Sunday, August 31, 2008

Paranoia and Reality TV

A recent article in the New York Times reveals that reality television is becoming the new model for people with paranoia...

The Truman Show delusion, or Truman Syndrome, has drawn attention in recent months, in the United States and Britain, as psychiatrists in both countries describe a small but growing number of psychotic patients who describe their lives as mirroring that of the main character in the 1998 film “The Truman Show.”

Played by Jim Carrey, Truman Burbank leads a mundane existence in the suburbs, starting from the time he was in the womb, while being filmed for a documentary television show that he cannot escape. Everyone is in on it, including his wife, and no one will believe Truman when he discovers clues that his life is being chronicled all the time by cameras.
This is exactly what I was thinking when I first saw The Truman Show: This is going to feed a lot of people's paranoia.

Back in the Cold War, paranoid people thought they were being watched by the CIA or KGB. Now, they tend to believe they are part of a reality TV show, with hidden cameras recording their every move.

As with other delusions, this one could be true. The unrealistic part is only that some agency or network would care enough about you to bother monitoring you. That's the core of paranoia: someone thinking he is more important to others than he really is. When someone is "out to get you," it at least means that someone cares. Even if terrifying, paranoia is better than being alone and unnoticed, which is why the delusion persists.

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