Attention Deficit Disorder Prosthetic Memory Program

The Truman Show Delusion

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The Truman Show Delusion - © Attention Deficit Disorder Prosthetic Memory Program

The Truman Show delusion, informally known as Truman syndrome, is a type of delusion in which the person believes that their lives are staged reality shows, or that they are being watched on cameras. The term was coined in 2008 by brothers Joel Gold and Ian Gold, a psychiatrist and a neurophilosopher, respectively, after the film The Truman Show.

The Truman Show is a 1998 comedy drama film directed by Peter Weir and written by Andrew Niccol. Actor Jim Carrey plays Truman Burbank, a man who discovers he is living in a constructed reality televised globally around the clock. Since he was in the womb his entire life has been televised, and all the people in his life have been paid actors. As he discovers the truth about his existence, Burbank fights to find an escape from those who have controlled him his entire life.

The content of delusions are invariably tied to a person’s life experience, and contemporary culture seems to play an important role. A retrospective study conducted in 2008 showed how delusional content has evolved over time from religious/magical, to political and eventually to technically themed. The authors concluded that: sociopolitical changes and scientific and technical developments have a marked influence on the delusional content in schizophrenia.Psychiatrist Joseph Weiner commented that:

…in the 1940s, psychotic patients would express delusions about their brains being controlled by radio waves; now delusional patients commonly complain about implanted computer chips.

The Truman Show Delusion could represent a further evolution in the content of persecutory delusions in reaction to a changing pop culture.

Because reality shows are so visible, it is an area that a patient can easily incorporate into a delusional system. Such a person would believe they are constantly being videotaped, watched, and commented upon by a large TV audience.

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