Why Are Some People Addicted to Drama?

Written by: Scott Lyons, DO, PhD


Published on: August 17, 2023

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Scott Lyons is a holistic psychologist, an educator, and the author of Addicted to Drama: Healing Dependency on Crisis and Chaos in Yourself and Others.

When a person is experiencing a need for drama, they gravitate toward extreme thought, language, habits, behaviors, expression of feelings, and even relationships. Around them nothing is bland or boring. Their emotional life is marked by incessant volatility beyond sudden change or surprise or unexpected emotions. (This can seem attractive to others—at first.)

Habitual drama can be a protective mechanism to defend against experiencing your feelings: a form of suppression and self-medicating. While you might not realize it at the time, when you’re always on the lookout for actions and faults of others, you’re inhibiting yourself from feeling your own feelings, such as sadness and rejection. What this strategy does, however, is make you feel numb to the subtle, deeper, and richer experience of what’s happening within you and the world around you.

A quick assessment can provide some insight to determine whether you have a propensity for drama.

Quiz: Do You Have a Propensity for Drama?

Review and then rate the following statements on how accurately they represent your experience of yourself: never, seldom, sometimes, frequently, or always.

This assessment is not meant to help create a formal diagnosis of an addiction to drama, but it can begin to illuminate just how present the traits and behaviors of an addiction to drama are in your life. While you may say to yourself, “I’ll take this later,” or avoid this self-analysis, I suggest taking this now and again at least a week later, after you’ve learned more about the qualities of an addiction to drama and observed how present they might be in your life. In choosing your answers, it’s important to reflect on how you see yourself, as well as on how you imagine others might view you.

Quiz: Do You Have a Propensity for Drama?

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If you discover that you have a propensity for drama, you are still an incredible human being, who for many reasons adapted this way of surviving. Remember to have compassion for yourself. This habit was likely created subconsciously, and you can overcome it with time, effort, and intentional healing. Here’s where to start.

  1. Build awareness. Make a list of all the ways that you—consciously or unconsciously—disrupt your own peace. For example, do you think about stressful things or people when you’re trying to relax, repeat the same agitating story to all your friends, scroll through social media and compare yourself to others, etc.? Writing these disruptions down helps you become more conscious of your actions.
  2. Interrupt the pattern. When you notice that you’re experiencing intense, unpleasant emotions, try your best to recognize it. Slow down and shift your attention to something else. Try adding in silence between your words while you’re telling a story or pause before you pick up your phone and start scrolling.
  3. Release the stress. After you become stressed, discharge the built-up energy using healthier approaches, like exercise, meditation, or observing nature.
  4. Build emotional intelligence. Typically, underneath the compulsion to seek or create drama are unrecognized emotions and needs. Turn your attention inward to address them.
  5. Rewire your brain for peace. To get out of the loop of focusing on the drama, start a gratitude journal to help rewire your brain toward a more calming state. It also helps to increase your tolerance for silence or quiet time.

Adapted from Addicted to Drama: Healing Dependency on Crisis and Chaos in Yourself and Others by Scott Lyons, PhD. Copyright © 2023. Available from Hachette Go, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.



This article is for informational purposes only, even if and regardless of whether it features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The views expressed in this article are the views of the expert and do not necessarily represent the views of goop.