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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 & CEO of Psych Central. He is an author, researcher and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues -- as well as the intersection of technology and human behavior -- since 1992. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member and treasurer of the Society for Participatory Medicine. He writes regularly and extensively on mental health concerns, the intersection of technology and psychology, and advocating for greater acceptance of the importance and value of mental health in today's society. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

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APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2008). DSM-VI: Reality TV Disorder?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 16, 2018, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 21 Jul 2008
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Jul 2008
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