Skip to content

    Mental Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    The Truman Show Delusion: Real or Imagined?

    A few delusional people are convinced they are stars of an imaginary reality show, but doctors disagree on whether it's only an act.
    By Suzanne Wright
    WebMD Feature
    Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

    Two doctor/brothers, Joel and Ian Gold, have identified symptoms of a mental illness unique to our times: the Truman Show delusion, named for the 1998 movie that starred Jim Carrey as a suburbanite whose movements were filmed 24/7 and broadcast to the world. The two say a handful of individuals are convinced they are stars of an imaginary reality show.

    Though limited, their findings are creating a buzz in the media and the psychiatric community: Is it possible that reality TV is shaping delusions?

    Recommended Related to Mental Health

    Chamomile: Shelter from the Storm

    By Maggy Howe The rejuvenating effects of chamomile. I am sorry to say that Peter was not very well during the evening. His mother put him to bed, and made some camomile tea; and she gave a dose of it to Peter! "One tablespoon to be taken at bed-time." --The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter Dear Peter Rabbit and his troublesome antics! It took more than his mother's reprimands to calm him down after his harrowing experience in Mr. McGregor's garden. It was the gentle...

    Read the Chamomile: Shelter from the Storm article > >

    In an interview with WebMD, Joel Gold says, “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, who is on the psychiatric faculty of New York’s Bellevue Hospital and serves as a clinical assistant professional of psychiatry at New York University's School of Medicine, first began to see the symptoms dubbed Truman Show delusion in 2002 with patients at Bellevue Hospital. He initially treated five white male patients with middle-class upbringing and education, all who likened themselves to actors on reality TV shows. Three specifically referenced the movie TheTruman Show, giving rise to the disorder’s name.

    “It’s important to state that Truman Show delusion is a symptom of psychosis,” Joel Gold says. “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.”

    Both Golds are careful to say that the Truman Show delusion is not a new diagnosis, but rather, as Ian Gold says, “a variance on known persecutory and grandiose delusions.” Ian Gold, PhD, holds a Canada Research Chair in philosophy and psychiatry at McGill University in Montreal.

    Although some psychologists scoff at the notion that cultural Zeitgeist can shape delusions, the phenomenon has precedence.

    1 | 2 | 3

    Today on WebMD

    contemplation
    Differences between feeling depressed or feeling blue.
    lunar eclipse
    Signs of mania and depression.
     
    man screaming
    Causes, symptoms, and therapies.
    woman looking into fridge
    When food controls you.
     
    Woman standing in grass field barefoot, wind blowi
    Article
    senior man eating a cake
    Article
     
    Phobias
    Slideshow
    woman reading medicine warnings
    Article
     
    depressed young woman
    Article
    man with arms on table
    Article
     
    veteran
    Article
    man cringing and covering ears
    Article
     

    WebMD Special Sections