Just about everyone has a Drama Queen (or King) in their life. If you are lucky it’s someone you don’t have to interact with often, but for the sake of argument let’s assume this person is your co-worker, sister, neighbor or significant other. Chances are they probably are if you’ve read this far.
Having previously led a 300+ person call center, I’ve experienced this phenomenon on more than one occasion. I had long forgotten the tribulations of dealing with a Drama Queen, until my friend recently shared her experience at cheerleading camp. As the story goes, my friend was exhausted after spending all weekend with a so-called Drama Queen and had conducted her own internet research to figure her out. Of course, not to be out done, I immediately began my own research to supplement my experience in the field of “armchair psychology”. To be fair, I have taken many college classes in this field and have read my share of books. So- I am slightly more experienced than people who just watch Dr. Phil.
Not everyone who has an undesirable personality meets the diagnostic criteria for having a personality disorder. However, Histrionic Personality Disorder does describe what many would consider a Drama Queen. Does this describe anyone you know?
- Excessively emotional
- Wants attention and feel unappreciated and/or uncomfortable when they don’t get it.
- Constantly wants approval.
- May use sex appeal to gain an advantage, even in professional situations.
- Lively, dramatic, and charming, to the point of being theatrical.
- Needs stimulation and excitement to feel complete.
- Considers relationships more intimate than they should.
- Highly suggestible
- Will cry, sulk and blame others to advance their position.
About 1% of the general population is believed to have a Histrionic Personality Disorder. To put this in comparison, this is the same percentage that have Celiac Disease, which is an inability to digest gluten.
Another mental disorder which often goes hand in hand with drama is Bi-Polar Disorder; particularly if the patient is not taking their medication. I read quite a few message boards that consisted of bi-polar patients and their families. By reading these forums, I gained tremendous insight. Below is a composite of what Bi-polar patients and their families had to say:
- I get bored with stability. I need a lot of emotional stimulus to feel like I’m fully living my life.
- I feel a need for emotional craziness. I am in a stable relationship. My girlfriend is relaxed and feels happy most the time. I tend to start fights just to not be bored in the relationship, even over petty things. It makes me feel alive.
- I reach out in times of real or imagined crisis when I can’t quite deal with the situation alone. In a way, the drama is gratifying to me.
- I act this way when I want support. I just don’t know how to ask for it in the right way.
You are probably asking yourself what is the best way to interact with a Drama Queen. After all, you aren’t always going to be in a position where you can simply avoid this person. The good news is there are a number of ways you can make the relationship easier on yourself. But first, you need to change your mindset.
While Drama Queens can be exhausting to deal with, chances are you should feel empathy for their situation. Most people who fit this description didn’t get the attention and love they needed as a child. They adapted by finding ways to get what they needed. Patience and empathy can go a long way when you are feeling frustrated with your Drama Queen. Remember, he/she is probably feeling worthless and unwanted and is hoping you can help them feel differently.
Steps for Effectively De-Escalating your Drama Queen
- Stop trying to change them, you can only change yourself and how you react to the drama.
- Know when to walk away and disengage. If you start to feel frustrated or upset, this is when you should excuse yourself.
- Don’t ask about feelings or triggers you know are likely to stir up negative feelings. If feelings come up, do not tell your Drama Queen it’s all in his/her mind or that their opinion is unimportant.
- When starting a conversation, give a time limit by saying you have something else to do in a set period of time. Prolonged discussions increase the chance of drama creeping in.
- If at work, ask pointed questions rather than open ended questions. You’ll want to remain as subjective as possible (discuss clear-cut facts).
- Reward good behavior and celebrate what’s good about your relationship.
- Pivot away from conversations/texts/situations where your Drama Queen is telling you about a perceived wrong or dramatic event in her life. In other words, change the subject to something positive in their life.
When you receive a text your loved one was hurt for example, it’s hard not to reply with a dramatic response yourself. However, after reading about Drama Queen’s it is clear that sometimes these situation are exaggeration of facts or not true at all. Therefore, it’s best to remain calm and simply acknowledge your received the text and ask what you can do to assist. Chances are, the situation is being interpreted incorrectly by your Drama Queen, but remember – it seems very real to them.
If you have any advice for dealing with Drama Queens I’d love to hear it! Please leave feedback following my post.