I had never heard of it before this morning, but there’s apparently a mental condition known as the “Truman Show Delusion.” People afflicted with this malady believe that they’re living in a reality show about their lives.
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?
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.”
Just … wow.
As the article says, this is a variation on other types of “persecutory and grandiose delusions.” I’ve had some brief experience with people on the fringe of that category, and can tell you that it’s no picnic. In fact, it can be scary as hell.
It goes without saying that mental illness is never funny. As these maladies go, though, this strikes me as one of the more bizarre ones. I’m not sure it’s really possible for those of us who don’t suffer from something like this to imagine what it’s like. How could you possibly think that you were living in a reality show, that you best friend was an actor paid to hang out with you, that there were hidden cameras chronicling your every move? Isn’t it curious that you can’t find the show anywhere on your television? How could you imagine that somebody out there would be interested in watching it? How is it that the evidence of the physical world never intrudes on the fantasy? (This, of course, is why it’s a mental illness – I realize that.)
Okay, okay – I can give you the one about people’s willingness to watch, maybe. If people will glue themselves to the latest goings-on with Hulk Hogan’s family, the really sad housewives of Atlanta and Jessica Simpson trying to figure out whether tuna is chicken or fish, then maybe there is an audience for you making yourself a sandwich. I don’t know. I’m not 100% sure that this phenomenon itself isn’t a mild form of masochistic disorder.
In any case, just a word of advice: if you’re all teed up to watch the Dr. Slammy Show marathon on Network 23 this weekend, please pick up the phone.
You need help.