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I knew the continuing proliferation of reality TV shows was getting weird, but two university researchers have concluded that this aspect of our culture has created a “novel delusion” — people who think their lives are being filmed. It has seemed that more and more people act like they think they should be on TV, but these poor folks have really lost it.
We report a novel delusion, primarily persecutory in form, in which the patient believes that he is being filmed, and that the films are being broadcast for the entertainment of others. Methods: We describe a series of patients who presented with a delusional system according to which they were the subjects of something akin to a reality television show that was broadcasting their daily life for the entertainment of others. We then address three questions, the first concerning how to characterise the delusion, the second concerning the role of culture in delusion, and the third concerning the implications of cultural studies of delusion for the cognitive theory of delusion. Results: Delusions are both variable and stable: Particular delusional ideas are sensitive to culture, but the broad categories of delusion are stable both across time and culture. This stability has implications for the form a cognitive theory of delusion can take.
– Drs. Joel Gold and Ian Gold, Cognitive Neuropsychiatry
- “Patient 1,” the Golds write, was admitted to a psychiatric hospital after he went to a federal building in New York City seeking “asylum” from his reality show. He said “his life was like The Truman Show” and he demanded to speak to “the director.” He believed the 9/11 attacks had been faked for the benefit of his show, and he’d come to New York to see if the World Trade Center towers were still standing. If they were, this would be definitive proof that he was on a show.
- “Patient 3″ was a newspaper reporter. He believed his media colleagues were faking TV, print, and Internet news “for his amusement.” When hospitalized for his delusions (and for hinting that he might commit suicide), he thought his hospitalization was part of a “build-up” to a lucrative journalism prize he was about to win — he believed all his friends were in on the joke, and that everyone in the hospital was an actor. He tried to escape from the hospital so he could check the difference between real news on the outside and “fake” news he was receiving there. Drug treatment helped somewhat — by the time he was released, he said ‘‘there is an 80% chance that I will treat the hospitalization as if it is for real.’’
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