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What is the Truman Show Delusion?

Updated on July 9, 2013

Has Reality TV Gone Too Far?

Reality TV has nearly replaced regular programming. Everyone has their own TV show on every topic imaginable. Ever wonder what a television show about your life would look like?

Some people not only wonder what it would be like, they actually believe they are part of a reality show. There are no cameras. There are no sponsors. There are no buckets of money from affiliates. There is only the delusion that everyone is watching.

This is the Truman Show Delusion. Remember the movie that started it all, "The Truman Show"? Jim Carrey had no idea that the cameras were following him. He had no idea that he was the subject of a television series, and when things got calm, he had no idea that show producers were creating situations to spice up his life.

This is why people can - and do - believe they are secretly being followed by cameras. This is a very real issue and it is largely in industrialized countries. It does predate the 1998 film for which it is named, but it has yet to be officially recognized by any psychological group.

Background and Interesting Cases

No one really knows how common this delusion is because delusional people often don't seek help. The issue grew after "The Truman Show" but some patients had been exhibiting symptoms for years before the movie hit theaters.

"The Truman Show" certainly skyrocketed the number of people with this delusion, but it didn't introduce the concept. Philip Dick wrote about this delusion in his science fiction pieces decades before 1998. The works of fiction, and the movie, both point out that family and friends are paid to keep up the delusion. Hollywood has plenty of money. It's not hard to see how someone who is already delusional would make this connection.

Some interesting cases of The Truman Delusion are:

- the man who believed the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center were part of his show. He traveled to New York City to see if the incident really happened. He also believed he had cameras for eyes.

- the man who believed he had to travel to the top of the Statue of Liberty. Once there, he would meet a woman who would release him from the show's producers. He believed that everyone around him was a paid actor.

- the person who believed everything they did was being watched by an army of spies called the "www people", as in the World Wide Web. Everything they see is documented then put on the Internet for all to see. The spies were also thought to have bugged the furniture in the home.

- the man in Australia who killed his father and sister because he thought they were secretly filming him, trying to convince him to kill others or himself.

- the man who assaulted a woman and her two year old in New York after leaving Florida to escape the television show on which he believed he was the unwilling star.

The cases are on the rise, especially since the original movie. The movie, however, does not deserve full credit for the delusion. Media is everywhere. The rise of medias such as the Internet and up-to-date news stories feed into the delusion. Cameras seem to be everywhere. They were even at the Boston bombing and they seem to be in celebrities' homes. Why wouldn't they be in our personal lives without our knowledge?

Treatment

Many psychiatrists believe The Truman Delusion is tied to the same roots as schizophrenia. Many schizophrenics need medication and verbal therapy to live a normal life. The typical treatment for The Truman Delusion is to medicate and work through the beliefs with therapy.

Some people come out of the delusion while others will forever believe they are being watched. Since many delusional people never seek help, it is often too late before the diagnosis is delivered. Those who can get help, however, fare better and move through life without hurting themselves or anyone around them.

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