Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Mental Health Center

Font Size

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

Why We Love Scary Movies

Halloween is nigh, and along with the parade of adorable elves and fairies knocking on your door come some more disturbing phenomena: scary haunted houses, wild parties and, perhaps most jarringly, a new onslaught of ghastly horror films. This year the biggest new release will be Saw IV, the fourth installment of a tale of a psycho who delights in putting his victims through ever more elaborate and deadly traps. Scary movies are nothing new, but films like those in the Saw and Hostel series have...

Read the Why We Love Scary Movies 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

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
senior man eating a cake
woman reading medicine warnings
depressed young woman
man with arms on table
man cringing and covering ears

WebMD Special Sections