HOW TO DEAL WITH SOMEONE WHO IS ADDICTED TO DRAMA
TWO STRATEGIES FOR MANAGING THE CHAOS
SETTING THE STAGE
“Oh my God…you are NEVER going to believe what I heard from Michelle”. “Dude, you have GOT to hear this crazy story that I read on Facebook. It’s totally nuts”. “So…let me tell you about my weekend. You are NEVER going to believe what happened. I don’t know why these things ALWAYS happen to me”.
I’m sure most of us have started a sentence like that at some point in our lives. We read something or hear something and want to share. That’s human nature. What I want to dive into in this post is those people in your life where the dramatic seems to be their default versus the odd occurrence. Chaos seems to follow them wherever they go. Every story is charged with emotion and it sounds like a roller coaster. It almost seems like they might be going out of their way to attract a bit of the drama and dysfunction in their lives.
Situations at the track or at home seem like they are on the edge of being out of control, and they are constantly letting everyone around them know just how bad things are. Whether that is posting on social media or a detailed update every time you see them. People like this seem to truly enjoy living in a constant state of crisis.
WHAT IS THE MOTIVATION?
From a psychological perspective you might wonder what would motivate someone to live this way. It could potentially stem from a combination of personality disorders. According to a recent Psychology Today article, “psychologists Gina Fusco and Arthur Freeman (2007) believe that people who become crisis-prone patients are in the so-called “Cluster B” of personality disorders, a designation meaning that they represent some combination borderline, histrionic, psychopathic, and narcissistic trait designations. The crisis-prone person, Fusco and Freeman propose, finds that “waking in the morning and having to cope with life’s daily events is fraught with potential crisis and the resulting angst.” These people with Cluster B personality disorders tend to see themselves at the center of their own universes.
To be clear, this does not mean that your friend that is overly dramatic is a psychopath. However, the overlap is that the psychopath has the tendency to over exaggerate, if not lie about the seriousness of a situation. This is often where they feel the need to step in with their leadership to resolve the crisis.
TWO STRATEGIES FOR MANAGING THE CHAOS
Now that we have some understanding on the motivation behind these individuals, we can begin to look at some helpful ways to manage the chaos that follows.
1. MANAGE YOUR OWN REACTION
This may sound simple, but I was given the advice many years ago “control what you can
control. In this case, what you can control is your own reaction to the situation and the
information that you are receiving. Ask yourself “is this really an emergency”, “do I
believe what I am being told”, “does this feel like the whole story”? By asking yourself
to take a step back and to be objective you give your brain time to slow down and
2. CREATE HEALTHY BOUNDARIES
We all need healthy boundaries regardless of whether the person we are dealing with is
overly dramatic and chaotic or easy going and supportive. Understanding what you will
accept and won’t accept in your life will help you when this person pushes you. The
ability to say no, decline an invite, or simply stand up to a story or idea presented by a
dramatic friend can help you maintain your sense of boundaries. Get comfortable flexing
your “no” muscle.
Practicing flexing your no muscle can make you more comfortable using it when you really need it. In this simple exercise I want you to practice saying no to something simple every day. It could be fries with your lunch order. Maybe it is an invite out for coffee mid day. Get comfortable saying no to small things each day. Start with one to two conscious "no's" each day for a week and reflect on how it feels.