In The Truman Show, Jim Carrey played the unwilling star of the world's most popular reality show, living his life on a giant soundstage with actors playing his friends and family. Now psychiatrists are seeing the rise of a new kind of delusion: People believe they are living out Truman Shows of their own, convinced that their every move is being filmed and every moment contrived by television producers. Researchers fear pop culture may be to blame.In the last few years, psychiatrists began documenting cases of patients who reported a belief that they were being filmed for television entertainment. The patients differed in their experiences, but all believed that their lives had somehow been selected to participate in a show without their consent:
One man showed up at a federal building, asking for release from the reality show he was sure was being made of his life. Another was convinced his every move was secretly being filmed for a TV contest. A third believed everything - the news, his psychiatrists, the drugs they prescribed - was part of a phony, stage-set world with him as the involuntary star, like the 1998 movie "The Truman Show."
Although the syndrome, which some psychiatrists have unofficially named after the film, is related to classic paranoid and grandiose delusions, the pervasiveness of reality television in our culture may reinforce the delusion in many patients. Mental health professionals note that, when patients see shows featuring hidden cameras and invasive footage, it seems plausible that they could be on television themselves:
That's not to say reality shows make healthy people delusional, "but, at the very least, it seems possible to me that people who would become ill are becoming ill quicker or in a different way," Ian Gold [a philosophy and psychology professor at McGill University] said.
While many sufferers are intensely disturbed by their delusions (one physician reported a patient who threatened to kill himself if he couldn't drop out of his imagined reality show), some find the idea of being on television appealing. The imagined total invasion of their privacy may be distressing, but a few actually take pride their supposed celebrity status. [via Associated Press]