Sep 102013 33 Responses

Drama Addicts (or Why Your Best Friend Is Always Stressed)

Some people are addicted to drama. It’s a drug which triggers a part of their brains causing them to crave the activity.

They claim they hate drama as they call you, post on Facebook, and tell the latest tale to anyone willing to listen.

They are like meth addicts who claim to hate the stuff even as their teeth fall out, their skin ages, and they no longer resemble their driver’s license photo.

Early in my ministry, I was helping a woman who was living in a chaotic situation. She had made some bad choices and the consequences of those choices were difficult. She had surrounded herself with bad people and was suffering because of it. But over time, we worked though some things and all the drama of her life settled down. (See: A Checklist to Gauge Your Emotional Health)

Two months later she was back in my office. She had repeated the same choices as before. Despite all the work to escape the drama, she had run right back to it.

Foolishly, we began the process over. After weeks of hard work and navigating several tough issues, she was free. But of course, a few months later she called again.

I finally realized, it didn’t matter how many times I helped this woman, she would always repeat the decisions to get back into a chaotic situation.

It was the only life she knew. Like a person in bankruptcy who wins the lottery only to lose it all again, this woman did not know how to live a life of peace.

If given the choice of peace or drama, she would choose drama all the while claiming she hated the drama.

Like many people, she was addicted to the drama. She couldn’t help herself. Without serious intervention, help, and a great deal of work, she would forever seek, find, or create drama.

If drama often finds you, it might be worth asking: Why?

Of course, drama is a part of life. Every office, social group, family, or any gathering of people will have episodes of drama—crises will arise, conflict will occur, tension will build. Drama in this life is guaranteed. (See: I Know Who Is In Charge of Your Family)

Yet continual drama is not a natural consequence of life. A normal flow of peaceful times and chaotic times should be expected. Rare seasons of frequent turmoils are normal. But at some point, an overwhelming amount of drama could be a signal, not that drama is finding us but, that we are finding it.

Here are a few common characteristics of Drama Addicts:

1. An uncanny ability to see conflict even when it doesn’t exists. Generally speaking, you will find what you are looking for. Look for peace and you will find it. Look for conflict and you will find it. Drama addicts are constantly looking for their drug, and so, they often find it.

2. An inability to stay out of conflict even when it isn’t their business. Healthy people have the ability to know if a conflict is their business or not. A drama addict sees every conflict as something in which they have to involve themselves and take sides. The are unable to realize that most conflict which we experience is not our business and does not require our involvement. The first question anyone should ask when facing a situation is: “Is this my responsibility?” Most often the answer is “no.” (See: When a Baby Cries in a Restaurant, Rejoice)

3. A belief that a state of drama, and not a state of peace, should be the norm. Most drama addicts believe if they are experiencing peace, something must be wrong. They are surprised by it. They are uncomfortable with it. This uneasiness is what causes them to seek out problems or even create them. They simply do not know how to handle an absence of drama so they will unconsciously create it.

The problem with being addicted to drama is the same problem as any other addiction, it doesn’t satisfy. It is exhausting. It’s a horrible way to live.

Thankfully, life doesn’t have to be this way.

There are other options.

You can live a life:

  • with a small amount of drama which doesn’t overwhelm you
  • with a deep satisfaction of life and your relationships
  • with an ability to help others without taking on their problems
  • with an ability to feel empathy for others without feeling overwhelmed
  • with proper boundaries

All of this is possible. But to live this way will require you to admit you have a problem, understand you are powerless over it, and seek assistance in living a radically different life.

Everyone faces drama in life. Seasons come and seasons go. Yet if you find yourself facing an unusual amount of drama on a regular basis, it might be time to get help.

If you live in the Greater Fort Smith Region, a great start in recovering from Drama Addiction is found on Thursday nights at Celebrate Recovery.

33 Responses to Drama Addicts (or Why Your Best Friend Is Always Stressed)
  1. Denise Reply

    I have found that drama addicts are not necessarily surprised by a period of peace, but are always waiting for the “rug” to be pulled out from under them. They don’t trust the peace and quiet times.

    This is a great message that I easily relate to because I see it taking place so often where I work. I plan on printing off a copy of this and using it as a handout for a lot of people. Thank you.

  2. Shawna Reply

    I appreciated this article very much, but one question I have is: In ministry, what is the best way to help the Drama Addict? They keep coming back with the same problems, and continuing to “be there for them” seems like enabling them.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      That’s a great question Shawna and one I struggle with. In the case listed in the article, I finally had to tell the person I couldn’t help them anymore because she would only listen to me when in trouble, but wouldn’t listen when I offered advice to stay out of trouble–hence the drama addiction. For me that is the test. If someone continues to seek wise council in trying to make good decisions to prevent trouble as much as they listen when trying to get out of trouble.

  3. Michelle Reply

    This couldn’t have come at a better time. Thank you for this article. My husband and I have just eliminated a piece of our lives that was a constant pull at our peace. We feel free!!!!

  4. Judy Anthony Reply

    Treating this problem is what Al-Anon or other 12 step groups such as Adult Children of Alcoholics are all about.

  5. […] So we let the unhealthy lead. (See: Drama Addicts) […]...
  6. ann vasquez Reply

    I think you are very unqualified to help her. She sounds like a borderline personality disorder person and they need specialized help. Your tone is a bit judgmental. I suggest you read up on it. You probably encounter them frequently in your work and knowing about it and the very successful treatments that have been developed would help you do a better job. Dialectical Behavior Therapy is very successful in treating these individuals who are the way they are because of a combination of genetics. (they are highly sensitive) and invalidating environments. They don’t choose to be BPD and cannot choose not to be but can learn emotionally self regulate. They choose the chaos partly because it validates them due to their poor and incomplete self concepts. I have to say I am bothered by religious pastors who counsel who do not have basic psychological training. There are also very specific ways to respond to BPD that help the person and those who love them. The technique of validation would be a good thing for you to learn and teach.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Great news Ann, I don’t do counseling. I agree with you, pastors do not have the training to do professional counseling. Even having a basic background in it, I do not feel qualified and so I quickly refer to others See:
      I assume there is much debate over the diagnosis of BPD, but I have a hard time believing this woman would have fit the description since she met very few of the criteria for that diagnosis. But I don’t know what happened since I moved soon after referring this woman to a counselor. I’m intrigued as to why you assume I haven’t studied validation techniques and do not use them.

    • LINDZ Reply

      Sounds like you are looking for drama and conflict. Find your peace.

  7. Laura Reply

    I don’t deal with drama very well I tend to just get up and walk out. I have lived a life that my violent past has given me PTSD So when Drama starts I just say I’m outa here when you guys get over this crap call me.

  8. […] I’m still open to the thought I shouldn’t have posted what I did on Facebook. I donR...
  9. Jane Reply

    I have a friend that’s just like the lady in the story above. Her life is very chaotic and full of crisis after crisis, problems after problems, emergencies after emergencies. And when things seem to have finally settled and calmed down, suddenly she has another crisis and problems that has to be taken care of urgently. And the problems go from issues with men, legal dramas, family dramas, problems with friends, health problems, money problems, work problems etc. And these problems has been going on for years CONTINOUSLY without almost any break in within. She creates some of the major problems in her life because of the bad choices she made in her life that comes from her own bad judgement but what really annoys me is that she keeps blaming the problems on other people in her life without realizing that it was her own choices that she made that put her and other people in a chaotic situation even when the people who care about her and close to her had warned her and had tried to stop her from making the wrong decisions and going down the wrong path. But I guess some people are just addicted to drama and therefore they (un)consciously become drama magnets. When there’s nothing dramatic going on in their lives then they’d create problems and make themselves to look like victims to get people’s attentions and for people to take pity on them so the whole world would revolve around them and their never ending problems of their own creations.

    • Sarah T Reply

      Hi Jane, Your friend sounds like she is lacking in the maturity department. Mature (and non self absorbed) people do not blame their problems on others (poor me syndrome). They own up. You can’t stop others from making bad decisions. At the most, you can voice concern or choose not to hear the latest saga…

      Drama addicts get some positive reward/benefit such as receiving attention or pity from others. They will stop trying to have you as their audience if you don’t pay them attention.

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  13. Tim Hearn Reply

    wait, you don’t do counseling? I read your blog daily because you are my counselor!

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      That’s okay Tim, you are messed up enough that I can’t make it much worse. Ha.

  14. JD Reply

    Living with Mrs Drama

    This is a short story about living with Mr.or Mrs. Drama. I write it because it helps me deal with my sanity. Are you trapped? Do you live with a pet called drama and this pet has no interest in leaving or running way? It’s a pet that thrives on your presence and demands your participation whether you like it or not.. says drama is, “any situation or series of events having vivid, emotional, conflicting, or striking interest or results.”

    Webster says it’s a “state, a situation, or series of events involving interesting or intense conflict of forces.”

    Ok so now we know what kind of animal is living in the pet cage in our back yard waiting to get out at the first chance or opening of the door. We are not psychiatrists and have no idea how to deal with the constant but sometimes sporadic emergence of this pet into our peaceful lives.

    All we know is that its our pet and like other pets we can live with it if we just know how. Living with a drama person is like living with a seed wart on the bottom of your foot. No matter how much soaking in Epsom salt, or how much time with a heat pad, or how much magic cream, or how much massaging we apply to the wart it doesn’t stop hurting or causing pain until the seed wart decides to stop completely on its own with no suggesting or coaxing from you.

    Do yourself a favor, do not, do not compare your drama person to a seed wart. Only us non drama persons are privy to that. Its an ugly comparison but its simple and to the point and probably as accurate an explanation as was ever penned.

    Drama lives within some humans and no-one, meaning mostly me, really knows where it came from or to what end it presents. The dramatic person probably does not understand why the pet comes out of its cage but does experience some kind of gratification when this happens. The drama can begin by an ongoing existing situation but if there is none actually present at the time the need for drama arrives, a situation is delicately created. It could be a harsh word, or a yelling at the cat incident, or the honking of the car horn or the throwing of a cell phone across the room or anything like that. . It doesn’t matter what the incident is, it’s the key to the pets cage and when the door is open the dramatic event begins.

    The curtain goes up and the play begins with the soft song of sorrow. This is when audience’s participation is required. Drama itself cannot exist without an audience unless the host has multiple personalities. In this case only a padded room is required.

    So if drama is like a seed wart what is to be done to rid our lives of this thing. Seed warts require removal with surgery or even removing the entire foot will work. Other than that we are trapped. If we participate in the drama it will not leave until it wants to. If we ignore it, its like placing a piece of black coal on the fire to remain there and glow when there is a draft. One thing that might work is to get on your knees and beg for forgiveness and promise to never doubt the existence of drama again. Of course you know that your promise is a good one but the drama pet has promised nothing. And even if there is a promise by the drama pet, it’s really not the pet speaking. If you don’t agree, just ask the pet.

  15. Hanifa Reply

    Sometimes people that crave drama and chaos also like to go off into unnecessary tangents when explaining any matter. All this leads to is confusion and eventually people who cannot afford to waste their time have to get rid of you and cut you off.

  16. Vaneesha Reply

    Hi Kevin, I know it has been over three years since you posted this article, so you may not see this. I am wondering if you could possibly give me some advice for a friend of mine who is very much like the person you described. She is a very social extroverted person who has made a lot of friends in her 40+ years. I went to school with her when I was younger, and then reconnected with her a couple of years ago through social media. However since reconnecting she has become very clingy and seems to be constantly grieving someone’s death. I think in the two years we have reconnected she has grieved for about ten different people, some she hasn’t even talked to or seen since high school or even longer. It’s almost as if she goes searching for these deaths. She gets extremely emotional and posts on social media how depressed and devastated she is. She messages and texts me for support and to tell me how depressed she is, and wants me to keep feeling sorry for her. She also uses these deaths as an excuse to be rude to other people, and then when they confront her about it she gets very upset and tells them “I can’t deal with your problems right now, I am going through my own personal hell, you have no idea the crosses I am bearing right now”, etc. She acts like she is the only person who has ever lost anyone, and seems to make each death all about her own personal grief. I have tried to talk about this to her and she gets angry and very defensive. I am a positive person, an eternal optimist, and I do not do well with negative people. I do not want to hurt her or abandon our friendship, but this is really starting to drain my energy. What should I do? Thanks for listening. 🙂

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      A few first thoughts: I wouldn’t respond to passive-aggressive approaches like when she posts on Facebook about a situation. Don’t hesitate to draw boundaries and stick to them. When you feel as though she is using a situation, simply refuse to go there with her.

  17. Shaz Reply

    Vaneesha – I had a similar friend, except her thing was getting involved in marriage problems and break-ups all the time (and then gossipping about them to other people, I might add). All of this is about her own personal grief over her own marriage breaking up years ago. I had to end the friendship 2 years ago because I had a family loss and she was the most insensitive person you could imagine, yet she constantly had a drama and there was nothing more important than what was happening to her, and her bad choices were always someone else’s fault. So glad to be free of it all!

  18. […] on them. While this is unhealthy as a child, it is fatal to a marriage. Anyone who marries someone a...
  19. Nina Corwin Reply

    Whenever I hear people talking about addiction to drama, I think it says a lot more about the person making the statement than the person at whom the judgment is being leveled. I think, this person just doesn’t want to hear it but instead of owning that, they blame the other person’s difficulties on them, implying that the person WANTS to suffer just for attention. AND they make this judgment based on…. what clinical insight or evidence? The writer has no idea what addiction is; this person is blaming AND invalidating the victim and, by the way, have you noticed nobody ever accuses men of being addicted to trauma?

    But let’s take it further. Speaking as a psychotherapist for 30 some years, let me tell you that some people really DO have that many problems: multiple health issues, including mental disorders, histories of sexual assault and family violence, financial difficulties, work stress. REAL stuff. Not fake problems. You suggest these people’s problems are caused by their inability to look at the bright side. Really? Try walking a mile in their shoes.

    If you are lucky enough to have the capacity for chronic optimism, hurray for you. if you are only able to maintain your optimism by sticking your head in the sand, maybe you should look in the mirror. You may be part of the problem. If you lack compassion or just can’t be bothered, admit it and move on.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Nina, I’d be happy to discuss specific parts of the article that you disagree with. Obviously, I agree that some people face chronic problems which are not their fault. This article is not about those situations. Are you saying that no one experiences systemic drama because they have failed to set up boundaries in their life? This article hasn’t encouraged optimism as the ultimate solution to one’s problems. It has reminded others that repeated drama is not the only way to live. I would encourage you to re-read the article. Much of which you assumed was not what I wrote.

  20. Rachel Reply

    I really loved this article. It gave me the clarity that I needed when actually dealing with a drama addict.

    I just wish I could spot drama addicts from a mile away instead of finding out the hard way when they’ve already set up shop in my life. But I guess it takes wisdom and experience to do that. This article has helped me gain some of that wisdom.

  21. Debbie Dee Reply

    Hi Kevin, I was wondering if you can help me make a decision of a person that is addicted to drama. First I don’t think she would even admit she is addicted to drama. She creates drama,blames everything on someone else. It’s always someone’s fault…she even blames GPS for giving wrong directions, instead of admitting, she made a wrong turn…lol she changed her name legally, she always thinks everyone is after her. I’ve known her for over 45 years and it’s only gotten worse. I will text her just to say hi, and how was her day, she will text back, a mile long text how her boss is an idiot, how mean he is to her and she can’t take it any more. If I suggest, maybe you should look for another job, she says oh but I couldn’t do that to him, he’s like family. When I call her out on things, she won’t talk to me for weeks, then text me like nothing was wrong. My question is do I walk away from this friendship or continue it. I’m tired of walking on eggshells with her. This is an on going behavior with her and I’m in my 50’s and it’s stressful, when she acts like this…any advise is helpful…thank you

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      I would recommend reading Boundaries. There isn’t a clear way to go with this other than to create personal boundaries and be consistent with it.

  22. Overcomer Reply

    As someone with “multiple health issues, including mental disorders, histories of sexual assault and family violence, financial difficulties, work stress. REAL stuff”.

    I disagree with the implication that people like me are just doomed to be victims of a chaotic life no matter what. I myself have dealt with people who experience drama. Yes, it is wrong to blame the victim, I hate that myself. But just as bad is making excuses for and enabling unhealthy behavior. You’re not helping the victim either when you do that in my experience. Maybe it works for you, everyone is different.

    Again, I am someone who has grown up in drug abused families, by age three, I am drinking all kinds of alcoholic beverages, meanwhile, my mother and father are both beating each other to a bloody pulp, literally. I’ve seen my dad with parts of his face ripped off. A few years before I became a teenager, divorce came and I was actually happy it happened because I knew that my mother was going to be alive. But the troubles didn’t end there.

    My childhood home became a crackhouse with all kinds of people doing crazy stuff. A lot of what I saw. Then my dad had a pathological lying stepmom and I had to sleep with one eye open because my stepmom would tell a lie that would have my father go against me.

    Things eventually got so bad that I had to leave everything and start over. I’m homeless, but this is the most peaceful my life has been. As of right now, I am a freelancer. And I have been diagnosed with mental disorders that I rather not mention right now

    Okay, I said all this to say, it is possible to overcome. My life is relatively peaceful, and I tend to avoid a lot of drama because I see it coming right away.

    At the same time, I also have a friend that is always in a crisis. I’m not going to go into it nor am I going to call her addicted to drama, because I don’t want to come off as someone who “doesn’t want to hear it”. I would be hearing it all the time from her and I listen patiently. I give her the benefit of the doubt, and I let her know of solutions. However, in a previous conversation, I have realized something about her that has given me new insight that has changed my perspective of the whole thing and why she always has drama. I’m not going to go anymore into that.

    I also have people coming to me with their situations. I listen, I let them know what solutions they can take if I have any for them. However, my sympathy is only going to go so far because I want people to overcome, and also avoid any unnecessary issues.

    If they suffer a crisis that they could’ve easily avoided and only suffered because they have intentionally and knowingly walked into the crisis for no reason other than for the hell of it, then I am not going to give them much in sympathy or any response. At that point, I’d be wondering if they are just trying to get sympathy from me. I’m not saying they are, but I would be wondering what is going on.

    Again, I don’t condone blaming the victim, there are certain things that are outside of your control. That said, I want to make sure that I am not enabling certain unhealthy behaviors. And I am aware that there are some people with ongoing drama that just doesn’t stop no matter what the sufferer does. I don’t take that article as addressing those people obviously. I see it addressing those who “seek out drama”.

  23. Ebony Reply

    One thing you’re wrong about: Drama is definitely not guaranteed. In my experience, it is always a choice. I’ve never been sucked into drama against my will. I will walk away at the first hint of trouble, unless the person is worth it. As of right now, having no man and no kids, my life is 100% drama-free and has been for about six years. Last argument I got into was on the internet. I do visit friends and family, but our interactions don’t really leave room for anything negative. And like I said, I book it at the first sign of negativity anyway, unless something more important than my emotional comfort is at stake.

  24. Jemima Reply

    I have a good friend, an older woman, whose life and energy (and limited savings) are being drained by a younger friend she has, who is in constant crisis in her life. My friend is kind and caring and has done endless things to help this younger woman with her ongoing problems, one of which is chronic lack of money and inability to feed her child. There are also stress and health issues, and huge family problems that have left her with no one else, except a few other acquaintances. She does live from one crisis to another – maybe because her own upbringing was chaotic and she does not know otherwise. But my friend is exhausted from going to help her out and being relied upon. Also the few thousands of pounds she inherited is fast going out of her bank account, as the friend knows she can get her help when there is no money. But my friend has very little and no secure home of her own, and no security for the future. She is struggling to impose boundaries but has been unable to do so. She is in her seventies.

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