Truman Syndrome: what it is, symptoms, causes and treatment

One of Jim Carrey’s most famous films is “The Truman Show”, a film which chronicles the life of Truman Burbank which, unbeknownst to him, is part of a reality show where the people he interacts with and the environment in which he lives are not real. , but actors and set of a television program seen by millions.

This film, which is already a classic and a cult work in the film industry, served to give its name to a particular syndrome in which it shows both delusions of persecution and greatness: truman syndrome.

This particular disorder is not well known, although there are already a few documented cases of people claiming to be victims of their own reality TV show. Let’s take a closer look at what this modern movie with a movie name is all about.

    What is Truman Syndrome?

    Truman syndrome, also known as the Truman Show illusion, is a delusional persecution and grandeur disorder in which the patient believes they are part of a reality show and are the protagonist. He may also believe that his life is a play or that somehow everyone is listening to him, that he knows what he is saying and doing and that there is a public interest. for his life. You can even believe it’s recorded 24 hours a day.

    This particular syndrome is named after one of the best known and iconic films by Canadian-American actor Jim Carrey, “The Truman Show” (1998). The film chronicles the life of Truman Burbank, an individual whose life is recorded 24 hours a day and broadcast on television without his knowledge. The protagonist, who believes himself to be just an insurance salesman living in any city, doesn’t know that the exhibition of his most intimate experiences is a TV hit, until he finds out. and begins to have a conflict with himself and with the cast of his reality show.

    As with Truman in the movie, people with this syndrome believe that their life is a reality TV show and that everything about it is wrong: their beliefs, their relationships with others, the world around them. … Believe that everything was created to satisfy the audience of the show, the strategies of the director of the show to satisfy the viewers. They believe that their life is just a job and that if they want to live a truly independent life, they should shun it anyway.

      History of this syndrome

      The leading researchers on Truman syndrome are brothers Joel (psychiatrist) and Ian Gold (neurophile).. The first documented case of this syndrome was treated by Joel Gold at Bellevue Hospital in New York in 2003, being a patient who claimed that his relatives were actors in an unscripted television program. His delirium didn’t end there, as he also believed he had video cameras implanted in his eyes. For this reason, this patient traveled to New York to seek asylum at the United Nations. He ended up in the mental hospital where Gold worked.

      After seeing a few cases, the Gold brothers became experts in this syndrome, who decided to call it Truman syndrome not only because of the obvious similarities between the cases of the patients with the film, but also because most had seen “The Truman Show” and they felt identified. You could even say that some cases had made the inflection believing that the film had been a kind of signal to conclude that his life was a spectacle.

      While Joel and Ian Gold have been caring for patients with such delusions since 2002, the term “Truman syndrome” was coined in 2008 when evidence of a pattern between cases of the same. Joel Gold, after seeing thousands of patients with delusional disorders, began to see that this type of paranoia with persecutory and delusional traits was more common in white men and young people between the ages of 25 and 34.

      Following their clinical experience, the Gold Brothers wrote a book explaining this delirium, as well as illustrating the stories of many patients: “Suspicious Minds: How Culture Shapes Madness.” In this article, the Golds explain that delusions can be greatly influenced by the brain’s interaction with the social world, and that it is not just the result of biology or dysfunctional brain connections. Culture and the media can have a significant influence on the way mental disorders manifest., as is the case with Truman syndrome.

      Despite his research and numerous Gold Brothers publications, Truman syndrome does not appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), and probably never will be. Yes, it is very likely that as it becomes better known it will be diagnosed more often but within psychotic disorders and with delusional features such as schizophrenia.

        Symptoms of Truman syndrome

        As previously stated, Truman syndrome is not found in DSM. However, it is possible to highlight a number of symptoms that characterize people who suffer from this particular psychological problem of a delusional nature, with symptoms and traits that match those of psychotic disorders:

        • The onset of psychotic disorders is usually between the ages of 18 and 30.
        • Language or disorganized thoughts.
        • Delusions or hallucinations.

        • Affective disorders.
        • Misbehavior.
        • The individual feels observed and persecuted, and tries to escape this feeling.

        Truman syndrome has several health effects those who suffer from it adopt irrational and inappropriate behaviors. In more severe cases, the syndrome may worsen and end with mental disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, chronic stress and anxiety, and depression.

          Health consequences

          truman syndrome it is very dangerous, not only for those who suffer from this delirium, but also for the people around him. Because the victim believes that her social environment is not real, that they are actors and that they keep her locked in a reality show, it is possible that she is trying to break free by resorting to violence.

          Although this syndrome is not well known, it is There have been several cases of people injuring or even murdering loved ones and acquaintances in order to escape the reality show.. Among these cases we find the following.

          Two with names and surnames are those of Anthony Waterlow and William Johns III. The first was an Australian who murdered his father and sister believing he was saved. The second was an American psychiatrist, he traveled from Florida to New York convinced he would escape his own Truman show. Arrived in New York, he attacks two children and their mother.

          One of his most curious cases is that of a man who traveled to New York after the events of September 11, 2001 to make sure the terrorist attacks were a plot twist of your own Truman show. Subject went there to see if the World Trade Center was still there and to prove it had all been a lie. Presumably he was taken by surprise.

          Another patient had worked as a comrade on a reality show and believed the cameras were secretly recording him, even on Election Day in 2004. The patient said it happened to him because he believed the Speaker of that legislature, George Bush, was a Judas and that is why he had attracted the attention of the media and that is why his own show was created so that the authorities would be aware of his views and thus be persecuted by them.

          One of the Gold Brothers patients was an upper-middle-class veteran who he wanted to climb the Statue of Liberty because he believed that by doing so he could free himself from his own spectacle.. The same patient described his condition as follows:

          “I realized that I was and that I am the center attention of thousands and thousands of people… My family and everyone I know were and are actors who follow a script, a farce that aims to make me the worldwide focal point ”.


          The treatment of Truman syndrome shares features with those applied to other psychotic and delusional disorders. The main route is pharmacological treatment, using atypical antipsychotics first choice, combined if necessary with benzodiazepines, antidepressants, hypnotics and euthymisers. Electroconvulsive therapy is also an option, although it is not as popular with patients or their families.

          The psychotherapeutic option uses classic cognitive behavioral treatment. However, this treatment becomes difficult because the patient may come to believe that the psychotherapist is also playing a role, which is part of the program and is there to make him believe that he is crazy and does not know that he is in a reality. . TV show. These are complicated cases to deal with.

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