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Truman Show

The Truman Show Delusion is a Form of Psychosis Where People Believe They are Secretly Starring in Their Own Reality TV Show

The Truman Show is a 1998 American psychological science fiction satire comedy-drama film written and directed by Andrew Niccol under the direction of Peter Weir. It was also produced by Scott Rudin, Andrew Niccol, Edward S. Feldman, Adam Schroeder, and Scott Rudin. But have you heard about the Truman Show Delusion?

A form of psychosis known as the “Truman Show Delusion” causes individuals to believe they are secretly stars of their own reality television program.

The Truman Show Delusion

The Truman Show delusion, termed after the 1998 comedy starring Jim Carrey about a suburbanite whose activities were filmed 24/7 and broadcast to the globe, has been linked to symptoms by two doctors and brothers, Joel and Ian Gold. The two claim that a small number of people are persuaded they are the stars of a fictitious reality program.

The Truman Show delusion encompasses a patient’s entire life. They believe their family, friends, and co-workers are all reading from scripts and their home, workplace, and hospital are all sets. They believe they are being filmed for the whole world to see.

Joel Gold, Psychiatric Faculty of New York’s Bellevue

Joel Gold, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at New York University’s School of Medicine and a Bellevue Hospital’s medical staff member, first noticed the “Truman Show illusion” symptoms in patients in 2002. Five white male patients of middle-class education and upbringing who compared themselves to reality TV celebrities were the first ones he saw. Three made a particular allusion to the film The Truman Show, which is how the disease got its name.

It’s important to state that Truman Show delusion is a symptom of psychosis, People who choose to be the center of attention, have concerns about social standing, or who may fear being in public eye or seek it out, may be more drawn to identify with this delusion. I don’t think people are making it up or choosing it.

Joel Gold, Psychiatric Faculty of New York’s Bellevue

The Truman Show delusion is not a novel diagnosis, as both Golds make sure to point out, but rather : 

A variance on known persecutory and grandiose delusions.

Ian Gold, PhD Canada Research Chair

The concept that the cultural Zeitgeist can influence delusions is not without precedent, despite the disbelief of some psychologists. (Source: WebMD)

Who is to Blame for Truman Show Delusion?

Are there likely to be more diagnoses of the Truman Show delusion in the future, given the prevalence of reality TV and cultural phenomena like YouTube? Joel Gold concurs.

We’ve got the ‘perfect storm’ of reality TV and the Internet. These are powerful influences in the culture we live in and for some people who are predisposed, it might be overwhelming and trigger a psychotic episode. The pressure of living in a large, connected community can bring out the unstable side of more vulnerable people.

Joel Gold, Psychiatric Faculty of New York’s Bellevue

Both doctors said they are a little overwhelmed by the media attention but insist they have no desire for fame or glory. They have received a deluge of “great and unexpected” calls and emails from doctors, patients, and other eager colleagues to share their experiences. Currently, they have dealt with 20 or so situations.

Reality TV doesn’t cause delusion, but is there something about reality TV that is particularly appropriate for expressing delusion once it has developed? We don’t know yet, but it’s fascinating to explore. There’s something about fame that people respond to. My hypothesis is that delusions have to do with our relationships with other people and the new media creates a larger community with more threats and opportunities.

Ian Gold, PhD Canada Research Chair

(Source: WebMD)

Image from LetterBoxd

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