In 1998, a movie called ”The Truman Show” was released. The film, which starred actor Jim Carrey, was very well received. The plot revolves around a man who does not know that his entire life is being filmed by hidden cameras and is actually being broadcasted on television.
Everyone in the fictional man’s life is a paid actor. The whole world is watching the man, and no one can be trusted.
A New York-based psychiatrist named Joel Gold would begin to notice a certain phenomenon—patients would believe that people in their lives were also reading from a script, and they would also believe that they were being filmed. Those patients would even bring up “The Truman Show” to the psychiatrist so that he could understand how they were feeling.
Along with his brother—a philosopher named Ian Gold—the psychiatrist would name that particular mental illness “The Truman Show Delusion”, or “Truman syndrome”. They named it in their book, which is called “Suspicious Minds: How Culture Shapes Madness”.
If you haven’t heard about the mental condition until now, here are ten facts you probably need to know.
1. Sufferers Experience Grandiose Delusions
Really, “Truman syndrome” is not terribly new; people have been experiencing delusions of grandeur for centuries now, leading them to believe they are actually figures like Jesus Christ himself, or even Napoleon.
Delusions of grandeur are most common in people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, dementia, or psychosis. It also tends to be more common in those who abuse substances.
According to one mental health professional, two of his patients claimed to be Elizabeth Taylor in one week. That professional says that those who suffer from grandiose delusions may not believe they are a celebrity, but they tend to think they are more important than they actually are in reality.
Sufferers tend to think they’re incredibly rich, talented, or famous. Considering the proliferation of reality television programs, it is not unusual for people to think they’re the star of such a program.
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2. Pareidolia Is An Issue
The illusionist Darren Brown describes pareidolia as the brain’s predisposition to finding patterns; one common example might be seeing the image of Jesus in the clouds. Even seeing a man in the moon could be considered an example.
On a television special, Brown convinced a woman named Emma that she was going to be on his new television program.
She was convinced that she was going to be followed by actors, and she was told that her family and friends would also be part of the program. He claimed that she would be followed by hidden cameras for two weeks. She was asked to record a video diary every day, in which she should talk about her experiences and the lessons she learned.
The fact of the matter is that no one was actually following her, and nobody around her was an actor. However, just the suggestion that she was living in a world like “The Truman Show” was enough—she believed it was real and that she was being watched the entire time.
H/T – Source
3. The Story of the First Patient of Many Patients
Albert, a pseudonym, is the first patient treated by the psychiatrist Joel Gold. Albert believed that he was trapped inside a reality television program. He actually did not believe that the attacks of September 11, 2001 occurred.
In Albert’s mind, the whole thing was designed so that he would not fly anywhere to escape a giant television soundstage.
Albert, who believed that cameras were implanted in his eyes, actually flew to New York City to see the result of 9/11 in person. He thought that video records of his life were actually being used as footage on a reality television program.
While in New York City, Albert decided he was sick of being monitored 24 hours a day and seven days a week. He would then seek asylum at the United Nations. Understandably, a security guard tried to prevent him from entering the building.
Because Albert believed the guard was working for a television program, he took a swing. Naturally, this did not go over well, and Albert was arrested. He ended up in a psychiatric hospital, and that’s where he met Doctor Joel Good.
Other patients at the hospital would use “The Truman Show” to explain their own delusions.
H/T – Source
4. Persecutory Delusions Are Experienced By Sufferers
A person experiencing “The Truman Show” type of delusions feel persecuted. They believe that they are being punished for something they’ve done. Just like in the movie, those people suffering from the delusion think that they are used for the entertainment of others. In their minds, they are being told that they are insane because it is a way of keeping them in check.
One patient, who went by “Mr E”, experienced ADHD and depression for several years; however, no one in his family was aware of the fact he truly believed that the government was filming him as part of an experiment. He believed that everything was faked, including news broadcasts on television and appointments with doctors—as well as interactions with his friends and family.
Mr. E ended up being diagnosed with schizophreniform disorder; that’s when a person has symptoms of schizophrenia, but the symptoms last less than six months.
H/T – Source
5. Suspicion Symptoms Versus Reflective Symptoms Are A Problem
Dr. Gold believes that everyone’s brain has something called a suspicion system. That system evaluates potential social threats. There is also a reflective system that counterbalances it; the reflective system gathers evidence to find rational explanations, which makes everything okay. The reflective system keeps the suspicion system in check.
Dr. Gold believes that the mechanism is out of whack in the case of certain people. If those people end up suspecting something is happening to them, it then becomes the truth. As a result, they can’t think rationally about their circumstances or suspicions. A “what if” scenario becomes the only plausible explanation regarding what is happening to them.
Have you ever been followed while walking down a street? Chances are, the person “following” you just needs to go a nearby shop—or that person may be headed to work. A person with a suspicion system that isn’t counterbalanced by a reflective system might assume the worst.
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6. Sufferers Lose Control Over Their Lives
According to Dr. Gold, one of the primary factors that contributes to certain delusions is actually the concern over losing control of your life.
As an example, a mentally ill person may end up believing that he or she was abducted by aliens and a chip was implanted—that chip, in their mind, controls every move they make.
As a result, that person really has no choice but to continue being abducted by extremely powerful extraterrestrial beings; they believe they are experimented on throughout the course of their lives.
In other cases, people believe the government is out to get them.
Similarly, “The Truman Show” is all about losing control of one’s destiny. Nothing is actually real, and everything is being controlled by a powerful external force. There is no way, in the minds of some people, to escape.
H/T – Source
7. It Is A Sign Of The times That We Think We Are Being Constantly Watched
Webcams are being hacked, the NSA has a reputation for monitoring what Americans do on the internet, and there are cameras everywhere in many of the world’s major cities. As a result, it is not unreasonable to believe that you are being watched at all times.
Therefore, for those predisposed to the “Truman” syndrome, it does not take much for the idea that they’re being watched at all times to end up in their heads.
Dr. Gold said in an interview that there is a new variation of this delusion with every new generation. It tends to follow what is happening in popular culture and with technology. Decades ago, people thought that they were being controlled with radio waves.
Technology marched on, and now people believe in implanted computer chips and hidden cameras. According to Dr. Gold, the idea that people believe they might be the star of a reality show says more about society than it does about the people suffering from the delusion.
H/T – Source
8. Outsiders Can Make The Condition Worse
There is a man named Jonny Benjamin, and he posts videos on social media about his psychotic episodes and mental illness.
In one of those videos, he made the claim that he actually suffered from the “Truman” delusion as a child; this occurred because he felt isolated and socially awkward.
Benjamin grew up in London and never felt like he fit in with his peers. He liked to play house and “make believe” instead of playing sports. His classmates found him “weird”.
Because his teachers knew he liked to play pretend, he was chosen to participate in a school video. After filming was completed, classmates who had never spoken to him before wanted to be his friend—that was because he was “famous”.
Benjamin has described it as a euphoric experience. His classmates were constantly asking him how it was and saying it was cool that he got to be on film.
It was the aforementioned experience and watching “The Truman Show” that led to Benjamin’s delusions. He has said that the things he wanted most were to be well-liked and famous. His being filmed actually made him more outgoing.
According to him, anytime there was a coincidence in his life, he attributed it to being on a reality program. An example of such a coincidence would be if he were thinking of a friend and then that friend contacted him.
He was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder at the age of 20; however, even though he is aware of his mental issues, he still looks for indications that he is actually on a reality television program.
9. Skepticism Regarding The Condition Is A Problem
Critics of Dr. Gold and his brother have claimed that the “Truman” delusions are not real. Those suffering from the delusions are just attention seekers. They’re making it all up.
Dr. Gold has received emails from people believing that they are living in a reality program, and they have never been properly diagnosed.
Because of the initial emails, Gold ended up working with 20 people suffering from the “Truman” delusion. Gold describes the condition as incredibly frightening and an isolating experience. Sufferers don’t feel like they can trust anyone around them. They believe that the people around them are actors.
Gold says that the condition is not anything anyone would put on themselves if it could be helped. He added that more questions arise the longer he studies the condition.
H/T – Source
10. The Delusion Is More Common In Urban Areas
The delusion we’ve been discussing—according to Dr. Gold—is actually far more common in urban areas. That’s because living in an urban environment, at least when compared to living in a small town, can make a person feel insignificant and small.
One British study has shown that moving to an urban environment from a small town—a place where one’s name might be known by everyone around—can actually trigger psychosis in certain people due to loneliness. Had those people stayed in their hometowns, he said, they might have never experienced that psychosis.
H/T – Source