Truman Show Disorder

Montreal psychiatrists Joel and Ian Gold are studying the Truman Show Delusion, a mental illness they've identified where individuals are convinced that they are the stars of imaginary reality TV shows. By the way some people act on Flickr and YouTube, I'd say that this disorder, with varying severity, may be more common than we realize. From
While (Joel) Gold says they could have easily called their new disorder the EDtv Delusion or the Matrix Delusion -- both films that refer to an unreal existence-- three of the five patients he treated at the storied mental health hospital directly likened their plight to The Truman Show, the 1998 film about Truman Burbank, an affable suburbanite who slowly becomes aware that his every movement is broadcast 24/7 to voyeuristic viewers around the world.

The five patients Dr. Gold treated were white men between the ages of 25 and 34, the majority of whom held university degrees. "I realized that I was and am the centre, the focus of attention by millions and millions of people," explained one patient, an army veteran who came from an upper-middle-class upbringing.

"My family and everyone I knew were and are actors in a script, a charade whose entire purpose is to make me the focus of the world's attention...."

"The wish for fame is a form of grandiosity, and the fear of threats such as surveillance can bring about paranoia," said the Montreal-based (Ian) Gold, 46, who specializes in delusion.

"New media is opening up vast social spaces that might be interacting with psychological processes."
Truman Show Delusion (, thanks Lyn Jeffery!)


  1. Um, with all the CCTV spying on us, how is this a “disorder”?

    Or rather, why should it be seen as a disease of the individual rather than the corporate state?

    1. I agree with your thinking. Big brother is watching us every where we go. Anyone
      with the tech savy, and the desire to do you harm, can bug your house, your car, and your work place. My hair dresser is one of these people who I think they have made a show after their lives. The show is called nurse Jacki. My hair dresser just got her RN liscense. The character looks just like her and the character and my hair dresser both have husbands name “Kevin”. Wake up!!! We are all being watched!

  2. I grew up with a very strong suspicion that everyone was playing a giant game and I was the pawn at the middle of the plot, without ever seeing any show or movie to plant that concept in my mind. It’s quite a mind-#!@ to go around curious what the next part in the plot might be, and trying new things to see if you can mess it up. I was just shy of too wild to get myself into real trouble, which worked out well.

    That being said, I grew up.

  3. these guys need to talk to frank chu, because this is exactly what he says happened to him and his family. Zegnatronic.

  4. Convince them they are not wrong but “they” will get bored if they live a virtuous life, as all people want to see on TV is the nasty naughty stuff.

  5. How is this any different from your garden variety psychotic disorder with paranoid ideations? Is a new diagnosis that necessary?

  6. You do know that, about ten years ago, LA County Mental Health had ads in the papers trying to find a caseworker who could speak Klingon. The medium is the mental illness.

  7. Anyone who has a blog, or even posts a comment to a blog most likely has a mild for of the delusion… that large groups of people actually care what they say or think.

  8. This isn’t new, it’s just a new facet to an existing spectrum of symptoms. About 10 years ago I had a roomate who was schizophrenic, and he was convinced that everyone in town was recording his movements and that everyone he encountered (including his roomates, who lived in the house before he moved in) were all plants, assigned to spy on him, etc. There’s a huge narcissistic aspect of paranoid delusions; basically, EVERYONE is in on the watching, the plotting, etc, and you are, of course, the singular object of everyone’s interest. Reality shows are just one new piece of the world that people with these issues can get hung up on.

    Suggesting that this is some new phenomena casued by reality tv is like suggesting that the existence of the phone caused my roomate to believe that people were whispering messages to him under the dialtone. It’s a correlation, not causation.

  9. someone watching over you at all times, seeing your every move, judging you based on your actions?

    I thought this was called “believing in God”?

  10. Every breath you take
    And every move you make
    Every bond you break
    Every step you take
    Ill be watching you

    Every single day
    And every word you say
    Every game you play
    Every night you stay
    Ill be watching you

    god the stalker

  11. #12: All of us have had direct experience of this with our parents have we not? Isn’t that what you are describing? Childhood?

  12. Man, my Truman Show would be a blockbuster. Back of the DVD:

    “He appears to be sitting at a computer… still.”

  13. “How is this any different from your garden variety psychotic disorder with paranoid ideations? Is a new diagnosis that necessary?”

    it is if you want to get published

  14. #19 – There is a cure Seyo, is your life really worth watching? Once you realize it would be a horrific bore to everyone, you’ll realize that NOBODY is watching or caring what you do.

  15. Has anyone tried depriving these folks of their daily rations of carbon monoxide and ozone?

    (This situation used to be called the Evil Eye…)

  16. Takuan – yeah that song has always freaked me out. My friend is bipolar with a bit extra paranoia when he is manic. At one point he believed all the cars outside his house were spying on him, and I was a witch or a policeman spying on him. We finally took him to the doctor when he thought there was a spy camera down his throat. We were afraid he’d hurt himself.
    I think what is interesting about this ‘new disorder’ is just how pop culture affects us. I don’t think the paranoia is anything new – but this particular delusion is. With my friend, the police had left a friendly flier – basically asking us to spy on our neighbours. “Do your neighbours come home late at night? Do the keep to themselves?” Basically – do they do anything suspicious? I know how I felt when I got that flier. Now imagine you have a mental illness!

  17. I suffer from BoingBoing disorder. I believe that this entire blog, and all other comments, exist only to provide an outlet for my occasional comments, and that everyone reading everything here is only doing so in the wan hope that I will do so.

  18. @rrsafety It’s actually amazingly hard to convince a paranoid person no one cares. Here you are talking to them and telling them no one cares – but YOU are talking to them – so obviously you care and on it goes. That’s one place where depressed people are slightly easier. No matter what – you can keep saying ” yeah well I care.” Still the whole misery thing is less fun that random aliens and stuff. Yeah! The brain is an amazing, complex, grotesque and beautiful place. I’m thankful for my crazy friends.

  19. RE: The original post, I think there’s a big difference between this and just being an attention whore.

    I agree with the psychologist quoted in the article who says that pop culture is just providing new grist for the mill of old disorders. Of course movies that openly deal with paranoid situations, like The Truman Show and The Matrix, are going to fuel paranoid ideations.

    One mild example: the Wachowski brothers should really feel bad about that thing in The Matrix where the same thing happening twice in quick succession (I think a black cat walked past the characters twice?) is a glitch in the Matrix and indicates that mean robots are going to come get you.

    I was driving home from that movie and was passed by 2 red cars of the same model in quick succession. Not cool! If my brain chemistry were slightly different that probably would’ve been the begin of my descent into madness.

  20. I try and try to convince myself that people don’t watch me, yet I have one conversation relating to this just last night and BOOM! here it is in print the next day. Could you people just leave me alone?

  21. I agree, this is just a case of today’s pop-culture adding material and details to a very old condition.

    When I was in the 4th grade I spent a little time (days? maybe as much as a week) trying to determine if anything or anyone besides me even existed. I then considered the alternative that I might be one of a few “real” people among many prop people and prop environments. Played around with various reasons such a situation might exist.

    I decided that there was no way for me to know for sure whether one of those possibilities were the truth, or if things are as they are generally accepted/presented to be. Decided that, in the absence of certainty, I’d best just go on acting as if I believed in the consensual reality.

    I still know that I don’t *know* (any more than I *know* that my next breath will draw in air, or that my next step encounter floor or earth), but I never worry about it, since I am confident that, if the world’s a construct (of my mind or of some puppet-master’s), I’ll never see any cracks in its veneer.

    If I were first inventing/discovering my own personal solipsism and its variants in today’s media environment, I might very well include a Truman Show-type hypothesis among the ones I toyed with.

  22. Takuan @16: I think Capgras delusion is actually a specific syndrome rather than a catchall for general they’re-watching-me delusions. IIRC, Capgras is specifically the result of the unconscious response to familiar faces going awry. The sufferer recognizes familiar faces on a conscious level, but doesn’t feel familiar feelings when s/he does, leading to the belief that their friends and family must have been replaced by other people who look just like them.

  23. “I think, therefor I am” seems pretty certain. That of course doesn’t mean “I”, “think” or “am” should be defined the way I think they should be defined. Maybe I’m just dreaming all of you (or vice versa).

    Logically, we can’t be certain about much. (Mathematics seems very plausible, though. Or so I’m told, aleast.)

  24. *atleast

    If our universe is just my dream, why can’t I dream that I spell correctly? (That reminds me of an episode of Red Dwarf.)

  25. “New media is opening up vast social spaces that might be interacting with psychological processes.”

    I just love that for some reason.

  26. I think otherwise. Maybe we’re all being watched but just don’t know it yet. I’m not talking about what you can sense with your 5 senses. I’m talking about that which cannot be observed with a living person in this world. There probably is an afterlife. How do you explain Near Death Experiences where people’s bodies are Dead, but then come back to life spontaneously and can recall strange creatures that are not of this world. Who says that beyond this visible realm there is not some sort of deity or deities watching our every move? Are our dreams simply imaginary or are they a glimpse of another very real place? Or do we know most everything about how life works and we can simply shrug aside all these ideas as merely delusion? There is eventually a point where all theories of our origin break down. If God created us, who created God? If we evolved to be this way then what is the point of beauty and why was there a need for the brain to evolve to be advanced enough for language? If we evolved, why don’t we have a sample of every single evolution that occurred from the past to present (there are major gaps in fossils and archaeologists assume that they are related)? If there is no creator, is death just like falling asleep except you never wake up?

  27. I can’t believe that no one has mentioned Heinlein’s story “They.” Just because you’re pathologically solipsistic doesn’t mean the world isn’t a simulacrum designed around you!

  28. This reminds me of when I was younger – about 10 – and someone asked me the question, “How do you know if the objects outside your peripheral vision really exist?” That made me think for awhile… I also wondered sometimes if I got a song in my head, or if I was listening to something on headphones, if that was somehow broadcast to everyone else, or if it was played over a loudspeaker (which I couldn’t hear because of the headphones). I more or less grew out of that, though… more an imaginative “what if?” than a true belief.

    With that said, it makes me wonder how many reality TV show participants have this disorder, and if so, what they do after the show is over. Are they cured once the show is over, or does the real show simply reinforce their personal show?

  29. I’m skeptical, but this isn’t necessarily just attention-seeking. ‘Normal’ delusions of grandeur are enjoyed on the premise that nobody is actually watching me sing Van Halen songs into the bathroom mirror – doing that because I think millions of people think it’s great would probably screw with my life.

    Matt Staggs – that’s what I was wondering.. National Post’s reporting can be (cough) sensational sometimes, and this seems to essentially be about two guys trying to get some publicity. I don’t really know enough about psychiatry to know if their diagnoses go this far.

    It would be fun to send a reality TV star to these guys as part of a reality show…

  30. The versionn of this I played when young was that the aliens were having me imagine I was at school so they could pick my brains for the secrets of earth science.

    Yes it is odd that they would need our science if they could do that!

  31. This is only a disorder if you presume we are NOT constantly receiving subliminal messages about how we should behave, and if most people are NOT acting out what they’ve been told in those messages, be it consciously or unconsciously.

    If you still want to “believe” this is a “disorder”, go watch “The Century of the Self” on YouTube.

    4 episodes include:
    “Happiness Machines”
    “Engineering Consent”
    “There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads”
    “8 People Sipping Wine in Kettering”

  32. I suggest you check out Also “the menace of satellite surveillance” on boing, boing. There are thousands of people being tortured while under 24/7 surveillance. A movie like “The Truman Show” was probably inspired by the use of this technology in this country. The Dept. of Defense hires thousands of people to participate in this project. Surely you know the government has experimented on people in the past with harmful chemicals, etc. Well, now they are using electromagnetic weapons on non-consenting subjects chosen from the population by the many groups they employ. To be targetted all you need to do is live next door to one of their employees.

  33. A disorder! Damn! And here I thought all along that I was, like, this big star that everyone couldn’t get enough of…

  34. But I am being followed by a reality tv camera crew from Gotcha!, who hide whenever I turn around.
    I know it for certain, I can’t explain the weirdness in my life otherwise. :)

  35. Ummm that’s not a new disorder. Try paranoid personality disorder, schizophrenia, schizoaffective, etc.. All can have delusional aspects. It’s frustrating when people create pop medical diagnoses that people suffering from actual illnesses might be confused by..

  36. I decided that there was no way for me to know for sure whether one of those possibilities were the truth, or if things are as they are generally accepted/presented to be. Decided that, in the absence of certainty, I’d best just go on acting
    as if I believed in the consensual reality.

    I went through a stage like this when I was about 7-8 yrs old, and came to pretty much the same conclusion. When I got a little older I was introduced to Zen philosophy, which seems to say that we were right, in short; the world really is just a big illusion, and who cares. Seeing it as such is a key to appreciating it.

    On a serious note, this isn’t a funny thing. I know someone who suffers from this and I can tell you this is not some narcissistic ‘look at me I’m a star’ thing. These are bright, educated people just like you and I, and they’re scared to death. Its frightening, and you can’t turn it off, its 24/7. Spend one afternoon in that state and you wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy.

    I don’t expect those people mocking this to feel like assholes for a lengthy period of time, but a couple of minutes would be nice.

    Please don’t make fun of suffering people.

  37. This is a disorder because if you have it. It will Drive you crazy as a youth and make suicide seem logical. I have had this as long as I can remeber. When the show came out I almost looked at that as proof that I was correct all along. It takes a lot of investigation into technology and physics to 95% assure me. That it is not the case,Only by others who have disovered this disorder and share it. Am I closer to getting over it completely.

    unless there in on it too. LOL

  38. investigating the things that an affected person finds impossible about this world or unexplained such as the magic of how a tv works or intergrated circuit. for me it helped

  39. Only when I started to be able to explain or at least comprehend the Technology and human behavior that seems so contradictory to logical reality, could I finally start to really tear down the walls of doubt in the reality that seemed to be imposed on me by a molevelent Entity.

  40. People need to realize this is not a disorder shared by a bunch of self centered people who believe the world evolves around them. Usually it is a person who wants nothing to do with fame. The person usually is scared that the feeling he of she has for others, isnt shared by them for him or her. That others are just conscripted by this melevolent entity to play along. Like I said usually self centered people would never be affected by this, the affected people usually care greatly for the people around them and it hurts them greatley to think there feelings may not be returned.

  41. This fabrication by these Dr.s is to cover up the use of sattelite and spy equipment which includes microwave sound devices “silent sounds” in an effort to covertly torture and harass thier victims. Its being done by groups of nazi like tormentors through out the US and canada.

    I am at this moment in what my stalkers refer to as “the jeffrey show”. It uses this equipment and corrupted persons yo pass off nazi like covert torture and the use of thier equipment to covertly publicly humiliate their prey. Its not a disordeer they have its one those drs have. If anyone with the desire and funds would like to have the actuall set of stalkers with this equipment busted wide open I even know where one works at my local sheriffs dept.

    Attn. Victims!! You are not crazy it is not a delusion it is happening it is this key is do not react or seek any psychiatrists assistance. Also by pass any and all local law enforcement and report it to the higher authorities of your country.

    See “gang and electronic stalking”. Those two Dr.s are trying to avoid the reality of the crimes they are aware of and likely involved in

  42. Dude he isnt kidding either, I have had total strangers comeup to me in my hardest times, and tell me “We’re rooting for you rabbit” and it seems friendly like they really are somehow. Good point

  43. I believe you super man my email is posted under my profile, please contact me.. You hit the nail on the head. I just hope My post gets through, cause I cant find your email..


    The question then is not about pills, but what they stand for in these circumstances. The question is asking us whether reality, truth, is worth pursuing. The blue pill will leave us as we are, in a life consisting of habit, of things we believe we know. We are comfortable, we do not need truth to live. The blue pill symbolises commuting to work every day, or brushing your teeth.

    The red pill is an unknown quantity. We are told that it can help us to find the truth. We don’t know what that truth is, or even that the pill will help us to find it. The red pill symbolises risk, doubt and questioning. In order to answer the question, you can gamble your whole life and world on a reality you have never experienced.

    However, in order to investigate which course of action to take we need to investigate why the choice is faced. Why should we even have to decide whether to pursue truth?

    The answer in short, is inquisitiveness. Many people throughout human existence have questioned and enquired. Most of them have not been scientists or doctors or philosophers, but simply ordinary people asking ‘what if?’ or ‘why?’

  45. the only reason i found this blog is because i put this into the search bar in google ‘feel like i’m in the truman show’. i’ve read a few comments and people don’t know how insane it can be half the time.

    i’m no doctor or anything like that so i can’t really describe what it’s like. i used to go out with friends all the time but now they think i’m mental so i can’t really be around them as i would ruin the enjoyment(i assume). i reckon the only cure for this is death.

    honestly, your head gets in a state.

  46. Rabbittini. I was soo very glad you posted and then very melancholic. I did have this disorder and many of the things you posted are the exact same feelings I have went through. I’m glad that I am not alone but sad you went through/(are still semi going thru?? as per your profile) the same. Abilify helped me but… First.

    To put off any doubts as to my genuineness of the reason why I came to this site. I came here because I remember watching a Colbert Report episode and he said something about this. I saw it with my g/f and we’ve been meaning to check it out. Bored, I stumbled upon this. Anyway, ur #62 and 57 posts really hit it home for me. #55 anonymous does too.

    Anyway one way I was able to channel all my inquisitive energy was philosophy and critical thinking (Ruggieiro i think is the author i had for that class). Constantly trying to prove or disprove events became very tiresome and I figured how could the show go on if I was so boring. I could go on about that but main point is really thinking things out into logical steps, realizing your parents don’t know everything (though may never tell you that), and Law School has really helped me. Yep, I am in Law School now. And even though I came in “cured” (I stopped smoking pot, but tried it recently w/ my g/f and had the same symptoms happen to me again), I have found that these law books have helped me understand the logical order of arguments, how people are, and how fair law really can be to people (when done right, of course there are shi*ty lawyers out there). I truly believe that if ever given a chance to lessen the paranoia or just get to a point where one actively goes, “ok. im going to be boring. let’s see how they like that on there show then!”, and then that person reads these books critical thinking and law books (though the law books would take some time), the person would realize that people are flawed, your family/friends may not have said anything because they don’t know how to handle it. Especially, if anybody did try to help you and the disorder dug you deeper to think about how that person may be “in on it.”

    So, seeing your posts Rabbittini, brought all those memories up for me. I’m really sorry you and the other on this page have or are still suffering.

    I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. I took Abilify, though I don’t know if it helped. I can barely remember when I stopped having the problems. I do remember trying to drive different ways home, trying to fool whoever was following me e.g. post #2.

    I hope you and everyone find peace and continue living. Suicide is not the answer, for this disease/disorder. There is a light at the end.

  47. It’s All Fake, The Matrix / Truman Show is Real – The Real World Does Not Exist.

    Recently published scientific research states that most people don’t have first hand evidence of distant places. People only travel in a small area around their work and home.

    The whole world is living in a real Truman show/ Matrix.

    What people know of the real world has nothing to do with real life experiences but is second hand from books, TV and the Internet.

    People tend to visit the same places over and over again.

    On the Truman show the main character is imprisoned in a massive television sound stage that contains his entire home town. He fights to escape when he realises his world is fake. His world had defined boundaries, the walls of the sound stage.

    Intuitively we think that we understand our own natural behaviour….

  48. This is unfortunately all true. But no one has stated the real reason all these people are being subjected to this treatment. And the reason is that you are all probably unconvicted or unrepentant criminals of some sort. It may be a civilian organization that uses standby participants and unwitting particpants but they are participants all the same. The goal is to guilt you into confession or reform or the final solution. Any of the above results are acceptable to society.

    Thank you and good luck!

  49. to poster of #72 can you please give us more information, or refer us to where we can find more information?

  50. I wouldn’t be surprised if gangstalked individuals fell prey to this delusion. The organized nature of group harrassment coupled with a target’s ignorance could easily lead to things being blown out of proportion.

    It’s so easy to track and monitor people, these days, with sophisticated and easily concealable equipment. Who knows if the Truman Show isn’t actually on to something? Perhaps, the “best of” DVD of me in the shower will one day be available for purchase at Amazon.

  51. Re: to post # 70

    It’s hard to explain, but I will try….. Everytime I smoke (weed) it become paranoid and feel as if all of the events that happened in my life led to a point, a crossroad if you will for me to make a decision. (RED PILL OR GREEN PILL FEELING). I feel as if I am on a television show and everyone tunes in when I smoke because they know it’s the “climax” of that particular “scene.” I turn on the TV, I feel as if they are trying to mock me or make fun of the “decision” I have to make in that moment or upcoming future that will advance me to the next “scene” of this grand play that I am. The trip part about it is, it seems to make sense!!!!!! Even when I am not high, I think back to the moment that I was and I go over in my head the revalations “revealed” to me and I feel more so that I am watched because the “show/audience” wants to see what I do!!!!!!!

    I really hate this feeling…..but at the same time I am curious. I only seem to get into this state when I am high and a couple of days afterwards…..but I am always eager to smoke to find out what the “episode was about and did I make the right decision during the “episode.” Does anyone else feel this at all? Or should I better explain?

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