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All in Your Head...and Internet: Culture and Psychology Collide


Paranoid delusions are nothing if not timely. In World War II, psychotics often thought their neighbors were Nazis. They became spies during the cold war and terrorists after 9-11. But as the cultural landscape changes, so does the delusional scenery. Today culture and technology intersect with mental illness like major events did before.

While it may seem like this only affects a select group, psychiatrists say delusions and hallucinations of the mentally ill reflect what the world, or at least its more neurotic inhabitants, worry about. What's being escalated into all-out delusions today?

  • Internet Delusion
    The Internet could make anyone paranoid, but it's a minefield for some. People become convinced the Internet is monitoring or controlling their lives. An Austrian woman even believed she was a walking webcam.
  • Truman Show Delusion
    Named after the movie The Truman Show, where Jim Carrey's character learns his life is a soap opera that's being broadcast 24-7, people believe they are stars of reality shows. While patients differ in experiences, they all believe they've been chosen without consent and producers are controlling their lives.
  • Climate Change Delusion
    While I've heard of eco-anxiety, climate change delusion is a whole new level. Australian psychiatrists reported the first case this Summer when a patient refused to drink water, fearing its consumption could lead to the death of millions.

These all lead to a chicken-and-egg question: Are these just modern examples of age-old paranoia? Or is there something about the pervasive coverage — both method and subject — that's pushing people over the line, farther and faster than ever?

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