A Psychologist Explains Why Drama Seems To Follow You Around
6 mins read

A Psychologist Explains Why Drama Seems To Follow You Around

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire—and where there’s constant drama, there’s a secret desire to seek … [+] it out.


Many people may come to therapy when exhausted by the amount of discord that surrounds them. They may say things like:

  • “No matter what I do, it seems like every conversation I have somehow turns into an argument.”
  • “I can’t shake the feeling that all of my friends have it out for me. They always seem on edge or annoyed in my presence.”
  • “I feel like drama follows me around all day. I try to be a peacemaker, but somehow chaos always ensues around me.”

It’s natural to feel dejected when noticing that drama seems to follow you wherever you go; it can be disheartening to attract negative energy. However, have you ever stopped to consider whether you might be playing a part in the drama that surrounds you?

It’s more than just a possibility. Psychological researchers have found that certain individuals, sometimes without even realizing it, tend to gravitate towards situations that breed chaos, and secretly enjoy the attention it brings.

What Drives The Need For Drama?

Drama, as defined by research, is a performative, interpersonal conflict whereby the antagonist is often removed from the victim, which—similarly to a theatrical drama—often plays out in front of an engaged audience.

Interpersonal drama isn’t just about disagreements or conflicts; rather, it involves the deliberate creation or exacerbation of tension, often for the purpose of garnering attention or influencing others. According to the study, those with drama-prone personalities often possess the same three tendencies:

  1. Interpersonal manipulation refers to a pattern of behavior whereby individuals consciously seek to influence or control the thoughts, feelings or actions of others to serve their own interests. This manipulation can take various forms—from subtle tactics, like guilt-tripping or gaslighting, to more overt strategies, such as spreading rumors or pitting people against each other.
  2. Impulsive outspokenness, on the other hand, is the tendency to speak or act impulsively without any consideration of potential consequences. Those with this trait often lack a filter, blurting out their thoughts and opinions with no regard for social norms nor the feelings of those around them.
  3. Persistent perceived victimhood involves a tendency to view oneself as a perpetual victim of circumstance, regardless of whether this perception aligns with their actual reality. They will often interpret neutral or the most benign events as personal affronts or injustices, accusing others of having negative intentions and frequently taking a defensive or victimized stance.

How To Know If You’re Drama-Prone

Often without realizing, those drawn to drama become adept at navigating social interactions to fulfill their desires, sometimes overlooking the impact on others’ well-being. Their tendency towards impulsiveness frequently leads to conflicts and misunderstandings, with their words and actions often perceived as insensitive or confrontational by others.

Their inclination towards seeing themselves as victims can exacerbate the situation, as their hypersensitivity to perceived slights or injustices further escalates interpersonal tensions.

Given the complex nature of individuals who seem drawn to drama, psychological researchers have increasingly sought to understand the motivations behind this behavior. A study published in the journal of Personality and Individual Differences led to the development of the Need for Drama Scale—a tool aimed at identifying and assessing the tendencies of individuals exhibiting traits suggestive of a propensity for drama.

To use the scale, respondents rate their level of agreement to the following statements, from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”:

  1. Sometimes it’s fun to get people riled up.
  2. Sometimes I say something bad about someone with the hope that they find out what I said.
  3. I say or do things just to see how others react.
  4. Sometimes I play people against each other to get what I want.
  5. I never wait before speaking my mind.
  6. I always speak my mind but pay for it later.
  7. It’s hard for me to hold my opinion back.
  8. People who act like my friends have stabbed me in the back.
  9. People often talk about me behind my back.
  10. I often wonder why such crazy things happen to me.
  11. I feel like there are people in my life who are out to get me.
  12. A lot of people have wronged me.

Drama often and easily finds its way into our lives. We’ve all been there—scrolling through social media, getting sucked into the latest gossip or controversy unfolding before our eyes, or watching friends bicker over nothing while we giggle from the sidelines. There’s no denying the allure of drama from a distance; it can be like a real-life soap opera, providing a temporary escape from the monotony of everyday life.

However, as we immerse ourselves in drama, we may fail to recognize its toll on our mental well-being and relationships. Constantly being embroiled in conflicts and controversies can leave us feeling drained, anxious and emotionally exhausted. What starts as entertainment can quickly morph into a source of stress and negativity, taking a toll on our mental health and straining our friendships.

In such moments, it’s a good idea to take a step back and evaluate the role that drama plays in our lives. Are we actively seeking it out, or are we unwittingly contributing to it? And more importantly, is it worth sacrificing our peace of mind and emotional well-being for the sake of entertainment? If you find yourself constantly surrounded by drama and negativity, it may be time to take a moment for reflection, and assess whether it might be time to protect your peace.

Wondering if you have a secret penchant for controversy and chaos? Take the Need For Drama Scale to find out more.