A Catch-22 is a paradoxical situation from which an individual cannot escape because of contradictory rules.
The term originates from a satirical novel by the American author Joseph Heller. In this novel, a World War II US Air Force bombardier called Yossarian was caught in the original Catch-22. Stationed in Italy and afraid of being shot down, he wanted to be declared insane and sent home.
But military rules said that fear of death was a rational response, so anyone who asked to be grounded could not possibly be truly crazy. And those who were insane would not be aware of the fact, and therefore would be unable to ask to be grounded. Therefore, Catch-22 ensures that no airman can ever be grounded for being insane even if he is.
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