'Truman show' delusion: Believing your life is a reality TV show

By | June 4, 2012

039Truman show039 delusion Believing your life is a reality TV show

Brian Alexander – Just when you thought those annoying Kardashians couldn’t mess with your head any more than they already do, consider “Mr. A.†When he first saw the psychiatrist, he demanded to speak to “the director†of the reality show in which he was starring.
When “Mr. B.†met psychiatric workers, he informed them that he was being continuously taped for national broadcast. “Mr. D.†really was working on a reality show — until he came to believe that he was the actual star.

All these people, and others, suffered from the delusion that they were serving as entertainment for others. All of them specifically cited the 1998 movie “The Truman Show,†written by Andrew Niccol, directed by Peter Weir, and starring Jim Carrey. In the movie, Carrey plays an insurance man living in a town that’s actually a TV set and populated by actors he thinks are his friends, family and neighbors.

Psychiatrist Joel Gold, in private practice and a professor of psychiatry at New York University, and his brother Ian Gold, a philosopher of psychiatry at McGill University, writing in the most recent issue of the journalCognitive Neuropsychiatry, dub this the “Truman Show” delusion. They ask “Can a case be made that the phenomenon of reality television might interact with the expression of psychotic symptoms?â€

The answer, they argue, is most definitely yes.

They suggest that “reality television resonates with a common anxiety about one’s position in the social hierarchy…. Someone who is particularly anxious about their social status, therefore, might experience reality television as presenting a significant social threat, or a tantalizing possibility of success, or both. In the life of such a person, reality television might act as a significant stress, the effects of which might include a persecutory or grandiose delusion of the Truman Show type.â€

It’s not that watching lots of reality TV causes a mental illness (believe it or not). Rather, an existing or nascent illness, like schizophrenia, interacts with the cultural pervasiveness of reality TV to give form to the delusion. It’s a little like those unstable people who go to Jerusalem and experience“Jerusalem Syndrome,†the belief that they’re characters from the Bible.

The Golds wrote the paper because they think the environmental associations with psychosis don’t get enough attention. “We think in North America that it’s overlooked,†he said in an interview. …

WEIRD NEWS | MAY 31, 2012
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