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DSM-VI: Reality TV Disorder?

You know how I like to pick apart professionals who make all sorts of logical fallacies when suggesting new diagnoses off the cuff because they’ve personally seen a rise of such cases. Sorry, it’s my failing, and I’m working on it. But in the meantime…

It’s funny, but once you start thinking you’re an expert on a new disorder (that you either created from your imagination — or your patients’ imaginations, or helped to do so), suddenly people start flocking to you for help. I call it the “moth to the light” phenomenon. Then you think it’s a “real” diagnosis, because suddenly of all the people who come to see you. Can you say “self-fulfilling prophecy?”

Meet Joel and Ian Gold — brothers and psychiatrists — who believe in something they call the Truman Show Delusion:

While traditionalists insist that this delusion offers nothing new — it is no different from, say, a deranged man who believes that the CIA has planted a microchip in his tooth — the Gold brothers argue otherwise. […]

He also says that The Truman Show had an impact on patients that other films did not, no matter how powerful they were. “I never heard people say, ‘ The Godfather, that’s my life.’ ”

Sure. And if we start diagnosing people based upon how much they identify with a particular movie, wow, we’ll have tens of thousands of new diagnoses tomorrow! In fact, I see so many teenage and young adult men who think they’re Batman and really identify with that character, I’m officially coining the “Batman Delusion.” (You heard it here first.)

I mean, who cares — from a diagnostic standpoint — what the delusion is? The specific delusion helps inform psychotherapy treatment, but it doesn’t tell a professional, “Oh, he thinks he’s the King of the World, that means 20 mg of Prozac.” And in terms of psychotherapy techniques or specific treatments for a particular delusion, well, our level of science and data isn’t anywhere near that level.

So while intellectually, this may be a fun and interesting exercise to suggest the Truman Show Delusion is something new and diagnosable, it’s really nothing more — in my mind — than professional grandstanding.

Excuse me, but there’s a couple of emails from people now in my inbox wanting to get treatment for my new Batman Delusion. I have some replies to get working on.

Read the full article over at the National Post: Reality bites: Patients believe their lives are on TV: MDs

DSM-VI: Reality TV Disorder?

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder of Psych Central. He is a psychologist, author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

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APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2018). DSM-VI: Reality TV Disorder?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2020, from
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Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 21 Jul 2008)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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