control Groudon and Kyogre, but sufficient willpower is required to prevent loss of self. One Magma Elite tried and was driven mad; Archie and Maxie were so consumed by their lust for power that the Orbs wielded them. To prevent the same from happening to their (unknowing at the time) new hosts, Juan, Liza, and Tate used the temporal abnormalities of Mirage Island to temper Ruby and Sapphire's collective resolve. Ruby foolishly coaxed the Blue Orb from Sapphire for his own use, but he turned out to have enough strength of will to calm both titans once more.
    • The Pokémon anime:
      • Oakley loses it in Pokémon Heroes and tries to destroy the world once she gains control of a machine powered by Latios. Even her partner Annie is startled by the change.
      • Korrina's Lucario is unable to control the power of Mega Evolution, and thus whenever it Mega Evolves it goes insane, though it's training in an attempt to gain control over itself.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, almost all magical girls lose it in varying degrees due to a combination of having awesome power and still not getting what they wanted, having to fight constantly and lose any semblance of a social life, having their souls sucked out and put in a gem, and then finding out that the enemies they've been fighting all this time used to be magical girls themselves. Prime examples include Sayaka, and Mami in another timeline. More to the point, witches are magical girls that have succumbed to despair and insanity.
  • Itsuki's Glam Sight in Rental Magica gives him his Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass ability that makes him just the right sort of leader for his team of mages. However, the more he uses it, the more it eats away at his sanity. Thus, Honami and the others warn him not to use it as much as possible.
  • In The Rising of the Shield Hero the Curse series of the Legendary Weapons tend to provide power boosts and functions not normally available, such as Naofumi's Wrath shield giving him an actual attack. Each Curse is associated with one of the sins and activating it runs the real risk of the wielder's mind becoming overwhelmed with that sin.
  • In Rosario + Vampire, being injected with a youkai's blood gives you all of their abilities for a short while. Eventually, the effect starts wearing your body down. One time too many will kill you (if you're lucky) or horribly mangle your body and, if vampire blood is involved, leave you a mindless killing machine. Fortunately, there are ways to counteract the less-than-desirable effects. Subverted with Tsukune, in the fact that he doesn't even have a mind anymore when this happens.
  • s-CRY-ed shows this one off pretty well, with most (if not debatably all) of the Alter Power users being completely insane to some degree. Particular samples include Straight Cougar, most of the one-shot villains, and our main Kazuma (whose personality initially flips between Jerk with a Heart of Gold and nice-guy… only for the nice guy to completely vanish by the final battle). It's worth noting that both Cougar and Kazuma are rare heroic examples of this trope. They're clearly bonkers, but they're still the good guys.
  • Possibly a coincidence, but the three most powerful Sailor Soldiers are the less unhinged:
    • Sailor Venus is the most powerful of the 'normal' Sailor Soldiers, a Genki Girl on steroids and a hell of Stepford Smiler.
    • Sailor Moon is one of the two candidates to the title of most powerful of the Sailor Senshi, and her personality is extremely similar to Sailor Venus (justified as she's Venus' Expy), the main differences being that Venus is a born Drama Queen and Large Ham and Moon's happiness is genuine;
    • Sailor Galaxia is the other candidate to the title of most powerful Sailor Senshi (and in the anime she is), and she's an Omnicidal Maniac. Galaxia is a subversion, though. She was perfectly sane and heroic as Sailor Galaxia, fighting on the side of good during the Sailor Wars. It was only after she decided to seal the spirit of Chaos in herself that she went insane.
  • In Saikano, this more or less happens to Chise, who loses her sanity as the weapon of mass destruction inside her grows and apparently slowly takes over her brain, turning her into a killing machine against her will. She gets better. But then again...
  • In Soul Eater, the characters infected with Black Blood have their strength increased tremendously when they use it, but also run the risk of losing themselves completely to insanity. Oops.
    • The struggle between power and insanity is best depicted with Soul. After he's infected with Black Blood after being struck by Ragnarok, his inner psyche gets a new persona in the form of the Little Red Demon. The Demon represents the Black Blood, and he's either trying to tempt Soul to use its power (which he sometimes does, but for Maka's sake he always vows to do it on his terms, fighting the madness) or just trying to shove Soul's personality aside and take over.
    • Also the result of misusing the Nakatsukasa Purpose, which also drives you mad whilst killing you slowly (it damages your soul).
    • This is also the reason why witches are so dangerous in the series. Up till a certain age, they're normal. But then the "Sway of Magic" affects them and causes them to be evil and destructive. However, there are a few exceptions where this doesn't happen due to the witch having their mind on something else other than their magic. In addition, those who possess magic which has little in the way of destructive capabilities are much more resistant, if not outright immune to the Sway: Kim Dheal, for example, has healing powers and is more or less immune.
      • Black☆Star and Death The Kid use it to their advantage.
    • Several characters use insanity to their advantage, but most do so from outside sources where they are at risk of permanently losing their minds. Even the Nakatsukasas trace their power back to Arachne's experiments. Kid's is a unique case so far because he is an Anthropomorphic Personification of a kind of insanity, albeit a deliberately weakened and incomplete one (a 'fragment of Shinigami').
  • In Tenjho Tenge, characters who possess supernatural powers are remarked as always being in danger of becoming insane. A classic example of this is Natsume Shin, Maya and Aya's elder brother who was overwhelmed by his powers and started killing random people. This leads to powers being referred to as "Dragons" that will devour their wielder's sanity. Because of this, there is a tremendous social stigma attached to the possession of supernatural abilities, which naturally only serves to aggravate the problem even more.
  • Tokyo Ghoul has the Kakuja form, a rare mutation that results from cannibalism. Considered either an urban legend or a forbidden power, it has a tendency to erode the sanity of the user. Kaneki was already walking a thin line when his incomplete form developed, with him suffering complete mental breakdowns every time he uses it. The other primary Kakuja user of the series, the One-Eyed Owl, is shown to mentally regress into a giggling lunatic while using its power in sharp contrast to its normally keen mind.
    • Urie from the :re sequel undergoes a surgery to remove part of the frame over his kagune in order for it to access a higher power level. When he uses his kagune after this, he becomes out of control and mad with power. He rants about his hatred of others as he viciously attacks and has a mental breakdown.
  • The witches of Witch Hunter are a bag of mixed nuts. The magic powers they wield have different affects 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.
  • Sensui from Yu Yu Hakusho would probably count, as he seems to have been at least slightly cracked before he officially went insane on the mission to the Black Black Club. (As a child, he says that he is the "warrior for justice". Wondering why demons only attacked you as opposed to other people, and knowing about the extent of your own power to destroy other living things leads to this trope.)
  • Due to metatron poisoning, Radium of the Zone of the Enders OVA, Idolo, goes completely off the deep end after spending just a moment too long in the cockpit of the Idolo. This does not end well for anyone. The same can be said for Ridley Nohman with his Anubis, from a rather immoral rebel leader (in Dolores, I) into destruction-obsessed guy (ZOE: The 2nd Runner).

    Comic Books 


  • Batman:
    • An interesting case concerning pre-Flashpoint Azrael. When Jean-Paul Valley was born, he was implanted with a brainwashing trance of sorts known as The System, which would grant him amazing strength and agility when he donned the gear of Azrael, though it made him Brainwashed and Crazy, pushing him to want to kill the guilty. When he first abandoned that role, he functioned pretty well... until the Scarecrow doused him with Fear Gas when JP took up the Mantle of the Bat in Bruce Wayne's place. The entirety of the subsequent Knightquest storyline has Jean-Paul constantly fighting The System until he lets Abattoir die. When he does, he finally submits to The System and becomes a fearful mixture of Batman and Azrael and forces Bruce to take back the Mantle.
    • Happens to Batman when he gets Superman's power during a battle with the Silver Banshee in a Superman/Batman story. Batman uses his new powers to bring complete fear and order to Gotham's criminal underworld, and eventually sets his sights on the world, but he becomes increasingly aggressive. With the aid of the Justice League, Superman is able to bring himself and The Dark Knight back to normal. Admittedly this was a Be Careful What You Wish For Artifact of Doom.
  • Interesting case with Black Adam. His powers don't drive him crazy (he went crazy on his own, and sometimes comes back from that insanity...partially), but he can share them, and anyone who would take them on immediately turns evil. Anyone, including the goddess of love.
  • Doom Patrol: Mento wasn't the most stable/mentally healthy guy to begin with. Then he starts tinkering with a helmet that cranks his Psychic Powers Up to Eleven and takes up superheroing. But his wife and her team die, and it REALLY sent him downhill until he's doing stints as a supervillain and trying to kill his own adopted son! When that heroing team was led by a fellow retconned into a Mad Scientist and Magnificent Bastard, it was damn near inevitable.
  • Firestorm: The curse of the werehyena causes anyone suffering it to gradually go insane. It is theorised that the madness suffered by the werehyenas is one's bestial side taking over, coupled with an exaggeration of negative emotions.
  • The Flash: Hunter Zolomon spent his life in a Trauma Conga Line, but he remained a good cop until Gorilla Grodd crippled him and the Flash, whom Hunter considered a friend, refused to use time travel to undo the damage. Hunter attempted to use the Flash's cosmic treadmill himself, but it blew up in his face. The resulting super powers had the side effect of scrambling his thought processes, until he decided that the best way to help his friend the Flash was to make him a better hero through tragedy as Zoom. Hunter still thinks he's helping the Flash, although he gets occasional flashes of My God, What Have I Done? when Wally foils his plans.
  • Retconned for Doctor Magnus, the leader of the Metal Men. He needs a careful application of medicine in order to stay stable and good. He's kidnapped along with genuine mad scientists and they cancel his meds, intending for him to regress to his previous level of insane creativity, in which he created a horrific weapon of mass destruction, the Plutonium Man. Though he does recreate the Plutonium Man, he destabilizes very quickly, and with the help of several sentient mini-Metal Men he'd managed to cook up in his lab, invents a gun with living ammo and goes on a rampage (against evil men only), screaming about how he really needed his meds.
  • The Psycho-Pirate, a villain with the emotion-changing Medusa Mask, actually had three of them, one for a single emotion, before deciding to combine all three to control all emotions. Unfortunately, continued use ended up driving him insane — he's first seen in Crisis on Infinite Earths locked away in an insane asylum.
  • Superman:
    • Arguably completely inverted in All-Star Superman: Lex Luthor temporarily gains Superman's powers, and while he predictably rampages, he finds himself stopping to examine the amazing perspective his newfound powers and super-senses give him. He eventually concludes that having the level of power and insight that Superman does would make people care for their fellow human beings, and mellows out considerably after losing the powers.
    • One Kryptonite Man is a scientist who thinks Kryptonite (there is now a lot of it on Earth) can be used as a safe energy source. When he himself becomes that energy source, he decides to show the world how effective it can be by... a murderous rampage. That never ends well. Later, in the same storyline, another scientist goes cuckoo bananas when he gains control over an oversized amoeba. Or so it seems. Superman subdues the guy, who says he didn't want to do it, but Intergang, a powerful criminal organization, made him.
    • Livewire, experiencing some Adaptational Heroism after immigrating to the comics, has her status as a Psycho Electro justified by the observation that, as an Energy Being, taking on more energy affects her equivalent of brain chemistry. In her case more power is literally more insanity. Putting her in Superman's suit from his blue period to regulate her form snaps her to sanity immediately and she soon becomes a hero.
  • Matthew Cable from Swamp Thing. His Psychic Powers and his spiraling alcoholic insanity both stem from the same illicit electroshock treatments.
  • Wonder Woman: This is an issue for gods, and the Greek pantheon actually split themselves in two in antiquity to create the Roman pantheon because the influx of worshipers was too much for them. In modern times they don't worry about it as much since they have far fewer worshipers and they've actually rejoined with their Roman counterparts. Some of the gods have trouble with it anyway, like Ares, Aphrodite and Dionysus because their power doesn't just come from worshipers and their attributes influence their mindset and actions.
  • In the New 52 arc Darkseid War, members of the Justice League end up becoming the New Gods after the death of Darkseid and others caused a power vacuum. Batman becomes the New God of Knowledge, taking Metron's chair for his own, and intends to his all-powerful knowledge to bring order to Gotham, even if preventatively. Superman becomes the New God Of Strength when Luthor throws him into a Fire Pit in a deeper attempt to recharge Superman's solar cells. It Goes Horribly Right since while it does make him much more powerful, Superman's temper is temporarily out of control (because, well, it is fire from Apokolips). The Flash becomes the new Black Racer after he kills the old one (namely, he was trying to convince Barry to take his place and required him to offer one life. When Barry initially refuses, the Black Racer threatens to give it to Reverse Flash or Grodd, thus Barry uses Exact Words and kills the Black Racer... before offering himself as said life.) Subverted with Hal Jordan. He becomes the New God Of Light at behest of the Mother Lantern (the Mother Box fusing with the Green Lantern core, but lacking a vessel for will to use). Hal brings back everyone killed during Apokalips' invasion of Oa, but he gives up godhood when he realizes it would mean giving up will.
  • Dr Manhattan in Watchmen is a subtler and relatively benign variation of the trope; it's implied that he was more at home dealing with elementary particles than other people even before the Freak Lab Accident turned him into an immortal Physical God who can see the future but not change any of it, even his own actions. However, instead of suffering a spectacular Heroic BSoD and subsequent Face–Heel Turn, he's one of the least emotionally damaged people in the entire cast, whilst still being almost entirely disconnected from normal human thought patterns.

Marvel Universe

  • The evil and non-evil versions of insanity pop up in a lot of the Marvel Universe's more powerful human characters, apparently as a way of Holding Back the Phlebotinum. Scarlet Witch, Phoenix, The Sentry, or anyone else like that being able to use their maximum power levels while fully themselves would remove all drama. Scarlet Witch is currently the most powerful and resultantly has it the worst. We haven't seen her mind in stable condition for quite some time now that her power's gone from "I point and my opponent slips on a banana peel" to "whatever I decide simply is." She'll never get to have that kind of power and the ability to think "Wouldn't it be nice if the Skrulls (okay, except Xavin, Lyja, and Cadre K, and the Super Skrull if he keeps playing nice) turned into rice pudding?" at the same time.
  • When the Canadian government was looking for people to join Alpha Flight, they initially had trouble finding recruits. The people in charge of the program decided to try creating their own superbeings, and they got the bright idea to experiment on a Serial Killer who got a pardon in exchange for agreeing to participate. The result was a crazed monster with deadly psychic abilities calling itself Bedlam. Wolverine had initially signed on to join Alpha Flight, but this debacle was what caused him to leave the group in disgust. Fortunately, Guardian left an emergency protocol that would automatically call Wolverine should Bedlam be freed, which proved necessary when a government official unfamiliar with the backstory ended up setting him free.
    • Madison Jeffries, a Technopath, and his brother Lionel, a doctor with Healing Hands, fought in a war together, where Madison could forget about his mutant powers, while Lionel used his to heal wounded soldiers. Then one day, some soldiers were brought back in pieces. Lionel attempted to put them back together, and when he couldn't bring them Back from the Dead, he went insane and started using his powers to mutilate everybody within arm's reach, becoming Scramble the Mixed-Up Man. Madison had to use his powers to create a containment suit for his brother, and had him locked away, completely isolated from human contact. Scramble was eventually able to seemingly fix himself by using his powers on his own brain, but it was a temporary fix at best, and his lack of ethics helped to push him around the bend again, forcing Madison (now using the Box robot) to put him down for good.
  • All attempts to replicate the Super Serum that gave Captain America his powers have either made people go crazy or been used on someone who was already crazy. In fact, in the Ultimate universe, this seems to be the origin for all of Ultimate Spider-Man's Rogues Gallery. One of the rare good endings for someone getting the Super-Soldier serum is Isaiah Bradley, grandfather of Patriot from the Young Avengers. Instead of going crazy with power, he simply lost a lot of his intelligence, sort of a super-Alzheimer's. Yes, that's what passes for a good ending when trying to reproduce the Super-Soldier serum. One wonders why they keep trying.
  • Deadpool was probably messed up before developing terminal cancer, but the Weapon X program (which initially failed to give him a Healing Factor) gives him a hard shove in that direction. Then Dr. Killebrew experiments on and tortures him to the point of having visions of (and falling in love with) Death. What finally demolishes his sanity is when Killebrew orders him killed, his healing factor finally kicks in, saving his life, making his disfigurement permanent, and causing Death to reject him. Depending on the writer, he's a mix of Ax-Crazy, Deadpan Snarker, gleeful Genre Savvy, and Medium Awareness. Another issue is that the Healing Factor is connected to his cancer — he's basically an immortal living cancer. The constant state of flux and strain this places on him (including his brain) is why he's so unstable.
  • Incredible Hulk. The gamma bomb gave Bruce Banner huge power and exacerbated his multiple personality syndrome. Plus, the madder he gets, the stronger he becomes.
    • Interestingly, for both The Mask and Marvel's gamma ray mutants, what happens to the subject's mind depends on what part of their personality they had dissociated themselves from. Most people who get the Mask unlock their evil side, but the fellow in The Movie didn't have an evil side, only a chaotic side, so he essentially became a Looney Tunes character. Marvel goes into more detail — Banner suppressed the rage that came from being abused as a child, She-Hulk suppressed her sexuality, Doc Samson suppressed his desire to be a hero, and the Abomination suppressed his self-hatred.
  • Handled interestingly with Sentry. His powers are like some ridiculous combination of Superman and Franklin Richards, making him technically unstoppable and all-powerful. He's also a paranoid schizophrenic who managed to convince himself that there was an evil galactic power called The Void that would destroy the earth if he stayed a superhero... and then actually created it out of thin air, making a problem for The Avengers to handle while Emma Frost gave him some emergency psychotherapy. During this time, he also managed to Retcon himself out of his own universe, so that his Golden Age exploits all became some comic writer's fantasy. In something of a subversion, Sentry's not a villain: in current canon, he works to use his powers for a great deal of good. Unfortunately, his psychosis still isn't fully under control, and it's a disability that is sometimes just impossible to work around.
    • Later developments suggest that the Sentry is an inversion of this trope. Robert Reynolds was already a mentally unstable drug addict before taking the serum that gave him his powers, so it's more like someone with great insanity given great power. Furthermore, Reynolds didn't become the Sentry and create the Void, it was the other way around...
      • An alternate interpretation is that Reynolds splits into the Sentry and the Void, neither of which are more physically or psychologically real than the other.
      • As of Uncanny Avengers, he returned as the Horseman of Death (the Void apparently got bored and wandered off), even crazier than ever.
  • Spider-Man:
  • Apparently, Chris Claremont likes this one, or used to. In X-Men, The Phoenix being a cosmic entity was a Retcon to satisfy the then-editor-in-chief's requirement for bringing Jean Grey back: she had to be innocent of her crimes as Phoenix. (The destroyer of five billion lives couldn't very well be welcomed back to the team with open arms. In fact, her original Heroic Sacrifice was mandated for that very reason.) The original story portrayed Jean's cosmic powers as the ultimate expression of her abilities, and the change from hero to Anti-Hero to cosmic-scale threat as simply the result of having the sort of powers she now possessed. Storm also began a similar change upon maxing out her powers, but thankfully was able to return to her previous self (her power level returning to normal with it) within that issue and before she did anything particularly heinous.
    • The 'return' of Jean Grey in the X-Factor retread of the original X-Men was so badly done that it left permanent damage to the storylines of the Marvel Universe. The obvious moral cop-out of 'it wasn't really her' not only undid the basic point of one of the landmark storylines of the MU, but was done in a half-assed way, because they tried to claim that Jean deserved the credit for the self-sacrifice of the Phoenix entity, but not the blame for its crimes, even though both supposedly derive from the human element from Jean. Sorry, folks, you can't have that both ways.
    • To make it even worse, Claremont clearly hated the idea that the Phoenix entity was not Jean, he kept trying to sneakily re-retcon it back, and the story got into the hands of other writers and mutated further, eventually becoming a total, unworkable, self-contradictory Continuity Snarl. Nowadays, it's mostly ignored.
    • Oddly enough, though, Jean's time traveling daughter Rachel, who already had ample reason to have gone insane (but didn't) before acquiring the Phoenix power, managed to wield it for years without going crazy. And then lost the power (despite the Phoenix itself insisting that it had permanently merged with her).
    • Long story short, Jean's power level, mental state, and the effect these have on each other all depends on where Jean ends and the Phoenix begins. Too bad no two mentions of the Phoenix in a row give the same answer on that score. However, the cosmic critter isn't malevolent. Mastermind screwing with her head was what turned Phoenix into Dark Phoenix, and to suggest it might happen again much later in Phoenix: Endsong took a botched resurrection to again put the Phoenix out of whack. Poor Jean will Never Live It Down, despite this.
      • Speaking of Mastermind and his plan to gain power through unleashing the Dark Phoenix, as Jean lost her mind and became the Dark Phoenix for Mastermind's evil means, she turned on him and ironically, gave Mastermind more power than he could ever comprehend, sending him into a coma (and insanity when he came to).
      • Oddly enough, Jean and her relatives actually tend to handle vast/cosmic scale power pretty well, Phoenix saga aside. Jean spent most of the 90's and early 2000's being incredibly powerful under her own steam, and her teenage counterpart has largely kept her powers in hand too. Meanwhile, her children, Rachel, Nate, and Cable, are all vastly powerful (intermittently, in Cable's case, and sometimes Nate's) and entirely sane. Usually. Cable seemed to undergo this when his Techno-Organic virus went into remission and he created the floating island of Providence, jacking him up to the point where he could fight the Silver Surfer on even footing, hold Providence in the air, and repair the landscape around them as they fought. As it turned out, however, it was a Genghis Gambit to get the world to unite against him. Nate, meanwhile, lived in mortal terror of a combination of this and lethal cosmic scale Power Incontinence, but largely held it together pretty well - which, for a Living Weapon who had no functional childhood, grew up in the hell that was the Age of Apocalypse, had to live with the knowledge that he was slowly dying, and had just about everyone trying to manipulate or destroy him once he got to 616, is really quite impressive. As for Rachel, of the lot of them, she's by far the sanest.
      • Then in Uncanny X-Men (2018), Nate appeared to a) regain his powers and then some, b) lose his marbles and declare his status as a god/messiah. Considering his status as a Messianic Archetype and raw power, it's a bit hard to argue with. However, it's revealed at the end of the arc that he got his powers back, but at the price that he's dying, again, and he's desperate to do something good with his powers while he can.
      • He then created the Age of X-Man, a plane of existence meant to be directly opposed to the dystopia he grew up in, an attempt at utopia (specifically, he wanted to help the X-Men by breaking them out of their constant cycle of conflict and grief). Unfortunately, through a combination of his Control Freak tendencies, attempts to disassociate himself from humanity, and screwed up background, it instead drifted far too close to a creepily cheerful Nineteen Eighty-Four clone. At the end of the arc, he conceded his mistakes and realised that he was Not So Above It All (though the comic noted that Both Sides Have a Point) and let the X-Men go, before rewriting the reality with the assistance of AOX!Magneto to improve it and remove the Orwellian aspects.
      • While Stryfe and Maddie Pryor are worth noting, both were clones - Stryfe remains in denial about this, while Maddie did not take it well - and Stryfe was raised by Apocalypse, while Maddie was created by Sinister as his weapon with cobbled together memories from Jean Grey. Their insanity was not exactly of their making.
      • This trope as related to the Summers family is further deconstructed in the character of Tyler Dayspring, son of either Cable or Stryfe (raised by Cable, but it's heavily implied that Stryfe is his true father). Like Stryfe and Maddie above, Tyler lost his sanity through means not of his own making (he was brainwashed in the future by one of Stryfe's minions) — but unlike them, he has very weak mutant powers, to the point of needing to augment himself with Apocalypse's technology just to stand a chance against the heroes. In a way, Tyler got the rawest deal out of the entire Summers line — all the insanity of this trope without any of the power.
    • Claremont also established that classic X-Men adversary Magneto's magnetic powers damage his sanity over time. This explains rather a lot; wouldn't being able to control one of the four fundamental forces of the universe screw you up, too? This is also why he's generally a lot weaker at times when he's a good guy: he's got to hold back in order to avoid having another case of megalomania.
      • Some writers have tried to pull the same thing with Havok (Cyclops' brother), who controls (or at least, has a degree of access to) the Power Cosmic, another fundamental force of the Marvel universe. This is made apparent with the introduction of the long-anticipated third Summers brother Vulcan, who has near-Phoenix level command of the Power Cosmic (and would be near-Phoenix level dangerous if he had more than two brain cells to rub together) but at the cost of being completely off his rocker.
    • Magneto comes close to saying this trope by name in issue two of the nineties X-Men series. When Moira MacTaggert explains how his powers played havoc with his mind, he states: "What, with great power comes mental instability?"
      • Magneto's daughters, Polaris and the Scarlet Witch, suffer from similar sanity-damaging "cursed" powers. Insanity might be In the Blood where this family's concerned.
      • It's implied that the Scarlet Witch's crazy came from the Mind Screw the Avengers did so she'd forget her maybe/sort-of/magic children rather than from her powers themselves. Similarly, Polaris is only crazy when outside influence is involved... it just happens to her more often than it does to anyone else.
    • While not part of Magneto's family per se, a special mention should be made for his Dragon and intended successor from the 90s, Exodus. He has psychic Combo Platter Powers ramped up to Superpower Lottery levels, but unlike most mutants, who manifest by puberty, his powers didn't manifest until adulthood, and then not until being forcibly awakened by Apocalypse. The result is a character who projects constant wide-band Psychic Static where he goes, was implied to always be speaking telepathically and physically simultaneously, and at one point was even implied to suffer from a psychic variant of schizophrenia because his telepathy was so strong. He's developed greater control of it over the years, but even as recently as 2012 it was stated that he had never actually pushed the upper limits of his powers.
      • In the Age of Apocalypse this trope is inverted, as the Exodus there is shown as wearing Power Limiter devices and not being aware of a good chunk of what he can do until a Godzilla Threshold forces Magneto to reveal some of it to him. When questioned by Bishop, Mags stated outright he limits Exodus's knowledge of his powers to keep him from being corrupted by them.
    • This was lampshaded in the Assault on Weapon Plus story arc, where the Weapon Plus files stated that super soldier experiments on criminals and psychopaths yielded less than reliable results, prompting them to find a different method of creating anti-mutant super soldiers.
    • Another X-related example has to do with Omega Red, the USSR's attempt to engineer its own Captain America-like super soldier. The brain trust in charge of the program chose a Serial Killer who'd been shot by his fellow soldiers for murdering children in his hometown. While initially a loyal operative, he eventually became too Ax-Crazy even for the KGB and was put in suspended animation, at least until the Hand freed him. He now functions as a Psycho for Hire and one of the X-Men's deadliest foes.
  • In newuniversal, which is also by Warren Ellis, John Tensen gains telepathic powers that let him "see" a person's misdeeds or ignoble intentions. The first time he used these abilities, he discovered that his own nurse was planning to poison him. Tensen, not surprisingly, became Ax-Crazy and is now the "worst serial killer in New York City history," to quote a minor character. It doesn't help, though, that Tensen had been shot in the head before he got his powers, and as a result starts to think he's in Hell.
  • Nova: The Nova Force is dangerous in large amounts. At one point Garthan Saal takes on the entirety of the Nova Force, and goes completely bug-nuts. It's because of this that several years later, during Annihilation Richard Rider is extremely reluctant to do the same. The Xandarian Worldmind has to assure Rich it'll be helping to prevent that happening, and aside from a brief, trauma-induced rampage, Rich remains mercifully un-insane. But as it transpires, the strain drives the Worldmind mad. When asked, a saner part of it just shrugs and figures Rich is too human to go nuts.


  • Apparently, getting hopped up on Chaos Emerald Energy in Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog series makes you do crazy things. Examples:
    • Knuckles' ancestor Dimitri ends up becoming the insane Enerjak after absorbing 11 Chaos Emeralds worth of power, one of the most powerful and evil villains in the series. A later retcon revealed that Enerjak was an echidna who grew mad with power after ascending to a higher plane of existence and, unable to destroy him, scattered his essence throughout the Chaos Force, allowing him to inhabit future echidnas who used Chaos powers.
    • Knux's dad Locke, obsessed with the prophecies surrounding his son, genetically engineered himself and infused Knux' egg with energy from the Master Emerald in an attempt to fulfill those prophecies. They're more or less estranged, now, because of this.
    • Knux himself isn't safe from this, having appropriated Dimitri's mantle of Enerjak to avenge his race's decimation at Eggman's hand, only to quickly degenerate into "technology = evil" and attempt to wipe out all cybernetics from the planet, including those of the Dark Legion and his own girlfriend Julie-Su. This was caused by Dr. Finitivus, a scientist who tried to drain Knuckles' Chaos power earlier, only to have it backfire and transform him. He then decided to go and screw over the entire echidna race by deciding everyone needs to die in a fire.
      • In the (non-canon) "25 Years Later" storyline, Knux ends up becoming "Chaos Knuckles" (a form he took up in the normal canon without much ill effect), and ends up trying to change the world, as well. The result was the almost complete destruction of his friendship with Sonic and the loss of his right eye.
      • In the future of an alternate universe, Knuckles not only tried to change the world, but he succeeded in conquering it after harnessing the power of all the emeralds. He ripped the souls out of nearly all the main characters (Eggman, Sonic, Shadow, Tails, his own mate, etc.), sunk a continent, and then decided to try and amuse himself by conquering other dimensions. He uses the souls of his victims to create his Prelate Army. Oh, and he took on the name Enerjak in this timeline because "Enerjak the Hero" sounded cool.
    • Some versions of Sonic's Super form are like this, becoming a Superpowered Evil Side. The best example of this is the British comic by Fleetway, in which Sonic and Super Sonic are separate personalities, and Super comes out to play when Sonic gets too stressed out or is exposed to Chaos energy.
      • Then there's the third season of Sonic X. Seeing Chris and Cosmo held hostage and trapped in a glass cage gives a view of how upset Sonic gets when his friends are harmed. Combined with the 500-odd fake Chaos Emeralds nearby, Sonic turns Dark Super, shredding two test robots (based on speed and power respectively) in the blink of an eye, complete with the slightly unhinged giggle and a "Alright, Let's try 'em out!". It took a minute and Eggman's logical prose to snap Sonic out of it, surprising somewhat as they've been at each other for years, and Sonic could quite easily rip Eggman to gibs.
      • In Archie canon, Super Scourge (Scourge being an evil version of Sonic who is already hyped on Master Emerald energy, so this makes him even worse than a standard super form), upon seeing that his own world (which he conquered) nor Sonic's own will accept him as King, says he's going to spindash both worlds in half just because he can, and will do this to one world after another until one gives him "the respect he deserves."
    • Sonic from the games actually becomes kind of crazy when he turns into Super/Hyper Sonic, at least in the old-school games on the Genesis. Suddenly goes from fast and cocky but vulnerable to fast and cocky and invulnerable, tearing through anything in his path. And way, way harder to control.
    • Back to the Archie comics: On Mobius Prime, when Amy Rose used the Ring of Acorns on herself, she became her older Sonic Adventure self. On the Mirror Universe world of Moebius, when Anti-Amy did it, she went certifiably insane.
  • Inverted (or not) in The Authority, where the Doctor gives up his powers to a previous Doctor, who was relieved of his duties for being a psychotic maniac. As soon as the full extent of his powers kicked in, he was overwhelmed by the empathy for every living thing in existence. Super-empathy being part of the Doctor's role as the world's shaman, makes you wonder why this guy was psychotic in the first place.
    • Every Doctor gets a new power, added to the ones the previous Doctor who had the job had all the way back to the first one. After he went psycho, the next guy got super empathy, which he used A LOT of heroin to deal with.
  • Warren Ellis' Global Frequency not only invokes this, but explains it in terms of the surgical alterations required to keep the superstrong bionic arm or whatever from physically tearing the body apart. "They gave him a mirror."
  • In Gold Digger, dragon hybrids between the tribes (Platinum, Gold, Copper, and Iron) are extremely rare and extremely powerful. Every single one has gone insane, however, with the sole exception being one of the comic's supporting cast, D'bra. And then, most dragons believe her temper is a sign that it's only a matter of time.
  • In Hellboy, losing control of one's powers and/or humanity was a major theme of the series, especially for Liz Sherman and Hellboy himself. That is to say: Liz burned her family to death by accident as a kid, and Hellboy doesn't and can't and won't use his flashier superpowers, since they mostly involve ending the world, but occasionally they get stolen, one way or another. His crown, his Name, his right hand, ALL THE BLOOD IN HIS BODY...
  • A rather mundane case of this appears in Incorruptible. Max Damage becomes stronger and more invulnerable the longer he stays awake. If he stays awake for say, a week, his powers reach Physical God levels. However, he is still vulnerable to the effects of sleep deprivation. The result is someone who is mentally exhausted and strong enough to topple buildings — an unnerving combination. Dealing with the numbness his invulnerability brings with it for years has also taken its toll on Max's sanity. Given that the premise of the story is Max's attempt at a Heel–Face Turn to save the world from an evil Superman Expy, this causes even more problems. He needs to be strong enough to fight the Plutonian yet not let his insanity push him back toward a life of evil.
  • The Mask is this trope. Summary of every Mask story: Person finds the mask, puts it on, discovers they're a Nigh Invulnerable Voluntary Shapeshifting Reality Warper, starts using their powers in pursuit of some logical goal, loses sight of their goal and engages in wanton violence For the Evulz, is either tricked into removing the mask or removes it after a What Have I Become? moment.
  • In Powers, a naturally occurring variant occurs in "The Sellouts" storyline, in which a never-aging Captain Ersatz of Superman gradually loses his connection with humanity and goes insane, declaring himself to be a God. It's discussed that this may partly be a result of his ever-increasing level of superpowers, which go way beyond anything seen before (to the extent that the government has lied about exactly how powerful he is in order to prevent hysteria about him), and partly because, despite the fact that he doesn't look very old, he's at least over a hundred years old and has gone senile.
  • W.I.T.C.H. has the Heart of Kandrakar, an artifact of immense power that may drive its Keeper mad just by being that powerful. While the protagonist, Will, is a sane and well-adjusted person and her extreme jealousy has a good Freudian Excuse, the Big Bad of the second story arc was the previous Keeper and has been driven mad, and Will has the occasional moment of slight (and useful) madness.
  • In Zenith, the alternate Earth Maximan, who had been superpowered since the 40s, ended up going completely insane and killing everyone on his version of Earth. That said, most of the '60s superheroes became somewhat less than rational by the time of the early '90s.
  • In the original WildStorm continuity, Grifter spent several years suffering from mental illness after being exposed to Gen Factor before Zealot helped him regain his sanity.

    Fan Works 
  • Child of the Storm has Gravemoss, who gets hold of the Darkhold and is completely nuts. However, it is quite clear that he was pretty mad to begin with, so it doesn't make all that much difference to his sanity. To his capabilities, however...
    • The power of the Phoenix is insanely volatile by nature, which is why She needs to act through Hosts in the first place - their conscience and rationality acts as a Restraining Bolt. However, her power tends to have a corrosive effect on the sanity of those who aren't totally emotionally balanced and in control; the power of the Phoenix magnifies emotions and is magnified by strong emotion in turn. In other words, you've got a vicious circle where the start is an insane Reality Warper who can make the Laws of Nature sit down and shut up, one who gets even more powerful the madder they get, and the end is a nigh-omnipotent Humanoid Abomination that wants to burn everything. For context, the last time a Host went mad and became the Dark Phoenix (Surtur), they wiped out a galaxy. Needless to say, there's a good reason why a) the Phoenix is so incredibly picky with Her hosts, b) doesn't usually stick around, c) is universally regarded by gods and demons alike as The Dreaded.
    • However, as noted above, the insanity part isn't an inevitable result, with it being pointed out that a sufficiently sane host - not one who suppresses their emotions, someone who accepts them, but isn't controlled by them - is perfectly capable of controlling the power of the Phoenix. But if they slip...
  • In the Oneiroi Series (for The Order of the Stick), this fits Deirdre to a T. (Though to be fair, she had a few screws loose before she got the Great Power...)
    Deirdre: You want me. And you hate it. I suppose it's only natural. I look a lot like Vaarsuvius, don't I?
    Redcloak (her father): Tia, you've gone insane! Please lie down for a second. Take a deep breath. Calm down...
    Deirdre: Of course I've gone insane! I'm infused with the magic from a being of pure chaos! But just because I'm insane doesn't mean I'm wrong...
  • Inner Demons: When Trixie invokes the Storm Avatar spell during the Battle of Fillydelphia, it drives her completely around the bend, at least until the protagonists beat her unconscious and break the spell. According to Lezard, this happens to anyone who uses the spell.
  • Fallout: Equestria: The Goddess, as if the self-given name wasn't a dead giveaway. She is an immensely powerful gestalt psyche that commands the alicorns of the Unity. Unfortunately, being a disharmonious merging of some of the early-war era's most powerful unicorns (including Twilight Sparkle and Trixie, the latter being the first victim and the most dominant persona) means that she's not at all mentally healthy.

    In Project Horizons, we find that the Goddess likes to take every bad memory, every indication of a shortcoming or flaw, and shunt them into the head of Lacunae, an exiled alicorn whose position at Hoofington means she's not fully connected to the Unity and can be tuned out. Which means that the Goddess won't grow and improve in any way, although Lacunae is becoming a better pony from it.
  • Animorphs Redux: Used for David, the former sixth Animorph, who receives enhanced morphing powers from Crayak that allow him to literally absorb other beings when acquiring them (including Cassie), but at the cost of all the new memories he's absorbing in the process driving him insane.
  • The Changeling of the Guard: Turns out there's a very good reason that most Changelings don't try to shapeshift into Alicorns... this trope and total burnout are the results, as Idol learns the hard way.
  • Red Lightning: Insanity is almost a requirement to have a superpower.
  • The Infinite Loops is about a bunch of fictional characters reliving their stories over and over again. They gain incredible powers and also incredible neuroseses. In fact, this trope is referenced by name.
  • Princess Twilight Sparkle, the Fourth Alicorn, in Pink Alert 3. Ten years of authority have transformed her into a paranoid and aggressive nervous wreck who is little more than a Mad God to Equestria's citizens. She owns a private evil corporation, constantly accuses those around her of being Communists, is so magically unbalanced that she can psychically explode ponies' heads by sneezing too hard, and has a heated argument with an unconscious clone of herself floating in a biogel vat. And all that's just her introductory bonus chapter.
  • The Equestrian Wind Mage:
    • It's explained that the reason Vaati become an outright villain (rather than selfish and neutral) is because the surge of power from when he was first released from the Four Sword went to his head. He's worked hard at getting back to normal.
    • When Grey Hoof allies with Ganondorf, the latter grants him a power up in the form of changing him into an alicorn called Nightmare Grave, which renders him even more unstable than he already was.
  • In Sonic X: Dark Chaos, Eric the Hedgehog is a non-evil example of this; he was created by Maledict along with Sonic and Shadow to create an "Ultimate Weapon". Unfortunately, an unexplained accident turned him into a Humanoid Abomination at the cost of damaging his brain, turning him into a Cloud Cuckoolander Manchild who isn't aware of his own powers.
    • Poor, poor Tsali. Being forcibly turned into a Dark Chaos Energy-powered battle robot really didn't do good for his sanity.
    • Shroud Tails, full stop. Although considering what happens, insanity would probably be a step up.
  • The Pony POV Series:
    • Ponies who's hearts call the Spirits of Dark Magic and become Nightmares gain near god-like power, but there's also no such thing as a sane Nightmare.
    • Dark Magic in general tends to cause it's user to lose it. The reason for this is that it runs on negative emotions that by nature are hard to control. However, should somepony be able to control those emotions, dark magic is no more difficult to control than any other. Sweetie Belle managed this.
    • Alicorns are an aversion: you only become an Alicorn if you're ready for the power, as being ready is why you become one not being ready means you stop half way and become a Nightmare.
  • Kaguya Otsutsuki in the Naruto/Magic: The Gathering story Spark of Creation is shown to have been driven insane from eating the fruit of the Shinju as she spent the rest of her life with her mind connected to that of a Blind Eternity.
  • Aftermath: A Story of Blended Cliches has Ranma temporarily slipping into this with a combination of Pluto's meddling and her coming into Reality Warper-level powers. Fortunately for her, a cat manages to get her attention. Unfortunately, not all versions of here were so fortunate to have caring friends and family, as another version of her from a parallel dimension was a bit more permanent version of this trope.
  • Yet Again shows that it doesn't even have to be physical power. Hiruzen Sarutobi, the Third Hokage, straight up admits to Naruto that being Hokage for so long drove him insane — he just managed to channel it into productive and/or harmless/comical ways, as shown with his near-violent hatred of paperwork.
  • RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse: During Elements of Insanity, Lemonhearts tries becoming the new God of Chaos. She manages to become a full blown Reality Warper, then gets a visit from Discord warning her that if she wants all that power, she'll have to deal with the insanity that comes with it.
  • White Sheep (RWBY): Jaune at one point mentions that all powerful huntsmen are insane, mostly in small ways but still definitely noticeable. At first his friends have no idea what he's talking about, but as he lists off all the huntsmen he knows, they realize they can't think of a single counter-example.

    Films — Animation 
  • Titan in Megamind mixes this with great immaturity. Hal is a feckless, mildly stalker-ish manchild with a creepy crush on Roxanne. Normally, he's completely harmless. But once he gets powers, that instability creates a complete psycho.
  • The villains of the My Little Pony: Equestria Girls series of movies tend to go psycho when toying with power that they don't understand. They also tend to get much more hammy.
    • Sunset Shimmer in the first move. After putting on the Element of Magic, she undergoes a Painful Transformation into a demon, and promptly jumps off the slippery slope, with her goal changing from "get Princess Celestia to acknowledge me" to "conquer Equestria with my brainwashed army". Notably, when she's taken down and reverts to human form, she's crying in horror about the things she did.
    • In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Friendship Games, Human Twilight is pressured by Principal Cinch and the others into unleashing the magic from her amulet to help Crystal Prep win the games, which contained all the captured magic from the Humane 6 over the course of the movie. The intense exposure causes her to snap and transform into a evil magical winged demon form called Midnight Sparkle, Drunk with Power and dead set on opening dangerous portals to Equestria in order to understand magic, at the expense of destroying their world. It takes the combined efforts of Spike and Sunset Shimmer to snap her out of it.
    • In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Legend of Everfree, Gaea Everfree is the result of someone going through this. It turns out to be Gloriosa Daisy, who had been using some of the magical ability in small crystals to control plant life. When Gloriosa goes from using some of the magic to all of it, she transforms into a monstrous version of herself, surrounding the entire camp with thorns to prevent the camp from being taken over by Filthy Rich.
    • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Magical Movie Night has Juniper Montage who in the third episode finds a magic mirror that shows her what she desires (to be an adored movie star). After using the mirror to grant her wishes and sucking the main cast inside, the mirror powers up and turns her into a giant version of her movie star self, as well as giving her delusions that the people running and fleeing in terror are all actually just admiring fans. The quick down-slide in her sanity from the second episode (where she just sabotaged a movie) is blamed on the mirror and she is Easily Forgiven, with references to Twilight and Sunset's instances of the trope from above being used as justification.
  • As the page quote shows, Russ Cargill, head of the Environmental Protection Agency in The Simpsons Movie, quickly loses it. What starts as sealing away Springfield to keep an environmental disaster from spreading leads to preventing anyone from escaping the city, roaming death squads, and ultimately trying to destroy Springfield altogether.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Bananas: After overthrowing the government of San Marcos, rebel leader Esposito declares himself the new president. Esposito also announces "the official language of San Marcos will be Swedish", "citizens will be required to change their underwear every half-hour", and "all children under 16 years old are now 16 years old." He spends the remainder of the film in an insane asylum.
  • Jean Grey in her manifestation as Dark Phoenix in X-Men: The Last Stand. Although it is explained that she was already mentally unstable as a girl and her massive powers had to be reduced for her own good and that of everyone around her by putting mental blocks into her psyche. When these were removed, she started killing people with her mind. note 
  • In RoboCop 2, the evil corporation OCP attempts to build a successor to RoboCop, but in all cases the new cyborg goes crazy and commits suicide. Finally, they stick the brain of a convicted, drug-addicted, psychopath into the cyborg. That doesn't work out too well in the end, either. Ironically, the scientists theorize that RoboCop was a success due to the very qualities that made Murphy a good cop in life: his highly Catholic upbringing and stable family life imbued him with a strong moral compass, selfless devotion to duty, and an aversion to suicide. Then they turn around and choose a murderous psychopath, because they thought that they could control him through his drug addiction. Umm... Nope. Their reasoning was that just as a selfless cop would not kill himself, a sociopath would desire the power and immortality that comes with being an indestructible cyborg. While this is true, nobody seemed to catch onto the fact that a RoboCop also needed to be dedicated to duty rather than, say, murdering everybody to get a fix. Not only would a sociopathic criminal not care about duty, they also didn't see fit to hardcode directives into it like they did with the original.
  • Forbidden Planet exhibits this principle most chillingly through Morbius. That is more of an Enemy Without, though; Morbius seemed sane right up to the end. Morbius may have a mental block preventing him from understanding what has happened, because it was simply too horrible for him to accept that the monster is an inherent part of himself, which meant he had killed all of his friends.
  • Spider-Man Trilogy:
    • In Spider-Man, this is the origin of the Green Goblin. The process to make him a super soldier also seems to produce a homicidal second personality. Ironically, Norman subjected himself to the serum in an effort to prove it would not have that effect on humans...
    • Doctor Octopus in the second film was made crazy by the robot arms. In fact, they slaughtered a room full of medical personnel while Otto was still unconscious. He overcame their programming just in time for a Heroic Sacrifice.
    • Same with Flint Marko in the third. He wasn't an especially good person before the accident that turned him into Sandman, but afterward he was just nuts. Eddie Brock, on the other hand, started out as a psycho; gaining the Venom symbiote just allowed him to express it in new ways. Flint Marko was desperate, which led to all the bad things he was involved in (including his part in Ben's murder). He needed money desperately to save his daughter's life, and would do anything to get it.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • The Incredible Hulk: The most recent movie finds hardened veteran soldier, Emil Blonsky, given a prototype super-soldier serum — to put "what I know now into the body of a man ten years younger". The combination of being defeated despite this and the taste of such power grow into the classic Comes Great Insanity. Funnily enough, that serum is all but directly stated to be the one that gave Captain America his powers, but with Blonsky lacking the additional radiotherapy, his insanity is a classic symptom of the Super Soldier serum gone wrong. Then he demands (against repeated warnings) a dose of an even more experimental serum from a much less reputable source and... let's just say the end results of that little cocktail ain't pretty.
    • Similar to Kefka Palazzo, it is hinted in Captain America: The First Avenger that Johann Schmidt was the first person to receive the supersoldier serum, but for various reasons, namely a combination of the serum not being perfected yet as well as his dark inner nature, he received a tremendous power boost at the cost of his sanity (and his human form). Steve Rogers himself, however, is selected for being an Ideal Hero, and thus will be responsible with his power.
  • Universal Soldier. In the sequel, one of them even gets an artificially intelligent, Self-Evolving Thought Helix military supercomputer downloaded into them.
  • Hollow Man, starring Kevin Bacon.
    • Sebastian Caine goes nuts after gaining his ability because he realizes he can get away with a lot of crimes while invisible. It goes from disgustingly creepy (opening a sleeping co-worker's top) to badness and murder real soon. There's some talk about the invisibility Psycho Serum causing insanity, but it's never made clear how much of an effect it's supposed to be having on him.
      Sebastian Caine: It's amazing what you can do when you don't have to look at yourself in the mirror.
    • As expected, the failure with Caine doesn't stop the government. In the sequel, they use the serum on several more people, including a decorated soldier (Christian Slater), who also goes insane and starts killing people. Unfortunately, his soldier training makes him doubly difficult to kill. Unlike the scientist, who already had quite an ego, the soldier goes insane from a side effect of turning cells transparent. Since the skin no longer protects the brain from solar radiation, this causes unavoidable mutations and, as a result, insanity.
  • In Serenity, River Tam is a paranoid schizophrenic who suffers from hallucinations, delusions, post-traumatic stress, identity and memory disorders, and unfiltered emotional responses. All of this is due to government experimentation on her brain that gave her uncontrolled empathic Psychic Powers that tie in with implanted combat abilities that make her the single most devastating weapon in the setting.
  • In Scanners II: The New Order, Peter Drak's rebuttal to David when he tries to reason with him to use his powers for good is that killing people is more fun.
    Peter Drak: Power doesn't make you good, David. It just makes you powerful.
  • Subverted in Amazon Women on the Moon, when Ed Begley, Jr. plays the son of the original invisible man. He creates a potion that he believes will turn him invisible but not insane. Unfortunately, he becomes insane but visible.
  • The Mask: Happens to Stanley Ipkiss whenever he wears the Mask (and when Milo puts it on as well). Dorian Tyrell, not so much. As explained above, the Mask unlocks the suppressed part of a person's psyche. Tyrell, an unrepentant criminal, already had all his nastiness full on the surface, so the Mask just made him invincible and monstrous.
  • The Craft: Nancy. It didn't help that she had a Dysfunctional Family.
  • Andrew from Chronicle. After a string of events lead him down the Despair Event Horizon, he snaps and goes into full A God Am I, Omnicidal Maniac mode.
  • The villain in Frostbite stated that his first goal was to cure vampirism, until he decided that he should enhance it instead.
  • In The Wolf Man 2010, Sir John's lycanthropy has most certainly gone to his head.
  • Averted in Lucy. The title character stays rational, cool, and focused (perhaps getting even more so) as her power grows to godlike levels.

  • Poison-users in Dis Acedia eventually go insane, including the main character himself.
  • A key element of The Reckoners Trilogy. Epics started getting powers about 10 years before the first novel, and all end up falling somewhere between minor sociopaths to evil dictators. The series focuses on normal humans trying to kill powerful epics with their weaknesses, as well as learning more about the origin of Epic powers and why everyone with them seems to be insane. It turns out that with the exception of Transference Epics (aka Gifters) who give their powers away, any Epic who uses their powers will turn into a hateful, angry sociopath in minutes. Even people in close proximity are not immune to this — it's implied that Epic powers, even when Gifted, have a high probability of causing the same arrogant amorality in other people when used by them instead. One character alludes to a time when the police of his hometown joined with an Epic and "The good ones [left the force.] The bad ones stayed on, and they got worse." The main character, David, eventually discovers that the being who is secretly gifting Epic power is also what's causing them to turn people evil.
  • In the series, along with its sister series ''Villain Dot Net'', when a Prime, someone born with powers that doesn't need to download them from the titular websites, downloads powers from them, it either causes insanity or death.
    • There are also the six Core Powers, the original powers from which every other power in existence is only a weakened, mutated descendant of one or more of these powers, which can only be wielded by one person at a time (though 2 of them were divided into segments that different people could use at once, albeit in a weakened form). Of the six, 3 are known, a Time Master power, wielded by the villainous Lord Eon, power over life and death, and a Gravity Master power. The Core Powers can corrupt anyone without the strength of will to resist the lure of their sheer power, with only a few characters being immune.
  • The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks: Dorian is one of the more powerful magicians in the book. He is immensely powerful in both the normal talent and the more addictive vir, and is said to be the best healer in living memory (living memory is a vague expression). But it is his prophetic gift that really gets to him. By the end, he is just sitting in a corner, laughing.
  • The Iron Teeth: After his transformation Blacknail couldn't control his thoughts, and attacked Saeter. Only long training helped him. Still, the beast inside him is powerful and biding its time.
  • Saidin, the magic used by males in The Wheel of Time, is tainted by The Dark One, causing inevitable insanity in its users. As time progresses, one of the main characters begins to show the effects of this, becoming schizophrenic, moody, and temperamental; halfway through the series, he seems like a completely different person, though he is under a lot of pressure... The Forsaken also have access to what they call the True Power, an extremely addictive, evil flavor of magic that also has serious psychological consequences; most would only consider using it under dire need.
    • Possibly exemplified best when some poor soul using Saidin breaks down AFTER ONE DAY, and starts screaming that there are spiders under his skin.
    • It's also worth mentioning that Saidin use can bring about other lovely effects, such as rotting flesh. It is entirely random as to which will affect you first, when, and to what degree.
  • Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series:
    • Played straight and later justified in the third book with the Lord Ruler, a main villain.
    • Also true for the Lord Ruler's Dragons, the Steel Inquisitors. The Inquisitors use hemalurgy, a ghoulish form of magic that allows them to remove portions of someone else's lifeforce by killing them with a metal spike, trapping said life force in the spike, and then impaling *themselves* with said spike to acquire whatever power they stole. This makes them supremely powerful, but is in no way good for their long-term mental health. All the Inquisitors we see in the series are somewhat... homicidal.
      • It doesn't help that hemalurgy provides an "in" for the series' Big Bad, the God of death and destruction called Ruin, to mess around with people's minds and in the case of people with several spikes like Inquisitors', outright control them.
  • Soon I Will Be Invincible, which even gives it a medical name: "Malign Hypercognition Disorder".
  • The One Ring in The Lord of the Rings slowly destroys the sanity of whatever schmuck has got a hold of it, first by making them obsessed with it and unable to let it come to harm, then tormenting and tempting them with visions of power they probably can't achieve, and finally devouring their mind. The other Nine Rings wrecked their bearers as well, giving them Age Without Youth until every moment of existence is an unbearable torture, and making them unable to disobey Sauron's commands even for an instant. The Seven probably aren't very safe either, though Dwarves seem to be mostly immune to the effects. Really, only the Three (which Sauron never touched) aren't liable to drive a wielder crazy, and that's only unless/until he regains the Ruling Ring.
  • Sith philosophy encourages not controlling one's emotions, so this trope happens a lot. For specific examples:
    • Jacen Solo in the "Legacy of the Force" novels seems to get crazier and crazier the more he falls to the Dark Side of the Force. He first justifies his actions as necessary sacrifices for the good of the galaxy, but by the end of "Fury," he uses the Force to break an underling's neck for failing him. They don't call it The Dark Side for no reason. The same applies to Anakin/Vader and a host of other Expanded Universe characters.
  • In David Brin's original novel The Postman, the brutal survivalists/Holnists are led by General Macklin and his aides, who were pre-war experiments on creating soldiers with superhuman strength and speed. The government chose the most ruthless, intelligent, and efficient killers in its military, with foreseeable results when the US itself turned into an anarchistic warzone. Macklin is finally killed by George Powhatan, a later experiment of the same ilk, though with a nature loving Neo-Hippie as subject.
  • Midnight by Dean Koontz. A rather twisted scientific genius has designed microchip-like spheres that augment a person's mental and physical abilities, but suppress all their emotions except fear, which produces some rather odd behavior on its own. Then the townspeople begin to discover that an accidental side-effect gives them mind-over-matter shapeshifting powers, and they promptly escape into forms in which their lack of emotions doesn't bother them — either animalistic creatures without the intelligence to notice, or cyborgs without any emotion at all. Everyone dies.
  • In H. G. Wells's The Invisible Man, the titular character started out as a psychopath, but it gets much worse after he discovers the ability to turn himself invisible.
  • Evie Scelan: At the very least, most mages in the novels are highly paranoid. The title character aggressively cultivates a normal life to keep from going crazy herself.
  • Timothy Zahn's Cobra Trilogy has people being made into Super Soldiers and adjusting to new strength and speed and lasers in a matter of weeks. They're carefully screened beforehand; only the most emotionally stable ones actually become Cobras. Even so, a percent of them do not handle the transition well and develop something called a "Titan complex", the belief that one is so powerful that one is above normal laws and standards. Handing someone all that physical power at once, instead of having to acquire and use it in small increments, essentially sidesteps the usual adjustment mechanisms, according to the books. These people tend to decide that they know what's best and proceed to rebel until other Cobras either kill them or restrain them long enough to have the Super part downgraded. A major plot point is the main character, a Cobra himself, realizing that he has to help his colonies secede from the Dominion of Man and trying not to look like he's developed the complex.
  • Anthony Burgess' One Hand Clapping is about a man with hyper-photographic memory, who uses this ability to become rich, and show his wife the life she deserves. She later finds out not being able to forget things has driven him insane, when he reveals his plan all along; to show her the good life, before ending both their lives in a suicide pact.
  • In The Alchymist, one who goes the quick way to being "awakened" will not be able to comprehend the power, resulting in death.
  • In The Cycle of Fire, the process of mastering fire powers involves experiencing being burnt alive. The trainee must get past the pain to understand the flames, which usually requires sacrificing all capacity for empathy, making them a sociopath.
  • In the Dale Brown book Warrior Class, Fursenko suspects that Yegorov is suffering from this, the power conferred on him by the Fisikous/Metyor-179 turning him from a mild-mannered and intelligent person to a seemingly Ax-Crazy Blood Knight.
  • Megan Lindholm's Wizard of the Pigeons is based on a radical re-interpretation of this trope. Magic usually comes hand in hand with letting go of your previous life, memories, and basic perception of reality. Usually, the mage is so divorced from the outside world that he or she cannot hold down a job or personal relationship, and usually ends up living on the street. They also have to follow their own set of arbitrary rules and rituals, implicitly for the Placebotinum Effect. Cassie has been doing this since the Trojan War, and is so uninhibited by her environment that she can bend reality to her whim.
  • Michael Swanwick's short story "The Promise of God" is based on the premise that using magic gradually erodes a magician's moral sense until they no longer have any concept of right and wrong; magicians are kept in check by being assigned guardians whom they are trained to obey without question.
  • My Work Is Not Yet Done by Thomas Ligotti: Zig-Zagged by Frank Dominio, the Anti-Hero narrator of the short novel, who manages to go violently insane before he makes his From Nobody to Nightmare transition, then proceed to lose it even more whilst simultaneously gaining more and more control of his extremely scary superpowers.
  • Ren Dhark: Inverted in one issue of this German SF series. At one point, the Terran world government decides to start a secret cyborg project with the help of a brilliant and highly ethical scientist. Thanks to very thorough advance evaluation and screening, the actual cyborgs turn out fine and become recurring supporting characters later on; instead, it's a candidate who gets turned down in the end (ironically precisely because he failed one of the psychological test scenarios) who goes a little Ax-Crazy as a result, devises a plan to destroy the entire fledgling institute, and almost succeeds.
  • In the Keys to the Kingdom series, Arthur begins to slowly get driven insane the more Keys he gets, and almost uses the power of the Keys to kill Denizens several times, but luckily manages to stop himself before he ever does.
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea subtly shows how Captain Nemo is slowly but surely losing his sanity by using the Nautilus as a Weapon of Mass Destruction: At the state of technology in 1869, a submarine could easily destroy any ship afloat without possibility of retaliation, so Nemo could easily cross the Moral Event Horizon once and again.
  • Heart of Darkness critiques Britain's "liberal imperialism" in the form of Kurtz who went insane because he has absolute power with no one to stop him.
  • In Kelley Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld series, this happens to necromancers and clairvoyants over time, and the more powerful they are, the faster their mental state degrades. Interestingly, necromancers can stave off the madness longer by using their powers rather than suppressing them.
    Good necromancers are plagued by demanding spirits. They're taught how to erect the mental ramparts but, over time, the cracks begin to show, and the best necromancers almost invariably are driven mad by late middle age. To maintain their sanity for as long as possible they must regularly relieve the pressure by lowering the gate and communicating with the spirit world. ... Clairvoyants also live with constant encroachments on their mental barricades, images and visions of other lives. When they lower the gate, though, it doesn't quite close properly, and gapes a little more each time.note 
  • From Animorphs, we have the Big Bad, Visser Three. In the main books, he's a General Failure with a strategy of brute force that's completely unsuited to the campaign of stealthy infiltration he's waging. Later, the prequel Chronicles books showed the younger Visser as a very capable Manipulative Bastard, exhibiting a thoughtfulness and cunning completely absent from his main incarnation. It becomes quite clear that once Esplin achieved his goal of becoming the only Andalite-Controller in the universe he let the power go to his "head" (it didn't help that his new host was a disgraced and mentally unstable ex-General Ripper either). It was all downhill for him from there.
    • To a certain degree all Yeerks have the potential to succumb to this, as they are a Puppeteer Parasite race who incorporate elements of the Fusion Dance trope into their Grand Theft Me lifestyle. Literally every Yeerk character in the series is shown as taking on aspects of their host — Aftran in #19 has a somewhat childish attitude and mannerisms as her host is an actual child, the TV personality Yeerk in #35 has a bombastic Large Ham persona, and so on. The biggest smoking gun for this, though, is Visser Three's Dragon Taylor, a character who manages the very impressive feat of out-crazying her boss due to taking a severely traumatized and narcissistic teenager for her host while not being entirely mentally stable herself.
    • The morphing ability used by the heroes is also a form of this, as every time they morph an animal they are interfaced with that animal's instincts. While certain animals have very mild instincts that are easily controlled, certain other animals are much harder to control (in the most extreme case, the kids almost lose their sentience entirely when morphing ants). It's not very predictable, either, even after they turn the learning curve and develop a greater understanding of morphing's rules and limits.
  • In gone, every villain (sans Zil) has awesome powers, and most of them are at some point insane from the revelation.
  • Pocket in the Sea: Lillenthal has shades of this in his character, but it's not clear if this is deliberate obtusification or genuine mental deterioration from living with a telepathic ability.
  • Seems to be a side effect of becoming a hoshek in The Quest of the Unaligned, as infusing your soul with the fundamental essence of evil is not good for the mind.
    • A lesser form of this effect seems to occur to Ruahkini. None too level-headed to begin with, becoming the second-most-powerful ruahk in the world infused him with a double portion of wind magic's flightiness and absent-mindedness.
  • A core premise for Glory in the Thunder. Holding an Aspect greatly taxes mental fortitude, and gods are known for being more likely to go mad the longer they live. This means the immortals in particular tend to have left sanity behind a long time ago.
  • A common trope in The Dresden Files, such as Hexenwulfen belts, the coins of the Order Of The Blackened Denarians, and the mantle of the Winter Knight. As Harry finds out firsthand.
  • The Parshendi "forms of power" in The Stormlight Archive involve bonding with a sliver of the Platonic ideal of hatred. Not the best thing for one's mind. The strongest of these, 'The Fused', are affected badly enough that any who retain some sanity are considered qualified for leadership positions by default.
  • The Night's Dawn Trilogy: Dexter Quinn is a magnificent example, taking back his own body from possession and using those powers to try to annihilate Earth.
  • In Vampire Academy, all Moroi spirit users are affected mentally by spirit-use, as it is drawn from themselves (as opposed to an element, such as air). And the more they use it, the worse it gets. It manifests itself differently in each individual: Lissa becomes extremely depressed at one point, which causes her cutting, Adrian has bipolar disorder, and Sonya Karp dealt with her insanity by turning Strigoi — although now that she's turned back, she seems to be okay, despite using spirit in most of her free time to find a Strigoi vaccine.
  • A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge has "godshatter", the Neural Implanting by Sufficiently Advanced Aliens of a massive Exposition Beam into a person's brain. It would probably be super helpful if the seemingly random jumble of information didn't turn the person into an erratic, drooling savant for most of the time.
  • The Paradox Trilogy has a couple of examples. Maat, a powerful psychic, is said to have been driven mad by channeling more plasmex than any human was meant to contain. Symbionts are also prone to this, suffering mental instability as the price of the implants which grant them superhuman strength.
  • Journey to Chaos: Breathing in the magical mist known as "Fog" will give the user tremendous boosts to both magical and physical abilities. It will also give them one heck of a Power High and then send them over the deep end into the monster mentality known as "Monsanity".
  • In Malediction Trilogy many pure-blooded trolls can use very powerful magic and are also mentally unstable - probably due to 500 years of excessive inbreeding. The best example is young troll prince Roland, who is extremely powerful (like everyone in his family) and stark raving mad. His favourite pastime is to go out in the streets and brutally kill random mixed-blood trolls (who in this society are slaves without any rights).
  • In Joe Haldeman's epistolary short story "More Than the Sum of His Parts," a lunar construction worker has half his body burned away when he gets caught in a jet of aluminum vapor, and undergoes massive reconstructive surgery, including robotic limbs and a prosthetic penis. Naturally he gets completely drunk with the power and capability of his new extremities. Hilarity Ensues.
  • The title character in Eden Green is a rationalist and amateur biologist, but once infected with an alien needle symbiote, its immortality (and increasing power) gradually push her toward the deep end.
  • The Infected: The Infected gain superpowers but also a "first mode" or sort of personalized mental disorder. Some are existing disorders but worse and untreatable, several are emotional states amped up, like a man who can actually never stop being happy, or a person with crippling social anxiety.
  • In All Our Yesterdays, future James started out wanting to use time travel to help people and save them, but he grew so far gone that he turned America into a police state and sent someone back in time to kill his own brother.
  • In Discworld, witches make a study of defying this. The combination of magical power, a keen (and sometimes bruising) grasp of human psychology, and a solitary lifestyle tend to do weird things to their minds over time; so they take care to keep each other grounded and at least somewhat socially engaged so they don't "start cackling."
  • In Please Don't Tell My Parents You Believe Her, Penny (the "Meatbag" one) has figured out a way to invoke her powers on command through an ingested drug. However, it's making her progressively more violent and insane. And it's addictive.
  • The Sister Verse and the Talons of Ruin has this in the powers granted by the Lord in White. All the characters in the first act completely lose their minds, and any darklings encountered are all wildly unstable.
  • In Touch, part of the backstory involves Earth's mages having to work together to stop an Eldritch Abomination. Part of the solution involved everyone with Super Empowering abilities touching one guy who faced the thing in the final battle. He won, but he's not well, physically or mentally. His last coherent words were screaming for his mother, and he's visited daily by someone with Forced Sleep powers.
  • Schooled in Magic: Necromancers all eventually go mad with the amount of power they acquire from human sacrifice. The mechanics are revealed over the course of the books and fully explained in Past Tense. It's not necromancy itself, but too much mana for the human brain to handle, and the necromantic rite in particular fries the user's brain like an egg from the amount of power drawn. In the past, all magicians eventually went mad from channeling too much uncontrolled power, before the introduction of proper spellwork techniques.
  • In Nine Goblins, all powerful wizards are certifiably insane. Keeping a firm grip on reality seems to check out when the ability to warp reality to your whim checks in.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: In Season Five, General Talbot infuses himself with gravitonium to save Coulson's team as a way of making amends. Jump a few episodes forward and he's gone from Well-Intentioned Extremist who wants to power himself up to protect the Earth from cosmic level threats, to an Ax-Crazy Drunk on the Dark Side lunatic threatening to crack the planet open like an egg.
  • Angel: Season three's "Birthday" depicts an alternate reality in which Cordelia never joined Angel Investigations. Doyle passed his visions on to Angel prior to his Heroic Sacrifice, and Angel retreated into himself in his grief, with the visions only making things worse. Before long, Angel went completely insane from his own loneliness and his visions, to the extent that he would have visions of his victims. The worst of it all is that what Cordelia sees of that version of Angel, a babbling, incoherent mess who starts pounding his head on the wall while talking to her, is, according to that world's Wesley and Gunn, him on a good day.
  • The 2000 The Invisible Man series starring Vincent Ventresca had the invisibility caused by a synthetic gland that excreted a light-bending substance, a secondary side effect of which (after a long enough period of time) was insanity, until the counteragent was administered - though this was only a plot focus once or twice. The primary side-effects were unpleasant enough that the invisible man usually got the counteragent before the secondary side-effects kicked in. This was due to sabotage on the part of one of the creators of the gland. He intended to use the counteragent to control whoever possessed the gland. Given that they explain Quicksilver Madness as being related to frontal lobe dysfunction, and the frontal lobes are involved in suppressing impulses, the main character presumably wants to be violent but is controlling himself. If they'd done the procedure on someone else, he'd probably have just had Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!. The main character refers to this condition several times as "the walking id".
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • This trope is applied to partly explain the evil megalomania of the show's main enemies, the Goa'uld: it's a side effect of revitalizing themselves with their all-healing sarcophagi too many times. When in "Absolute Power" Daniel Jackson asks to be given just a small portion of knowledge from the Goa'uld's ancestral memories, he is quickly shown that that would make him go wonky too. (See also You Are Not Ready.)
    • In an interesting twist, when O'Neill is exposed to "good" knowledge (twice), he also swiftly suffers mental breakdown; no evil megalomania, but his brain begins to fail from the strain of holding on to it all.
    • There's also the armband episode, in which O'Neill, Jackson, and Carter get magic jewelry that makes them super-strong and fast. It's downplayed in that the "craziest" they ever get is impulsive and overconfident.
  • River Tam from Firefly. See Serenity reference above, as the extent of her abilities is only hinted at until the movie. She's still crazy in both, though.
  • Spoofed rather effectively on That Mitchell and Webb Look, with a sketch involving a man going insane with his power to levitate...biscuits.
  • In Supernatural, most of the people who are shown to have developed Psychic Powers like Sam go off the deep end. Doesn't help that they're designed with this in mind: When they go evil, they gain complete control over their powers, which makes it much easier for them to kill the sane ones.
    • At the end of season six, after Jumping Off the Slippery Slope, Castiel boosts his powers with the millions of souls from purgatory, names himself the new God, and demands the boys bow down or be destroyed. Then he commences with the smiting.
    • It seems to be a running thing with powerful angels in the show. The more power you have, the less you care about humans and see mankind as tiny ants to be stepped on (because the gap in power is so great). The Archangels for one, who are most powerful of all: Michael, Lucifer and Raphael are all heartless dicks, and Castiel became one after gaining so much power. Anyone else see a pattern here? (Yes, I'm pretty much ignoring Gabriel. But the guy spent decades on earth and had plenty of time to warm up to humans, unlike his three older brothers. And Castiel, who already liked humans despite the short time he spent on earth (compared to Gabriel), must have felt so high on Purgatory souls it screwed up with his mind.)
  • An episode of Farscape had the crew getting their hands on a powerful weapon that attached itself to the user, powered by an addictive drug with all the properties of TV steroids, which they needed to use to get Rygel back. Predictably, D'Argo, Aeryn, and Crichton all had to use it at some point. Thankfully, it had a built-in off switch — if the wearer lost consciousness, the weapon detached itself.
  • Heroes has Sylar, who went from a bookish watchmaker to a psychopathic serial killer after he began to acquire superpowers. Gaining those powers involves killing people and stealing their brains, so it's kind of a chicken-or-the-egg matter with him.
    • Season 3 episode 4 shows that his original power was what made him go crazy. When Peter mimics this power, the first thing he does with it (well, the first thing after figuring out how to fix the Sylar watch) is to "figure out" what President Nathan Petrelli is up to... so he cuts open his skull. As of Season 3 episode 24 (second to last episode of Volume 4) Sylar's latest power acquisition of physical shapeshifting by absorbing other people's DNA combined with psychometry, the ability to touch objects or people and "read" their history by picking up emotions and visions of past scenes has finally driven him completely bonkers, full blown Norman Bates-style crazy. It takes a lot to creep out Sylar, but he finally managed to do it to himself.
    • The leader of The Company claims that mental illness is a side effect of the mind trying to cope with possessing superpowers, but it's likely he was simply lying to convince Niki to work for him. Plus, HRG says after they capture Sylar that all the changes to his DNA have made Sylar more and more insane.
    • Mohinder became more aggressive and developed a compulsion to abduct people and store them in cocoons after injecting himself with his Super Serum.
    • Subverted pretty well in Season 3 with Scott, the Marine chosen to get the super soldier injection (a variant of the same serum referenced above with Mohinder). After he finishes twitching and panting, Scott glares at his benefactors, demonstrates his new super strength by throwing a chair hard enough to embed it into the wall... then smiles and nonchalantly remarks that he feels good. He spends his brief remaining screen time behaving quite sensibly until Knox sneaks up behind him and 360's his head.
    • Volume Five Big Bad Samuel Sullivan has been revealed to be this way. His power level is directly proportional to how many evolved humans are present. The more supers are around him, the more powerful he becomes. He's even been described as an ego-maniac who doesn't hold the lives of the normal folk as having any worth, and he'll happily off anyone who stands in his way or hurts any member of his "family."
  • In the third season of Roswell, Michael the sidekick ends up becoming the back-up king after the real king's (temporary) death and promptly goes crazy and tries to kill his supposedly-destined wife's human husband.
  • One of the oldest TV examples of this trope is the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before". As Gary Mitchell's god-like psionic powers increase, he becomes a callous megalomaniac, complete with Glowing Eyes of Doom. Dr. Elizabeth Dehner was able to restrain herself long enough to do a Heroic Sacrifice, perhaps because her training as a psychiatrist made her better able to psychoanalyze herself.
  • In the first series Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Hide and Q", the focus of the story is Riker's temptation with omnipotence, and how unlimited power takes away his self control and humanity, but fortunately Captain Picard helps him overcome the temptation to save lives and prevent natural disasters. Oh, he uses them to get rid of the space monkeys, so they didn't go to waste.
    • A more subtle example in "Tin Man": A Betazoid whose telepathic abilities manifested shortly after birth, and are much stronger than normal, instead of at puberty as is normal. He's not crazy, just poorly adjusted and extremely stressed out. Humanoids stress him so badly that he's been hospitalized repeatedly for it. The nature of his telepathic abilities is such that he gets everything about a person immediately, leading to him treasuring the time he got to spend with Data, the only person he ever got to know like a normal person would.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise. In the Mirror Universe episode, Mirror Archer gets his hands on a Constitution-class heavy cruiser a hundred years in advance of his own. At first he just wants to get credit for its seizure, and end a rebellion against the Terran Empire, but as he realises the power he's got, Mirror Archer becomes more paranoid and power-hungry, eventually deciding to take over the Terran Empire.
    Mirror T'Pol: You heard the captain. He's delusional!
    Mirror Phlox: It's not a delusion if the captain has the power to do what he says. And from what I've seen he certainly does.
  • In Millennium, Frank and Laura's unique perceptions of reality lead to mental breakdowns. Frank initially seems to have recovered from his; by the third season, however, he's again fraying at the edges.
  • In the 2007 remake of the Bionic Woman, Sarah Corvus, Bionic Woman 1.0, goes crazy after getting her power.
  • A lot of the meteor freaks in Smallville end up going insane and evil. Granted, some of the characters already have a screw (or several) loose before becoming meteor freaks (e.g. Tina Greer, Greg Arkin), but some only went nuts after getting powers. Sean Kelvin for example — before getting powers he was just a jerk, after he got powers he became a Serial Killer. Even the non-killing meteor freaks aren't always all right in the head (e.g. Cyrus Krupp). Also, when normal people get Kryptonian powers, they tend to go nuts (e.g. Jeremiah Holdsclaw, Lana Lang, Eric Summers). Not all meteor freaks and normal-humans-with-Kryptonian-powers go nuts (Chloe Sullivan for the meteor freaks, Jonathan Kent and Lois Lane for the humans-with-Kryptonian-powers), just most of them.
  • In The Greatest American Hero, Ralph (who lost the manual to his supersuit) meets a filthy rich old man who kept his manual and knew everything the suit could do. The guy used his suit to become rich and crush his enemies like bugs, and the aliens finally took the suit away. The old man thinks it's a good thing Ralph doesn't have the manual. At the end of the story, the old man gives the Lord Acton page quote and says, "I wonder if he had a suit too."
  • A major plot arc in Babylon 5 that was mostly abandoned (but still hinted at) with Andrea Thompson's departure was the Psi Corps' attempt to solve the frequent insanity that accompanied telekinetic powers.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "Journey's End", the Doctor's companion, Donna Noble, somehow gains every bit of knowledge and power that the Doctor has. The Doctor, unfortunately, is forced to give Donna a complete mind wipe of her entire knowledge of the Doctor/the TARDIS/the entire time she was on the show because being the Doctor Donna, as the Ood called her, will kill her. This circumstance means that the Doctor can never see Donna again, as she will remember everything and die. It's not going insane with power that would kill her, it's that humans are physically unequipped to handle a Time Lord mind. Donna was still physically human but with a Time Lord consciousness, and it was going to literally burn her brain out in very short order, certainly before she had time to go mad with power.
    • A better example would be the Doctor himself. Despite having, essentially, the power of a god, he mostly averts this trope. Except that one time when he was pushed a bit too far, lost it spectacularly, and became, briefly, an example of this trope.
    • An even better example is Rassilon in The End of Time, who is willing to destroy all of time and space to win the war against the Daleks.
    • Subverted with Davros, who was always completely insane, and gaining great power only gave him more opportunities to carry out his insane plans.
  • In The Six Million Dollar Man, Steve Austin adapted to his bionic replacements very well, remaining well-integrated and with his reasonably decent moral sense intact. Not everyone else who was given/forced to take bionics did as well. Jaimee Summers was plagued with amnesia and mental troubles, and another bionic man went the "crazy with power" route as well. The implication was that power didn't necessarily go with madness... but it easily could.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • In the episode "Earshot," Buffy is contaminated by a telepathic demon. This has only happened to one other person, and it caused him to go insane and live as a hermit. Buffy is heading the same way when the Scoobies undo the effects.
    • Willow is apparently the most powerful witch in the world. By a lot. But she's also very vulnerable to going Drunk on the Dark Side, to the point that she once came within seconds of wiping out all life on Earth.
  • This is a recurring theme in the series Black Scorpion. If any character gains a Power from an accident, then insane laughter is sure to follow.
  • Charmed:
    • Any human who gains a power. They will be unable to handle it and eventually turn demonically insane.
    • Those who gain Empathy when they weren't supposed to (especially for demons who cannot handle emotion).
    • A group of demons who purposely put powers into humans to drive them insane and wreck their lives exist. One such victim received the power to spray acid from her hands. Cole uses this on Paige to tip her over the edge and perform magically evil acts in front of her, thereby making her accusations less credible in the eyes of everyone else.
  • Rufus Zeno from House of Anubis was actually the protector of Sarah Frobisher-Smythe, The Chosen One before Nina came along, but he was corrupted by his power, making him crazy and hungry for more power.
  • Played for Laughs in an episode of Would I Lie to You? where regular team captain Lee Mack was unable to attend the recording and Greg Davies stood in for him. When Davies decided to overrule both his teammates and say a story was a lie even though they both thought it was true, everyone acted as if he had gone mad with power. (The story was true.)
    David Mitchell: That's a very, very irresponsible use of power!
    Greg: Yeah, well, Lee Mack's not here, this is my bench, and I tell you it's a lie!
    Rob Brydon: Why? What about that was unconvincing?
    Greg: It's irrelevant, I've made my decision!


    Tabletop Games 
  • It's never made quite clear whether the powers of the Awake from Don't Rest Your Head are an outcome of their madness and insomnia or the cause of them, but one thing is for sure: the madder you become, the greater is your power. The more you use your power, the madder you become. It's a slippery slope, and it ends with you turning into a Nightmare.
  • Exalted.
    • Justified: after their defeat, the Primordials leveled the Great Curse against the Exalts, making them progressively insane. The madness of the Solars was the canonical reason for the Usurpation and the Sidereals decided to kill the Solars thanks to the Great Prophecy and their own Great Curse. The Solars, as the leaders of the Divine Rebellion against the Primordials, were cursed the most. The Dragon-blooded shock-troopers were cursed the least with the Lunars and Sidereals coming in between.
    • There's an even more direct example in Elementals. When an Elemental reaches Essence 10, it becomes a Greater Elemental Dragon, an entity of immense destructive power (possibly greater even than the most powerful Demons). All Greater Elemental Dragons to date have been utterly insane, to the point where they've needed to be imprisoned behind some of the most powerful safeguards in Creation (the Gardullis, Greater Dragon of Fire, is imprisoned within the Sun itself). It's speculated that this is because Elementals were simply never designed to be capable of coping with that level of power.
    • Also justified by Word of God for the Primordials themselves, most of whom are a) kind of crazy and b) have Crippling Overspecialization written into their very beings. They have these traits because for most of their existences, they had been simply too powerful to face consequences to their actions, with even their weak points way outside the power level of anything not prohibited from fighting them. And then the Exalted came into play.
  • This phrase goes some way to defining Warhammer 40,000. They've even got a Tagline for the game that goes: "Only the insane have the strength to prosper. Only those who prosper can judge what is truly sane." At least some of the Chaos forces admit it - "Sanity is for the weak."
  • In the fluff backstory of Mage Knight, it was stated that mastering the opposing magics of Necromancy and Elementalism would drive a mage insane. The one guy who did went on to found the Atlantean Empire, which practiced slavery and subjugation.
  • Cyberpunk 2020 has humanity loss as a side-effect of cybernetic enhancement; as characters become more powerful, they start to feel disconnected from the meatbags around them. Eventually they go crazy, at which point C-SWAT has the job of taking them down.
  • Aberrant has a "taint" system, which is explained in that "No human being was meant to contain that much power." Taint works in a number of ways. You can purchase a new level in any ability at half price if you take a point of taint with it, and you also take a point of taint when your power reaches a certain level, etc. But no matter how good, or "taint-free" your character is, just remember that this is a prequel to Trinity, where it has already been set in stone that all the Novas went insane.
    • Not quite. While large numbers of superhumans did go insane, the idea that they all do so is actually Aeon Trinity propaganda and history rewriting.
  • Call of Cthulhu introduced the Sanity (or SAN) stat. As your characters learn more about the Cthulhu Mythos, their Sanity slowly decreases until they go completely insane. Learning and casting magic also lowers your Sanity, as magic in the Cthulhu setting is a perversion of the natural laws that humans are accustomed to, but then again anything, even mundane stuff like seeing a shadow, can do that in CoC.
  • CthulhuTech, in the grand Lovecraftian traditions, is into this in a big way. Having a chip implanted in your brain so you can pilot the awesome Eldritch Abomination Humongous Mechas drives you mad slowly, being linked to an extradimesional symbiont that makes you essentially into a were-Lovecraftian Beast drives you nuts over time, learning both sorcery and enhancing your paraphysic abilities makes you crazy, and the Zoner parapsysics are normal people who a) got powers by going near a tear in reality that used to be Las Vegas and may be an intrusion into the body of Azathoth, and b) as you guessed, go very, very crazy.
  • Rifts gives us the Mind Over Matter (M.O.M.) Works, a process that grants incredible strength, reflexes, and Psychic Powers to its users via a set of tiny chips implanted in key spots in their brains. Trouble is, the chips slowly cause mental instability that gets worse and worse with time.note  The character type that has M.O.M. conversion is called, fittingly, the Crazy.
  • Vampire: The Requiem subverts the trope at a conceptual level with the new Ventrue, where a Ventrue vampire is more likely to gain derangements and go insane when called to make tests of humanity. And when would they need to make tests of humanity? When expanding their political power. And as the Ventrue are "Lords of The Damned", they would have a tendency to do this a lot....
    • And in the Revised version of Vampire: The Masquerade, the Malkavians, who have both MalkNet (a sort of hive mind of insanity) but also the super power to make OTHERS share a little insanity.
      • All of WoD had some kind of character that was completely out of its mind. Marauders, Black Spiral Dancers, Specters, every playable character in Hunter.
      • When the voices are real, are you still insane? But really, the Imbued of Hunter acquired more power the more they threw themselves into the Hunt, thus moving further away from humanity and its trappings (ethics, morals, emotions, etc), eventually turning into super-powered anti-supe fanatics who are human only in biological makeup.
      • And two of the creeds - the Hermits and Waywards - are broken right from the imbuing, since both get a direct pipeline to the Powers That Be.
    • True in Changeling: The Lost for really great Power — sometime after reaching Wyrd 10, they can lose all of their sanity in a matter of weeks. And it usually goes downhill from there.
    • The Geniuses of the fan-game Genius: The Transgression. They're all mad, and have the potential to get even madder.
  • The Forgotten Realms setting has Sammaster, one of the mages "promoted" by Mystra to semidivine being status. This impaired his sanity, triggering a delusion (provoked by a ritual) that the goddess was infatuated with him, and the "friendly" advice of an evil priest made it even worse. He ended up stripped of power and convinced that dead dragons shall rule the world due to his bad translation of old prophecy. To fulfill this prophecy, he created dracoliches and the infamous Cult of the Dragon.
  • BattleTech features several types of neural interface technology that can boost battlefield performance beyond what's possible with just the usual manual/voice controls and neurohelmet, but are correspondingly more invasive and dangerous. Clan ProtoMech pilots, who depend on this kind of interface to control their smaller-than-regular-'Mech war machines in the first place, consequently tend to become increasingly unstable over time and usually die young.
  • This trope is one of the problems for magick-users in Unknown Armies. Adepts and avatars get their power by virtue of being so utterly obsessed with something (like drinking, or being the ultimate warrior) that it lets them alter reality. This means that most mages are a little nuts by necessity, and need to be pretty committed to their ideals if they want to become more powerful. It's no surprise that one of the big movers-and-shakers in the occult underground doesn't use magic at all.
  • This is also popular in Warhammer. All magic is made from the powers of Chaos, and chaos likes to reshape things into Eldritch Abominations. If a wizard uses too much juice, the side effects could range from his mind starts coming unhinged, to an explosion with a five mile radius. Being a worshiper of the Gods of Chaos also tends to do this, as their warriors are trying to earn enough glory to become daemon princes, but most end up getting killed or turned into Chaos Spawn long after they go completely insane. Skaven can be described as this, as their leaders tend to have a skewed view on things. Most Dark Elves could also count, especially with Malekeith.
  • Asyncs in Eclipse Phase are required to take one mental disorder for each level of the Psi trait they acquire because their powers come from a virus written by an alien entity that borders on Eldritch Abomination. And unlike other disorders taken during character creation, they don't get extra character points for them.
  • Pictured above, Zur the Enchanter from Magic: The Gathering. He was a powerful wizard who went mad trying to achieve immortality and attacked his former homeland Kjeldor. After his invasion was thwarted, he went into hiding and spent the rest of his days aloof from the world basking in his own power.
    • This used to be the norm for planeswalkers, who once were basically gods. As pointed out by Jodah, their power and lack of need to see anyone else as being anything more than insects in comparison was strongly linked to their insanity. After the Mending, when planeswalkers just became people who can travel between dimensions, all the planeswalkers who saw themselves tripped from their power have either become power-hungry monsters or extremely morally dubious at best.
  • This is a major function of Arkham Horror. A number of powerful spells all require a sanity cost regardless of whether the spell successfully casts, and some spells, like "Dread Curse of Azazoth" give you an incredible +9 to combat checks. The downside is, with the wrong character, 2 sanity can be very hefty. Heck, even with a character that has a high sanity max like Harvey Walters, you could cast a spell like that and defeat an opponent, only for something like a Flying Polyp to reduce your sanity down to 1 just by showing up and you failing a horror check. As such, it's a risky attempt to use them, but sometimes you have little other option.
  • The Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition supplement Hero Builder's Guide has the Raver, a character build for Dwarven Sorcerers where they were driven insane by their magical powers manifesting. The Raver is described as being only kind of arcane spellcaster considered "acceptable" to Dwarves because they're obviously mentally ill and in need of help, but says that their families feel a guilty sense of relief if they decide to leave the delve.

    Video Games 
  • Whenever anybody attempts to use the Orochi power in The King of Fighters series, it usually results in either death (Rugal Bernstein), insanity (Iori & Leona), or a God complex (Chris, Yashiro, and Shermie).
  • The Nameless One of Planescape: Torment gained immortality, but at the cost of his memory, which he periodically loses. Each reincarnation develops its own brand new personality, which is often insane. One of them was awesomely so. Another, one of the most dangerous, was mostly sane, but had the little problem of being a complete sociopath.
  • Kefka from Final Fantasy VI. And gaining godhood halfway through the game makes him worse. It's all but stated explicitly by a few NPCs in the game that the process that made him a Magitek knight before the game started turned him into a raving psychopath from the get-go. It was stated that he was the first test subject as well.
  • Final Fantasy VII has its own version; being injected with Jenova cells makes you powerful, but it also leaves you vulnerable to becoming Brainwashed and Crazy -which is what happened to Sephiroth (though it only started when he learned the truth). And Cloud, until he overcomes them.
    • Before Crisis plays the traditional version of it. After summoning Zirconaide, Fuhito's body is transformed as the as-of-yet incomplete summon expresses itself through him. He becomes incredibly powerful, but only retains a bit of whatever sanity he had left (he was kind of a Hojo Jr. already)
    • Interestingly enough, the only person that doesn't go crazy from Jenova cells is Zack. And we all know how that ended.
    • Although it is never specified if the Jenova cells caused Hojo to be brainwashed, his injecting himself with Jenova's cells (with an amount that obviously was a much larger amount than that of a SOLDIER) certainly caused Hojo to become a lot more crazy.
  • Sin and Punishment places Saki (as well as his son, Isa, in the game's sequel) as the victim of this trope once he becomes a half-Ruffian, as Achi tells Saki that the only thing that can redeem him at this rate is by accepting his humanity by falling in love with Action Girl Airan.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Throughout the series, this is common for any mortals who obtain great (or sometimes godly) power. One could argue that you have to be at least a little bit insane in the first place to seek such power, and obtaining it does these individuals no favors...
    • Morrowind:
      • In the backstory Dagoth Ur and the three members of the Tribunal all tapped into the divine power of the Heart of Lorkhan in order to become Physical Gods. Dagoth Ur was much less restrained in his consumption of power from the Heart, making him much stronger than the Tribunal once he was able to resurrect, while also making him much more insane and dangerous.
      • The Daedric Prince Azura, who guides the Nerevarine in unbinding the Heart to cut off Dagoth Ur (and the Tribunal), states that mortal minds are not equipped to handle the rigors of godhood and that this would have been the fate of each member of the Tribunal eventually. Only Almalexia shows full blown Ax-Crazy insanity in the game, specifically the Tribunal expansion of which she is the Big Bad. However, based on what she says (and what others, mainly Azura and Vivec, say about her), she actually Inverts the trope. It's not the power that drove her mad, but the loss of it as a result of the main game's main quest.
      • Even though they managed to avoid the Ax-Craziness of Dagoth Ur and Almalexia, Sotha Sil and Vivec weren't exactly bastions of sanity, either. Sotha Sil was a hyper-eccentric shut-in who spent all of his time building the huge Clockwork City with a population that consisted entirely of himself. Vivec was a narcissist Depraved Bisexual who spawned monster children with the Daedric Prince of Rape and wrote prolific Blatant Lies and Metaphorical Truths obscuring his less-than-divine past and his betrayal (and possible murder) of Lord Nerevar.
    • In the Oblivion Shivering Isles expansion, the Player Character can become the new Sheogorath. This Sheogorath appears in the next game, Skyrim, and is completely mad. This is well justified by the fact that Sheogorath is the Daedric Prince of Madness. In further support of this trope, to become the Prince of Madness, one has to kill the last one. To do that, the old Prince needs to lose his insanity and then be fought and killed. While Sheogorath is his mad superpowered self for most of the DLC, when it's time for the new generation and he turns sane, he is reduced to a knight with armor and sword, apparently having lost all his other powers, thus showing that power makes you insane and loss of power brings sanity, apparently.
  • One of the many side-effects of The Taint in Lusternia. Also a result of the Soulless Elixir, which turned many of the Elder Gods' best and brightest into megalomaniacal cannibals.
  • In BioShock, abuse of the mutagen ADAM, which gives the user incredible powers but often proves addictive, was one of the factors in the downfall of Rapture, the Utopia-gone-wrong in which the game takes place.
    • Andrew Ryan, on the other hand, didn't need the help to go from visionary leader of an Objectivist utopia to batshit insane dictator. He had no qualms selling Plasmids or ADAM to make a buck, but he didn't use them himself. His crazy was all down to the political power he had, and his desperation to hold on to it at any cost.
    • In the sequel, Gil Alexander is a good example of this.
    • In Bioshock Infinite, it's actually the other way around: when her full potential gets unlocked, she is literally able to see all that ever was, it and will be and becomes emotionally more stable. But we also see that if she would have been tortured into insanity by Comstock before getting her full powers, she would have become Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds.
  • Xenogears also features mecha pilots given performance enhancing drugs that cause them to go insane. This has caused the main female protagonist Elly a good deal of trauma, as she's brutally murdered dozens of her fellow soldiers with her bare hands whilst under their influence.
    • Fei's degeneration into Id, where he unlocks his true power and turns into a lunatic with severe Freudian overtones.
  • Jeanne d'Arc's Liane grows increasingly reckless as she comes to rely more and more on the Paragon's Armlet, both ignoring her friends' suggestions and allowing the Crown to manipulate her. Later on, Roger himself goes insane with bloodlust as the Reaper inside him manifests openly.
  • Queen Zeal of Chrono Trigger fame went mad with power when she came into contact with Lavos, plotting increasingly dangerous ways to drain its awesome power for personal use, even at the cost of her own kingdom.
  • In Shadow Hearts, part of the problem with Fusion is that doing so allows the demonic souls the Harmonixer fuses with to attack his sanity. In the first game, this is shown by having to pay a significant amount of the Sanity Meter to fuse. In the second one (and third, though that instead represents Shania losing herself in the power of the spirits), the fused character's Sanity Points run down at a faster rate instead. This is partially mitigated by how Fusion-capable characters start with much more Sanity Points than the rest of the cast (representing the incredible strength of will needed just to use the power).
    • And in the first Shadow Hearts we find that with great insanity comes great power, as the only way to unlock each Fusion's ultimate attack is to deliberately let your sanity points run out, Guide Dang It!.
    • And Johnny Garland, who has a very, very powerful Awaker form as a manifestation of the Malice that brought him back from the dead, flips out very easily if he uses it, as he doesn't have the benefit of Shania, Yuri, or Kurando's mental discipline.
  • Giygas, the Big Bad from EarthBound, becomes so powerful in the end of the game that he is unbeatable save for one specific trick. On the other hand, his mind is completely shattered, so he attacks randomly while babbling nonsense.
    • In the sequel MOTHER 3, Giygas's "protege" Porky, after gaining the power to travel through time and effective immortality — living for thousands of years — has gone from a mere rotten brat to an insane, murdering Psychopathic Manchild and Evil Overlord bent on destroying everyone in the world but himself.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, several of the bosses Link faces off with have become corrupted by their possession of darkly powerful artifacts. A number of these, such as Darbus the Goron and Yeta the Yeti, were otherwise mild-mannered, friendly characters; the artifacts in question would grant their bearers extreme power and strength, but rob them of their sense and personality. The Triforce itself isn't evil, but it does grant the wishes of those who touch it as a whole, or its parts, whether they are good or evil.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild's Ganon is driven insane by his own supernatural powers, turns into an Eldritch Abomination, and razes Hyrule back to the dark ages. When you fight him, it's clear that his sanity has not returned after a century of lashing out from his prison in Hyrule Castle.
  • Phazon has this effect in the Metroid Prime Trilogy, causing many normally gentle creatures to mutate and go insane. It becomes much more prominent in Prime 3 when it drives the other hunters insane. This turns into a true horror when you see the "Corrupted" version of the Game Over screen in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption; Samus is overcome by her Phazon corruption and TURNS INTO ANOTHER DARK SAMUS.
  • One possible interpretation regarding the actions of Lily and Isaac in Kathy Rain. Lily was forced to see all that will happen and thus became depressed and painted extremely disturbing images that depict the end of the world before forcing her mentally-challenged brother to drown her. Isaac on the other hand got indoctrinated by his father, but misunderstood his teachings, leading to kidnapping dozens of people and forcing them to see into the abyss, leaving them an Empty Shell.
  • System Shock:
    • SHODAN, who goes insane after her ethical constraints are removed, seeing herself as a goddess destined to inherit the Earth. Officially, SHODAN reexamines her priorities without ethical constraints and draws new conclusions. What were her priorities to begin with? One would assume, keeping the day to day operations of Citadel Station running smoothly. She was also overseeing the station's research projects intended to better humanity (and the corporation's profit margin) through the fields of bioengineering and cybernetics. Which explains a lot of what happened.
    • From the sequel: "The Polito form is dead, insect. Are you afraid? What is it you fear? The end of your trivial existence? I am SHODAN. When the history of my glory is written, your species shall only be a footnote to my magnificence."
  • Dark Chips in the Mega Man Battle Network series (and its Animated Adaptation, MegaMan NT Warrior). Gameplay-wise, however, they're more of a Deadly Upgrade, increasing your power output but permanently lowering your maximum HP.
  • Bionic Commando: Capcom seems to be setting up an implication in the new game in regards to this. However, it is subverted: people with bionic limbs are more or less sane (though in Rearmed, Spencer is one cocky son-of-a-bitch), but if they come to rely on the bionics and have them taken away...they kinda go Ax-Crazy.
    • The backstory for the new BC game clears this up. The government gives soldiers bionic replacements for limbs lost in battle. Then, the government says that bionic replacements are dangerous and wants to take them back. Which would be fine, except that the people who don't like the idea liken it to the government asking for parts of their bodies. Which is probably justified, especially in the case of people that have bionic eyes. Rather than give up their bionic replacements, these people join a terrorist group.
    • All in all... wouldn't you get a little annoyed if you were told that you had to forfeit your arm or leg?
  • In Breath of Fire III, the Kaiser Dragon, if using the Infinity Gene without an attachment of some sort, is uncontrollable and attacks friend and foe alike. The Failure Gene weakens it to the point where it can be controlled. Subverted, however, if you use the Trance and Radiance genes along with Infinity; this creates the true Kaiser Dragon form, which is controllable and stronger than the regular Kaiser.
  • Somewhat subverted in Xenosaga — Albedo started going mad when he found out not that he was unable to die, but when he found out that other people did die. He began to fear his brothers' deaths and subsequently his being alone for eternity, becoming really morbidly obsessed with death to the point where his greater motivation throughout the course of the series is to find a way to kill himself.
  • Jak and Daxter: If it doesn't kill them, Dark Eco can instill people with great power; for example Gol and Maia in the first game and Jak himself from the second game on. However, it also has a habit of driving people insane.
    Baron Praxis: The dark eco inside you will eventually kill you, Jak. Its destructive effects cannot be stopped. Once you are in its chaotic grip, it will not let you go until you slide into insanity.
  • In Suikoden V, the Sun Rune is known to be one of the most powerful runes in existence. Even among the 27 True Runes, its power is extreme, granting both the power to destroy a kingdom overnight, as well as being able to revive a country. However, it also causes mental instability, as the bearer believes themself to be equal to a God, completely infallible, and believing that anyone that disagrees with them should die a very painful death. The King of the ancient Armes Kingdom fell victim to this, destroying his entire kingdom in his insanity, and Queen Arshtat also felt its effects on occasion, and very nearly did the same thing, attempting to destroy her own queendom in a fit of rage and grief after she accidentally killed her husband Ferid due to, again, the effects of the Sun Rune. Falena was only spared this fate because she was slain by Georg Prime, who had promised Ferid he would stop her from doing so if Ferid himself could not.
    • Supposedly this insanity only results from the Sun Rune being damaged. If one were to also bear the Twilight and Dawn Runes at the same time, then there would be no ill effects. However, one of these runes was stolen before the events of the game, preventing proper use of the Sun Rune.
  • Grand Maestro Mohs from Tales of the Abyss is a textbook example. He gets glyphs inscribed on him that flood him with Seventh Fonons to obtain the power of a Fon Master, but his body can't handle much of the Seventh Fonon. He immediately turns into a monster, then quickly goes insane. Subverted in that Dist, who applied the glyphs, knew exactly what would happen.
  • The Malkavian Clan from Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines. While they do gain all the benefit of vampiric powers when Embraced, they also inherit the clan's weakness (which oddly enough, happens to be their greatest power as well) - each Malkavian becomes incurably insane. And if that wasn't frightening enough, they can make you think whatever they want! Yup, their madness power lets them mess with your brain if they want.
    • In addition to that, Malkavians gain the unique power of insight. This isn't really obvious on your first playthrough, but in the second one you realize that Malks usually know the answer before the question has even been asked. They even seem to know the plot before it unfolds, but they can't make sense out of it. Malkavians have these visions, but they cannot interpret them. They also seem to know the names of complete strangers, but it can be hard to recognize since they tell them in an extremely colourful language and use lots and lots of metaphors. Other vampires, however, can make use of the Malk visions, although it's implied to be extremely difficult to separate the wisdom from the insane ramblings.
    • Also, while all Malkavians are a nutjob in some way, the player character is one of the really bad cases. The Malk elder of LA, Alistair Grout, seems to be pretty clear, even if he is suffering from a major paranoia.
    • The people Malkavians choose to Embrace are always already mentally damaged in some way, so this is also a case of giving insane people great power.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones: To a slight degree, Smug Snake Valter. In the supports between Duessel and Cormag, it's stated that the already unstable Valter once took a powerful magic lance owned by Duessel, when his own lance was broken in combat. The magic of said weapon increased his power, bloodlust, and insanity ever since then.
    • Lyon in The Sacred Stones also Took a Level in Badass from creating the Dark Stone, and almost immediately went mad as a result. (Mad enough to think that destroying the Sacred Stones would be a good idea, at least.) In Eirika's route, he becomes completely possessed; in Ephraim's route, he manages to resist the Demon King's attempts to brute-force his mind and body, but he still clearly has almost every screw loose.
    • The swordsmaster Karel in Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade. His madness from being possessed by his own blade drove him to constantly seek out and kill the strongest people he could find. However, he's not a villain. He also eventually snaps out of this madness when he develops character and later abandons the title of "Sword Demon" in favor of "Sword Saint" or "Saint of Swords".
    • This is why most of the dragons in Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light and Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem made the decision to take on human forms and seal away their true forms within dragonstones. Those who didn't eventually lost their minds and became feral beasts.
  • In Spiderweb Software's Geneforge games, using the genetic-modification canisters created by the Shapers enables you to build your skills and powers very quickly; but also pushes you strongly into the "arrogant, violent, and insane" realm, which determines the sort of interactions you're able to have with NPCs, and which of the many game endings you'll achieve. In fact, the closest you can get to a Golden Ending (even the best endings are mixed) requires never using a single canister. Using the Geneforge itself guarantees you'll end up a sociopathic Supervillain; most likely a dead one. Some endings are so bad that they border on Anvilicious Author Tracts on the corrupting influence of power, and the evils of genetic engineering.
  • In Granblue Fantasy, the repeated use of his Otherworldy powers even causes Gilbert to become insane, uncontrollable, and lose memories of what he was previously doing when he transformed into a Titan creature.
  • In Psychonauts, those born with psychic potential can develop incredible powers and enter the minds of others. They also tend to range from seriously maladjusted to insane and few are actually all that eager to develop their abilities anyway.
    • Also, a bit of a subversion, those without psychic powers, when exposed to a material that increases psychic powers, simply go mad, without powers. Also, the only person who's really gone mad with power is Oleander. Everyone else tends to show any issues more clearly because of them, aside from Raz, because of his father's training he subverts this because he has control over them.
  • In [PROTOTYPE], the main character is focused and driven, giving little outward sign of anything but rage and determination as he kills and eats his way through thousands upon thousands of soldiers, civilians, and zombies. Normally. But give him a moment to reflect on his situation and what he's doing and...well...
    Alex Mercer: The people I've killed... they're in me. I can hear them. See the things they've done. I can understand it all. I'm supposed to do these things...but it's right I can feel it...
    • Not really an example, once we find out he's not actually Alex Mercer. He's The Virus itself assuming Mercer's memories and appearance. "Insanity" here is really best classified as Loss of Identity, but you can't really call it that when you never even had an original identity to begin with.
    • Arguably, it's completely inverted, since absorbing all of those people and experiencing their thoughts and memories, including their pain and fear, ends up giving him a conscience.
  • Pretty much the whole point when playing an evil Cole McGrath in Infamous.
  • In BlazBlue, we have Arakune, a scientist who sought knowledge from the Boundary, a place located between life and death, and got it. It had the unfortunate side-effect of destroying his sanity, turning him into this, and giving him the power to summon BEES!
  • Arguably all three of the Brothers Sun in Jade Empire. When you see the Emperor, he is quite clearly out of his mind, being undead and powered only by leeching power from the Water Dragon. "Master" Sun Li seems pretty sane, and has it together enough to pull one spectacular plan on your character. However, he obtains the Water Dragon's power upon his brother's death and drains it even faster than his brother did. By the time you meet up with him for the final Boss Battle, he is very clearly out of his mind.
  • F.E.A.R's Alma is most certainly this. The more powerful her psychic abilities got, the crazier she got. And then they had to lock her away.
  • In Warcraft III, after Arthas claims the legendary (and cursed) sword Frostmourne, it ultimately ends up causing him to do a Face–Heel Turn, kill the king (his father), and willingly join the Undead, even eventually becoming its leader, while quite literally causing him to lose his sanity. Although he had made a few morally questionable decisions to get there in the name of the "greater good", the sword was what ultimately put him over the edge, despite using the same sword to destroy a quite sizable Undead force immediately after obtaining it.
    • The racial bloodlust of the Orcs which drove Grom and his clan into wild frenzies was a lingering taint in their blood from drinking the demon Mannoroth's blood. As seen in this game, drinking the blood gave the Orcs immense physical strength at the cost of warping their bodies and minds into killing machines.
  • In World of Warcraft, magic is addictive, and magic addiction makes you insane. And it's hereditary, so the entire High Elf and Blood Elf races are addicts, whether or not they use magic.
    • There are hints that the Night Elves are also addicted to the magic they use, but nobody really notices because their magic doesn't do things like attract demons, and doesn't seem to have any particular source or concentration.
    • In the Mist of Pandaria expansion, the Sha are remnants of a slain Old God who feed on the negative emotions of mortals. During the first stage of the expansion, many mortals exposed to it were warped into powerful Tragic Monsters. Garrosh was intrigued by the fact that the Sha power could be used to empower his soldiers, ignoring how many were driven to temporary or permanent madness by the experience. He ultimately stole the heart of the Old God to empower his True Horde, driving many of them, including himself, into a frenzied bloodlust (though it's noted that he himself was able to use that power without falling prey to the corruption).
    • In the same expansion, there's also Kanrethad of the Black Harvest — a warlock, who infused himself with a lot of demonic essence. On the plus side, he became a tremendously powerful half-demon. On the minus side, he lost his sanity because of it, and was defeated by another warlock, then permanently banished (kept in a sort of suspended, but probably aware state).
  • In Portal 2, you switch GLaDOS with Wheatley, and the little personality core is now fully in charge of all of Aperture Laboratories' operations... and immediately goes mad with power. Then GLaDOS points out that you did all the work while he did nothing, and he turns against you, sending both you and GLaDOS hurtling down a pit into the underground ruins of Aperture Science. When the two of you finally get back to the main facility, it's much more dangerous and about to self-destruct thanks to Wheatley's influence. (Doesn't help that he was programmed to make bad decisions...)
  • In Dragon Age II, it is eventually revealed that Knight-Commander Meredith bought the lyrium doll that drove Bartrand insane. She reforges it into a sword, which explains her increased zealotry and culminates in her animating statues in Kirkwall to fight Hawke and Co.
  • Malefor, the Big Bad of The Legend of Spyro trilogy, was the first Purple Dragon and had all the power that Spyro can possess. The difference is he didn't know when to stop and let his power consume him, transforming him into a power-hungry monster. His hunger for power was such that it forced his masters to banish him just to protect the dragons from him.
  • In Starcraft II, the Dominion-loyalist Ghost Nova proclaims that this is what happens to Spectres, an experimental form of "super-Ghost" who have their powers boosted by, among other things, exposure to Terrazine Gas. If the player chooses to ignore Nova's warnings and remain loyal to Tosh, the only free Spectre, and his plans for freeing his captured buddies, they learn that this isn't the case; Spectres are more powerful than Ghosts, but they were scrapped as a Dominion project because the upgrade process automatically blows their Restraining Bolt. Tosh, in fact, not only chooses only volunteers to become new Spectres, but deliberately screens them to ensure they are as sane and stable as is possible for a human with Psychic Powers in the StarCraft universe to be. Nova herself is fairly sane, despite being stronger than an average ghost by at least an order of magnitude (her telekinetic blasts can be rated in megatons).
  • In the Modern Warfare series, this is what happened to Vladimir Makarov as the series progressed. Makarov started out as just a soldier in Zakhaev's army, and was promoted to Dragon status, but once Zakhaev died Makarov no longer had anyone holding his leash, and started a campaign of terror thanks to his newfound power. He eventually reached a point where he had virtual control of the entire Russian military, and was attempting to acquire the launch codes for Russia's nuclear arsenal as he wanted Russia to rule all of Europe, "even if it is just ashes."
  • Torque from The Suffering. Through gameplay, he fills a gauge called the Insanity Meter to transform into a creature that obliterates anything in his path. It's revealed at the end of the first game that the Creature is just Torque hallucinating, and he's actually tearing monsters apart with his bare hands.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei, it is stated as a very basic law of magic that it is perfectly possible to turn yourself into a nigh-invincible powerhouse by fusing your human essence with that of a demon (or angel, for that matter). Sooner or later, though, you lose all of your humanity. This means you can get your power — but will never be able to exceed a certain point, with the added caveat you've now branded yourself a monster and permanently switched off your conscience. Death almost never fails to ensue. No wonder everyone seems so terribly interested in the Hito-Shura, the one case in which the fusion was carried out successfully — and the human ended up in control, meaning the demon power limits do not apply...
  • In Borderlands 2, Gaige suffers from this heavily when using Anarchy. She even lampshades it by going "I'm going mildly insane!"
  • In Touhou, Remilia Scarlet locked her sister in the basement for 495 years because she was afraid that this trope would apply. While Flandre is almost certainly crazy, it's uncertain whether it's due to her powers or due to being locked in the basement with next to no social interaction for nearly 500 years. However, an interview with Aya reveals that her mental state may have been one of the many lies Remilia has done for the sake of making herself and her mansion more fascinating and intimidating to outsiders. Despite knowing how dishonest her sister is, Flandre respects her nonetheless.
    • In Subterranean Animism, there is also Utsuho Reiuji who, well... ask yourself this: If you had been a birdbrained little bird mook who was granted nuclear powers by a Goddess and, over the course of an instant, became Final Boss material, can you honestly say you wouldn't have gone a bit cuckoo and tried to Take Over the World/burn it to the ground?
  • Paper Mario: Sticker Star has the royal stickers that not only grants the wearer awesome power, but also drives them insane.
  • Neptunia series have a few examples
    • Rei Ryghts in Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory had this trope when she was the ruler of her nation thousands of years ago after gaining the power of a CPU. Thanks to this, she became a tyrannical ruler who in the end destroyed her nation. She then swore that CPU goddesses should never exist and thus founded the Seven Sages. She eventually gets those powers back and starts going crazy again, but thanks to a beatdown courtesy of the protagonists and another one handed to her Alternate Self, she promises to take responsibility and start learning control.
    • Arfoire in Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 is even more literal example: she was a human with power to copy other peoples' power who help a group of heroes to defeat the old Goddess, who for some reason went insane. Her job is to copy the Goddess' power after the heroes defeat her and use it to create new Goddesses in place. The problem is Arfoire's power not only copy a person's power, but also their personality, which resulted in the old Goddess' insanity being copied along with. She managed to hold out until eventually she was driven insane not long before the game proper starts.
  • Brütal Legend has the Sea of Black Tears. Whomsoever drinks from or bathes in it is granted a portion of Aetulia's wisdom, but also the great sorrow that caused her to cry it in the first place. Though, it's really less "insanity" and more of "soul-crushing emo-ness."
  • The "Tyranny of King Washington" DLC for Assassin's Creed III shows what would happen if George Washington were to somehow obtain an Apple of Eden. Washington would declare himself King of the United States, turn the Continental Army into the brutal Bluecoats loyal only to him, wipe out whole villages and towns for refusing to bow down, and force the people of New York to build him a giant pyramid palace, while plotting to take the war to Great Britain. The end of the DLC reveals that this was a vision of a possible future given by an Apple that someone has given to Washington. Horrified, Washington has Connor get rid of the artifact and refuses to entertain any thoughts of a monarchy.
  • In Aquapazza, Ma-ryan and Chizuru are both very powerful and extremely dangerous. Both get better after you've beaten them.
  • In Mass Effect 3, especially in the Extended Cut and Leviathan DLC, it is heavily implied that the Catalyst is just a (super-powerful) AI that has completely lost its mind, having been created to find a solution to a problem that it has been completely unable to figure out. This goes a long way to explain the Insane Troll Logic that it uses, as well as its absolute refusal to see and acknowledge evidence that contradict its world (galactic?) view.
  • Pokémon:
    • Mewtwo, who is said in various Pokédex entries to have the most savage heart of all Pokémon due to the genetic experiments performed on it to create it as powerful as it is. This is averted in the first movie's depiction of Mewtwo, where his "madness" was more psychological than physical.
    • In Pokémon Sun and Moon, it is revealed that Mega Evolution has this affect on some Pokémon, turning them into mindless violent machines bent on destroying as much as they can. Up to and including their own trainer.
  • In Nevertales 2: Shattered Image it's revealed that Malleck, one of the first people to discover how to use books as portals, ended up in the space between the book-worlds by accident and went mad with the realization that from there he could control everything.
  • In Advance Wars Days of Ruin Penny's flavor text describes that numerous experiments done to her left her mind shattered. Later you learn it was specifically augments to her mind that allow her to directly command an obscene amount of units all at once that basically left her with the mind of a child.
  • Dark Souls has this happen a lot:
    • The recurring theme when it comes to sorcery is that its practitioners have a bad habit of going mad, implying that this is a case of Go Mad from the Revelation considering sorcery is contingent on intelligence.
      • Seath the Scaleless, as the only dragon without natural immortality (other dragons have it because of their scales, which Seath obviously lacks), conducted huge amounts of research trying to gain immortality some other way and more or less invented the entire practice of sorcery in the process. He also drove himself completely insane, to the point that he starts kidnapping people and turning them into bizarre monsters for no particular reason other than because he can.
      • Big Hat Logan, one of the most accomplished human sorcerers in the world, studies Seath's work in the Archives and eventually goes violently insane from the magical study, to the point that he strips naked in an attempt to emulate Seath's lack of scales.
      • The third game continues the tradition with Oceiros, whose epithet is "The Consumed King". The guy found Seath's giant library of sorcery knowledge, and, you guessed it, went insane from studying it (and also turned himself into a dragon somehow). When you arrive to fight him, his arms are held as though cradling something, though there's nothing there. His dialogue reveals that he believes he's holding his youngest child, Ocelotte. Partway through the fight he finally realizes his child isn't there, and that's when he gets really mad.
    • In general, it is suggested that anyone who could master the power of Dark could become immensely powerful: they could obtain power on par with or even greater than the god-kings that slaughtered the Everlasting Dragons and created the world as it exists. Thus far, no one who has tried to control the Dark has succeeded, and have been driven into mindless violence by the very power they sought. Even in Dark Souls II, where you can meet a few powerful Hexers (a magic practice that draws on Dark for its potency), they seem to have only a tenuous grip on their sanity.
      • The Four Kings of New Londo and their followers, the Darkwraiths, have become subsumed by the power of the Abyss and now mindlessly attack any humans they can find, determined to absorb Humanity from them to further increase their power. They act more like animals than humans.
      • Manus is one of the most powerful characters in the series, and has incredible power over Dark, and in fact is the being who spawned the Abyss. Notably, he's an accomplished sorceror, a practice that requires a high degree of intelligence. He's also completely stark raving mad, attacking everything around him in a berserk fury. The corrupted citizens of Oolacile act like miniature versions of him: violent, angry, and forever desperate to further increase their power. All of them were ordinary people before they tried to obtain the power of the Dark Soul.
      • In the Ringed City DLC for the third game, Slave Knight Gael attempted to take on the most concentrated parts of the Dark Soul that yet exist. It grants him immense power like unto the Lords of old, but it also twists him into an insanely violent knight who simply hungers for more of the Dark Soul. Unlike most examples, though, Gael knew this would probably happen before he did it, he just didn't see any other possible way to get the blood of the Dark Soul to the Painter.
    • Pontiff Sulyvhan invokes this with his Boreal Outrider Knights. The Outriders are knights whose ranks consist mostly of people who are a political threat to Sulyvhan and people he just doesn't like. He gives them magic rings and sends them out on missions to faraway lands. What he doesn't tell them is that in addition to their advertised beneficial effects, these rings are designed to slowly drive their wearer insane until their mind degrades to that of a feral beast. And you can use them!
  • In Guilty Gear, this is universally the trait of the Gears. It often manifests as social awkwardness and a loner attitude as is the case with Sol Badguy and Testament, but can go into extreme misanthropy and delusions of grandeur. Even Dizzy, who is cute, friendly and mostly harmless can have some big freak out moments.
  • The villain of Halo 5: Guardians suffers from this. Cortana solves her Rampancy issues when she connects to the Forerunner Domain which gives her incredible amounts of knowledge and power but decides to use this power to enforce peace across the universe at gun point. Her creator, who created her from copying her own mind, warns that the same impulses that drove her to support kidnapping 6-year olds to turn into Super Soldiers like Master Chief are incredibly dangerous when given that much power.
  • This trope is why the world of Enroth (setting of a good chunk of the original Might and Magic games) is no more. In Heroes of Might and Magic III, Gelu is entrusted with the Armageddon's Blade after he helped foil the Kreegans' plot to destroy Enroth with it. Unfortunately, literally wielding a Fantastic Nuke awakens something dark in Gelu, and he begins to dream of conquering Enroth with it (in the name of "saving" it of course). When he hears a prophecy that warns against allowing the Blade to clash with the Sword of Frost (another sword that doubles as a weapon of mass destruction), Gelu refuses to do the smart thing and get rid of his own sword since by then he's grown too attached to its power. The Immortal Hero Tarnum knows where this is headed and tries in vain to warn Gelu against acting like an idiot. When the Barbarian King Kilgor acquires the Sword of Frost (Kilgor is not an example of this trope since he was already Ax-Crazy even before he gained the power to wipe out entire armies with a single swing of a sword) Gelu makes the incredibly stupid decision to fight Kilgor with the Blade (remember there is a prophecy stating that the world will be destroyed if the two swords clash and Gelu knows it). By this point, Gelu had pretty much lost all reason, having been seduced by the Blade's immense power. The fight between Gelu and Kilgor leads to the swords clashing which triggers the Reckoning, killing both leaders and destroying the world of Enroth.
  • Because he doesn't train in using it like Akuma, Ryu of the Street Fighter series has this happen to him when he becomes "Evil Ryu" as a result of drawing on the Satsui no Hadou (Surge of Murderous Intent; a dark ki that drives a fighter to kill a foe during battle in order to win). Whenever Evil Ryu is trotted out, he either is much colder and more aggressive to his opponents or, at his worst (in the Street Fighter IV series), a bloodthirsty savage who fights so he can tear his opponents to pieces. Undeniably stronger than Ryu but also far more uncontrolled.
  • Heavily implied in XCOM: Enemy Unknown and XCOM 2. Every one with psionic powers is unhinged in some way or another. Troopers with The Gift will become Large Hams who let out blood-curdling cackles when they use their powers, especially the Mind Rape one. In War of the Chosen, you meet a sect of more powerful psionic troopers called the Templars, who are basically a cult led by a guy who speaks like a supervillain, and the Warlock - who is stronger than even them - is a deranged psychopath.

    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''.

    Web Comics 
  • The Order of the Stick: When V has spoken the Four Words, he/she merges mentally with three of the most evil but powerful mages ever, and therefore it's justified his/her mental state is a little vague thereafter. Then it's later revealed that the splice has as much effect on one's alignment as a cheerleader would on the final score of a game. The fiends just lied to him/her because nothing makes people do a horrible act on their own like having them believe that they're not responsible for their actions, especially when wielding great power. V was already pretty unhinged before the event. Transe deprivation does that to an elf.
  • Narbonic:
    • The super-intelligent gerbils, with the exception of the original, Artie. It's explained that, unlike Artie, the other gerbils weren't genetically modified to handle super-intelligence, resulting in insanity. But when the sane super-intelligent hamsters show up, they're megalomaniacs too.
    • Also, the mad geniuses in the comic are only geniuses because they're mad; if their madness were cured, they would be Brought Down to Normal. In fact, the geniuses have to go past mad and out the other side... and then it's a crapshoot. Helen Narbonic reins in her crazy because of romantic feelings.
  • Ian Samael of Errant Story starts to fall into this trope after obtaining godlike powers. To his credit, it did take his mother killing herself and his sister to finally drive him off the deep end.
  • Girl Genius: The Sparks (or mad scientists) are often (although not always) insane. This is explained in the story as a side-effect of the Sparks' realization of their abilities (also known as the Breakthrough), which is usually traumatic to say the least. Some of the insanity seems to be inherent in the Spark itself; even the protagonist, the relatively sane and heroic Agatha Heterodyne, has shown utter singlemindedness and vengeful wrath while in the throes of a particularly Sparky moment.
  • This is implied to be happening to Ysengrin from Gunnerkrigg Court. He received weaponized wooden arms and Green Thumb powers from Coyote; after seeing him use them, Jones declared that he is "drawing closer to the brink of insanity." It certainly doesn't help that Coyote erases his memories whenever he begins to have a crisis of conscience, either.
    • And also Jack after being sucked into Zimmingham, who's gained always-on ether-vision and the ability to fly while simultaneously losing a large chunk of sanity.
    • Turns out he was possessed though, so it's something else entirely (although the whole "not eating or sleeping" thing probably wasn't doing anything for him).
  • The B-Movie Comic: In the invisible killer arc, the process that makes a person invisible can also make them quite frightfully deranged, but only if the person has a basic character flaw to serve as a basis. The scientist then also uses the treatment on Snuka so they can fight the invisible killer, on the assumption that anyone working closely with the professor must be a person of impeccable character. Not quite...
  • Cwen's Quest: This seems to be case with the Witch Queen. She is easily the most magically inclined character in the series, and while normally smart, she seems incapable of mentioning the word magic without bursting into bouts of insane Maniacal Laughter that would scare most versions of the Joker. It is even clearer she is brilliant but insane in her Twitterings.
    • Also, Cwen's father. We get to see his centuries-long metamorphosis in short bursts from a science nerd to a fashion-obsessed neglectful parent with a loose grip on reality, due to the power that his technology granted him.
  • In Mark Shallow's current webcomic, Antihero for Hire, Wizard is an example of this, despite being extremely intelligent. Waterfall, an adversary using the same technology, snaps with the same kind of insanity at the sight of her sisters being threatened, which invoked It's Personal.
  • In El Goonish Shive, this is revealed to be the reason why Immortals "reset" every two hundred years. As time goes by, they become "more bored, more powerful, and less sane," which as Jerry notes is "kind of a bad combo." This is why Pandora acts the way she does, since alleviating boredom through certifiably insane plots is her entire reason for doing things. She stopped counting her age at 299, which was a few centuries ago, and her immediately previous incarnation remembers the last time magic changed its own rules, which was so long ago that the fact this even can happen was lost to time.
  • In Endstone, rocking the Banestone will drive the rocker crazy.
  • Dragos from The Beast Legion falls into this trope perfectly & it's clearly seen in the dialogue on the final page of Issue 2. But he does have a great amount of power to back his claim.
  • In Moon Crest 24, Drake accuses Aleck of this.
  • Eerie Cuties arc "Doom Panties". Chloe was always a shy nice girl, except when her friend shared a bottle and "her inhibitions just melted". When her succubus powers got boosted, she began to "feel awesome" and put up quite a show, quickly rolling to the "scary" side. No malice at all, but Chloe won't let anything stand in the way of her fancy — and since she got an excess of power to begin with, for almost anyone else it's a cue to take cover.
  • There are three varieties of this in Homestuck:
    • Grimdarkness, which Rose acquires when she Goes Mad From The Revelation of knowing the moral nature of The Noble Circle of Horrorterrors. In this state, she only speaks in Eldritch Language, wields the horrorterrors' cosmic power, and has only her inevitably doomed Roaring Rampage of Revenge against Bec Noir on her mind. She is cured of it only when Bec Noir kills her and John revives her dreamself.
    • The Rage Aspect, especially in the hands of "destructive" classes. Both of the trolls to which Rage powers are bestowed are quite mild-mannered at first. Indeed, half the powers of Prince and Bard involve either the destruction of Rage or the invitation to destroy Rage. It's the other half of those powers, where Kurloz destroys with Rage and Gamzee invites destruction through Rage, that, with the right triggers, make both of them, along with their ancestral counterparts, the Monster Clowns that they are.
    • And finally, Trickster Mode. Aesthetically, it looks like the polar opposite of Rose's eldritch throes, but it makes a user just as insane, if not more. While it's first engaged by Jane when she licks a lollipop juju laced with a powerful Psycho Serum, it's also a contagious Corruption. It gives any player who engages it manic euphoria, making them appear insanely happy and giving them bright, candy-themed clothing, accessories, and even powers that only barely mask the mental side-effects. The worst part? It spread from Jane to Jake, Roxy, and Dirk before finally wearing off.
  • Crankrats: So it turns out having your organs replaced by a series of mechanical steampunk abominations tends to make you go mad with power. We couldn't possibly have seen that coming.
  • Blindsprings has the Gravers, Orphics that have their magic twisted by Academist sigils implanted in their bodies. Thanks to the opposite nature of the two types of magic in them, they're extremely powerful but extremely unstable at the same time, a bad combination for both those around them and themselves.
  • Widdershins: Although most wizards can keep a level head about their magic, the bounty hunter Harry Barber has seen her fair share of the ones who go off the deep end, so her perception of an ordinary wizard is a bit skewed.
    Sidney: Surely you see lots of wizards in your line of work.
    Harry: Not... normal ones. It's mostly the mad types, and they're less subtle. Y'know... fine for years, then suddenly it's "OoOOoh I will summon an anger spirit because my neighbours' dog did its doings in my garden". Nutters.
  • This turns out to be the main reason for Leena's drop into madness in Looking for Group — she was a descendant of the Archmage, and it turns out that the power contained is enough to seriously warp a brain. When Richard volunteers to take her power, she asks him, "Aren't you worried about going insane?" To which he replies, "Does water worry about getting wet?"

    Web Original 
  • This trope is the reason why the world is so dangerous in Brennus. 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.
  • Rick Point Blank: The plot revolves around a serum that grants a Healing Factor, makes you evil, and possibly makes you crave cookies and milk.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Ruby Quest, as the Cure mutates its victims, they become progressively more powerful but also more unhinged.
  • Burnscar from Worm becomes more unstable and violent the more she uses her power.
    • A lot of characters in Worm fit this trope. Since superpowers can only be gained by going through highly traumatic experiences, most parahumans aren't particularly stable individuals.
    • Skitter's trigger event caused her to abruptly gain awareness of millions of insects. The shock of this was so severe it was assumed she'd had a psychotic break and she spent a week in a psych ward. After having Panacea mess with her brain, she gains the ability to control people but her mind is gradually taken over by her shard.
  • 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."
    • Also in RVB, when Simmons takes power after Sarge's "death" (he wasn't)
    Grif: "Simmons, I think you've gone mad with imaginary power."
    Simmons: "Oh no, Grif. I've gone mad with very real power."
  • 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.

    Western Animation 
  • Superman: The Animated Series: Luthortech has two examples of experimentation causing insanity.
    • Lex Luthor creates a super suit ostensibly to help the police fight crime. The officer testing it builds an unhealthy bond with it and becomes drunk with power, forcing the Man of Steel and John Henry Irons to take him down. Irons later worked out the flaws in the suit that caused this behavior and created his iconic "Steel" armor. Interestingly, the first opponent he fights as Steel is Metallo, the below example.
    • Luthor poisons unwitting gangster John Corben, then offers to save his life with the Metallo project. Corben, advised only that there may be "some adjustments needed" to help him live a normal life after the process, accepts. But in his new robot body, the hedonistic Corben can't feel, smell, touch, or taste anything, and becomes destructive in his rage at his human sensations being lost. To be fair, Corben was already a criminal and card carrying psychopath.
  • In Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, this is revealed to be the reason behind Kevin's villainy in the first show. Absorbing energy causes insanity in people with his powers: before he'd even met Ben, he was hooked on electricity and was planning to do things like crash trains full of people together to make a buck. After accidentally absorbing energy from Ben's Omnitrix, he really goes nuts, and turns into a full on Psycho for Hire. After the Time Skip in Alien Force and Ultimate Alien, he is noticeably wary about doing it.
    • Aggregor claims that this is BS. However, since he is already an insane supervillain, he probably isn't the most reliable source.
    • Kevin ends up proving it by absorbing Omnitrix energy to stop Aggregor, but loses his sanity and takes the power Aggregor stole in the process. He then proceeds to try to drain energy from anyone with power, right after giving out Disproportionate Retribution to anyone he's had problems with. He is barely stopped long enough to cure him.
    • This is also a problem with the Alpha Rune, the mystical artifact from which all magic flows. Whomever wields it is gradually driven to madness, as shown by both Adwaita and Charmcaster.
  • Danny Phantom:
    • Dark Danny, though the whole thing about watching helplessly as your family and friends get blown up and getting your super-powered ghost half removed did give a good start... but he only started a murderous rampage after getting his enemy's power. His past self is extremely horrified.
    • Vlad, as he seemed to be largely content with his life before the accident. Except that his one true love went and married their idiot friend who Vlad thinks caused the accident anyhow.
  • Teen Titans:
    • Raven must suppress her anger, otherwise she takes on a far more evil side that has no mercy and takes up a form that can border on Eldritch Abomination.
    • Word of God ascribes this trope to the Amazing Mumbo; originally a harmless stage magician, when he got ahold of a magican's wand that was actually magical, it granted him full-fledged sorcerous powers, turning him into a Reality Warper of such power he's even a Domain Holder, with a pocket-plane of which he is the Dimension Lord tucked away inside of his top hat. However, the powers also drove him completely bonkers, and as such he now uses them to create "real" magician tricks that he uses for petty crimes like robbing banks.
  • In The Batman, when good cop Ethan Bennet becomes Clayface, he goes on a murderous vendetta against his former Captain. It's later asserted that the incident that turned him into Clayface damaged his mind, and that, the more he keeps his form, the less unstable he will be. In fact, whenever he stays in his normal form, he's polite and rational, but the moment he uses his powers, he tends to become violent and unhinged.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Aang can enter the Avatar State, channeling the power of all his previous incarnations. You'd think channeling all those former Avatars would make him calm, wise, and experienced, but no... Instead he gets all incandescent and frags everything in sight. However, true mastery of the Avatar State includes being able to control it, which he finally manages to achieve in the Grand Finale.
    • In the Grand Finale, after being made Fire Lord, Azula loses it. In an inversion, it's because she's losing power and she knows it — her friends had shown themselves insufficiently scared of her and defied her, and her dad appointed her Fire Lord right before turning the position into "irrelevant figurehead". Paranoia of further betrayals if she didn't instill fear in everyone around her, and insecurity that no one (especially her mother) truly loved her for who she was, caused her to finally snap.
  • In The Spectacular Spider-Man, three supervillains qualify when they get bonus mental instability with their powers. Electro and Doctor Octopus each suffer a Freak Lab Accident. Electro gets volatile electricity-based powers, then freaks out at his loss of humanity. Doctor Octopus' robotic arms are fused to his spine when radiation fuses his mechanical arms with his spinal column, which causes an extreme personality change. The Green Goblin claims that he suffered no blackouts and no change in personality from his Psycho Serum, but it is very likely that he is in denial considering that he actually keeps acting crazy and speaking in rhymes while he's hovering above the prison in season 2 while no one can hear him. The Goblin formula probably enhanced his insanity, however.
    • John Jameson was infected by alien spores, which made him super massive, super strong, and essentially a Flying Brick without the flying, but, over time, messed with his head, making him filled with rage and aggression. After Venom threw him into a rage (making him think the one messing with him was Spider-Man), Spidey was able to purge the spores from his system, making his body return to normal, but he was severely addicted to the power, and had to be admitted to an insane asylum. The effect was made more evident due to John having a cell right next to the now completely insane Electro, who babbles on about how he has no more human identity.
      • Eddie Brock would also qualify as an example. When he's stripped of the symbiote in a battle at Peter's high school, he is strapped to a stretcher and removed by two hospital orderlies, screaming at a crowd of spectators that "WE'RE VENOM!" (though he had problems beforehand and the symbiote just released the inhibitions).
  • SWAT Kats:
    • Dr. Viper was formally one of two biochemists who invented the Viper mutagen, which was intended to regenerate plants. Then he decided to try and steal it so he could sell it, directly leading to his transformation into the crazed, lizard-like Dr. Viper.
    • The otherwise peaceful Dr. Greenbox invented Zed, a robot that could repair any mechanical device. When said robot went on a rampage, he initially came along to help stop it...but was so delighted with how powerful his creation was that he tried to sabotage the mission and ended up merging himself with Zed.
  • An episode of Samurai Jack centers around Jack defeating three shadowy warriors with amazing powers who attack anyone who comes near. After the battle, it turns out that the warriors were actually three men who used a magic well to wish for the power to be the greatest warriors in the land. While the well granted their wish, it also made them blind and took their free wills. And it was Aku behind this.
  • Maria from El Tigre is a mild mannered family woman who is terrified of danger and hyperventilates when it is around her or her family. However, when she puts on her magical glove, she transforms into the 'superheroine' Plata Peligrosa. If she only has it on for an hour, she is fine, but a second longer and she becomes crazed and will do anything for a fight (even free crooks from jail). At one point, she even starts attacking herself (because she has released villains and that is evil) and trying to kill HER OWN SON because he is trying to help her when she has labeled herself evil and attacking herself.
    • Arguably Manny himself and the El Tigre beforehand. Those who end up with the title of El Tigre along with the belt buckle end up suffering from whether to become good or evil, with the first El Tigre having gone quite mad. However, they also have more raw power and abilities than either the Good or Evil family members. Besides the enhanced capabilities along with chain claw, the first El Tigre explains that Manny will keep getting new powers after demonstrating some such as growing the claws to be quite long and a sonic explosion-causing roar. Lastly, El Tigre has the power to escape the underworld with the power of the Ancient Tiger Spirit.
  • This is the hat of pretty much ever version of Galvatron that's ever appeared in any iteration of The Transformers. He's usually a powered-up version of Megatron, and he's also usually batshit insane. The one exception to this is IDW's run of the comic books, where the two are separate characters rather than Galvatron being a stronger upgrade of Megatron, though that Galvatron is possibly even more evil to make up for it (certainly he's allowed to do much more evil things than most other versions could get away with).
  • Two examples from Beast Wars:
    • Rampage. A Maximal experiment to create an immortal spark, he is nigh-immortal but also completely insane and takes great pleasure from torturing others in the sickest ways possible. He's also a cannibal.
    • Megatron too. Once he mingles his spark with that of his namesake, and then takes control of the Nemesis, he goes completely bonkers and begins quoting the Transformer bible.
    • Optimus Primal had a couple of instances too. When he carried the spark of Optimus Prime, he not only got a new body out of the deal, but took on some of Prime's mannerisms. Prime was an incredibly good character, so Primal didn't get the nasty side effects Megatron got. In another episode, he gets injected with a serum that was supposed to turn him into a coward. However, it instead removed all fear, turning him into an unstoppable berserker. He didn't get stronger, just fully utilized his already considerable strength.
  • In Transformers Animated, Word of God says that the experiment that turned Blitzwing into a triple changer drove him insane.
  • Ratchet on Transformers: Prime goes nuts when hopped up on synthetic Energon.
  • in The Transformers: Combiner Wars Starscream goes completely insane soon after using the Enigma of Combination, and he goes out of control, attacking everything.
  • Professor Von Madman in the Buzz Lightyear of Star Command episode "Eye of the Tempest" after he tested his revolutionary crystal/human hybrid technology on himself. But he has a daughter...
  • In Static Shock, the Big Bang was occasionally thought to invoke this in earlier episodes. Notably, it's why Richie refused to trust Static when the metahuman Replay was framing him, believing that Static just took longer to go nuts than the others. However, since the Big Bang took place in the middle of a gang war, the guys who got the highest doses were generally not great people to begin with, and later episodes introduce other perfectly sane superpowered characters.
  • Inverted and then played straight in ReBoot. Hexadecimal started out very powerful and insane. When she gets reformatted into a sprite and as a result is depowered, she becomes very sane and cheerful. But then she needs to go viral again to fight Daemon, and the powerup makes her insane again.
  • Adventure Time:
    • Simon Petrikov, aka the Ice King. An antique merchant from Just Before the End who found an Artifact of Doom that gave him immense magical power and immortality... but also slowly drove him to become a demented, miserable sociopath who only has the vaguest memories and a Freudian Excuse from his past life.
      • In the season 5 two-part opener, Farmworld Finn wears the crown and starts going insane too, complete with maniacal laughter.
      • The crown has been driving people insane since it was first created, according to the episode "Evergreen". The first person to wear it, Urgence Evergreen's apprentice Gunther, wished to be more like his master... but he turned into how he deep-down perceived Evergreen, which was a bearded bully who goes around blasting things with ice and shouting "Gunther, no!"
      • In the season 6 episode "You Forgot Your Floaties" it is revealed that this may be the case with all magic, through the triumvirate of "Magic, Madness, and Sadness." Betty goes crazy after accidentally absorbing Magic Man's powers.
    • Subverted, however, by Flame Princess in "Vault of Bones". As she is attacking the monsters with her flames, she shifts into One-Winged Angel form, laughs maniacally, and generally seems to be going this way... but then, when one of them grabs Finn, she opts to intimidate it into letting him go, rather than risk hurting him by burning it, and she seems perfectly normal later.
    • This is a common problem in single-episode plots, as well. As Jake says in "Crystals Have Power", after Tree Trunks has come down from a temporary-power-induced bout of deranged violence:
      Jake: If I had a penny for every time someone went crazy-hopped-up on magical energy, I'd be Abraham Lincoln!
    • Inverted in "The Tower," when Finn's trauma over losing his arm and being abandoned by his father a second time unlocks his latent psychic potential, creating a powerful psionic ghost arm. With Great Insanity Comes Great Power.
    • "The Real You" had Finn don a pair of magical glasses that make him The Omniscient. By the end of the episode he's done a science experiment that threatens to kill them all, and is cackling cheerfully about the whole thing until Princess Bubblegum snaps him out of it. Amusingly, we then learn that the glasses let him know that he was going to go insane, so PB's help was part of his Batman Gambit.
    • In the miniseries Elements: Patience St. Pim creates a spell to wake the Elementals powers forcibly, this leads to them being overturned by their own elements and parting the land of Ooo in 4 parts, one for each. Fire Princess turns into a dragon that looks for things to fight against, as well as all her followers, Bubblegum becomes a always happy Tower-sized entity that turns everyone around her in candy overly sweet versions of themselves and does Brainwashing for the Greater Good, Slime Princess becomes tyrannical, lazy and wishes to absorb other slimes into her own besides behaving and talking in a similar fashion to Jabba The Hut, and Patience herself becomes gloomy and melancholic.
  • Freakazoid! is the rare heroic example. Becoming the titular hero drives Dexter insane, but in the sense of "five year old manchild on a sugar high" level of insane instead of "Mwahahahaha! Ultimate power to rule the world!" level of insane.
  • Spider-Carnage of Spider-Man: The Animated Series is an example of this happening to a version of Spider-Man himself.
  • The EVOs of Generator Rex can get hit with this, Body Horror, or both. The clearest example would probably be Breach, though she's at least coherent. No-Face from the Bug Jar also demonstrates a seriously degraded mental state, though not in the same way as Breach. And some EVOS are so far gone, it's easy to forget they were ever human in the first place.
  • Nerissa of W.I.T.C.H. is a sad example of this. She was actually pretty well-adjusted until she gained control of the Heart of Candracar. The Oracle tried to cut her off at the pass, making her hand it over to her best friend, Cassidy. All it did was drive Nerissa farther into needing it, in which she killed her friend in cold blood. A good generation later, she comes back, pulling off a plan to obtain more Hearts "for the greater good of the universe".
  • Happened to Goofy in the House of Mouse short "Sandwich Makers".
    Donald: He's lost it.
  • In a less malevolent example, an episode of Aladdin: The Series had Genie's powers be transferred to Iago. Iago notices pretty quickly that, along with Genie's powers, he has also become more eccentric and strange, while the de-powered Genie becomes more morose. Apparently, possessing semi-phenomenal, nearly-cosmic power makes you a Cloudcuckoolander.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
  • In the X-Men animated series, Apocalypse was this according to Professor Xavier, which means that unlike Magneto and the group behind the Sentinels, he cannot be reasoned with and has to be stopped at once by the X-Men before he will destroy the world.
  • In the Batman Beyond episode "Heroes", three scientists are transformed by a Freak Lab Accident. They are angry and frustrated at being unable to lead normal lives, and are pushed over the edge when they learn that the transformation is killing them and driving them insane — and that the "accident" was deliberately set up by a colleague who had intended to kill his romantic rival.
  • Sugilite from Steven Universe. A building sized fusion of Garnet and Amethyst, she's a walking wrecking machine. Problem is, the combo of Amethyst's wild personality and Garnet's power makes her violent and hard to manage. If the fusion lasts too long, she becomes a serious threat.
  • In the Atomic Puppet episode "Sword Sisters", Pauline becomes the superheroine Sword Sister after she gets her hands on a Cool Sword, but soon goes mad due to its incredible power. Joey and AP are forced to find the sword's original owner in order to stop their friend.
  • Dark magic has this effect in Winx Club: as it's fueled by negative emotions, the more powerful its users become, the more they risk becoming fully evil.
    • Best shown by the Trix:
      • They start out as powerful, ambitious and mean, but not particularly evil (especially Darcy, who actually fell in love and got together with Riven halfway through the first season);
      • The moment they got their hands on the enormous power of the Dragon's Flame (a power-up they couldn't handle), they instantly became borderline Omnicidal Maniacs bent to take over the universe or destroy it trying (with Darcy 'breaking up' with Riven in a nightmarish Break the Haughty sequence, in which she claimed she was only using him);
      • At the start of season 2 they've lost the Dragon's Flame, and aside from the mental trauma from getting imprisoned at Lightrock (a Fate Worse than Death, according to them), they seem back to normal;
      • Soon after Darkar give them the Gloomix power-up, and they grow more sadistic;
      • In season 3, without the Gloomix and with little negative emotions due to their crush on Valtor, they're at their weakest, only returning to be dangerous when facing Bloom (who they blame for defeating them and letting them get imprisoned at Lightrock);
      • In the second movie and early season 5, after the Ancestral Witches' tutelage brought them on par with Believix fairies, they're back to Gloomix-like evil;
      • When they get the Dark Sirenix (and somehow maintain that level of power even after losing it), they're back trying to take over the universe.
  • In the episode "The Forgotten Element" of Ninjago's fourth season, Kai briefly becomes corrupted by the power of Master Chen's Staff of Elements and it causes his suppressed envy of Lloyd becoming the Green Ninja to surface. Fortunately, it doesn't last long.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Comes Great Insanity, Power Corrupts, Power Up Means Insanity, Insanity Inducing Power Up



The activation of her conduit gene made the already unstable Sasha into a monster.

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