Got A Drama Queen in Your LIfe?

Posted: July 16, 2014 in World On The Edge

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When certain people bring nothing but drama to the table…you know it’s time to let them eat by themselves.–Anonymous.

I  admit it. There’ve been times in my life when I’ve been guilty of being a “Drama Queen” and blown small things out of proportion.  Those times were most prolific when I was around ten to twelve years old. Maybe I’d returned from seeing a movie with a friend–a movie that struck us in some way. What else would two ten year olds do but play out the movie again? Her part, my part-and all the drama that went with it.  Or when I went to spend-the-night parties with a bunch of other twelve year old girls and a sad song came on the radio. Oh, how we’d hang on to each other and cry—real tears!

Thankfully, most people outgrow these things, But some don’t, so we have to limit the havoc they can wreak on our lives. We cannot sit at their table . We have to let them “eat by themselves.”

Characteristic of an adult Drama Queen is the over-reaction to minor events with excessive emotion, and obsessive behavior, that exhibits theatrical, attention-grabbing ways. The damaging theatrics of drama queens may spring from defects etched in the brain. This is the type of friend or family member, who derails a casual lunch to tell you a two-hour story about the devastating fight she had with her boyfriend, or the co-worker who constantly obsesses about how he is about to lose his job and needs your support to make it through the day.

The drama queen worships you one minute and despises you the next, based on his or her overreactions.  Living with a drama queen, you may be bombarded daily with accusations and showy attempts to apologize, leaving you feeling angry, guilty and exhausted. Some drama queens are violent toward others, cut themselves or threaten suicide.The extreme behavior can lead to depression or anxiety in family members. Scientists have begun to understand some of the causes of these destructive traits, which are difficult to change without professional help.At the extreme end of the spectrum, if this behavior pervades most areas of a person’s life, he or she may be diagnosed with a personality disorder. Individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD), for example, are extremely volatile and impulsive and have wildly tumultuous relationships; those with histrionic personality disorder are highly emotional and attention seeking, with an excessive need for approval. Nevertheless, if you are in a relationship with, or otherwise connected to, a drama queen, a few simple tactics can help you avoid being sucked into his or her spinning world of emotion.

 Trauma to Drama
What drives the drama? Childhood trauma might be a trigger in some cases. Psychiatrist Bruce Perry of the Child­Trauma Academy in Houston has found that children who experience trauma—from abuse to natural disasters—undergo changes in brain chemistry affecting regions that make them moody, oversensitive to stimulation, and unable to accurately assess certain social and environmental cues.

Childhood neglect could also be a factor, experts in the field believe. If parents or guardians habitually ignore, discount or dismiss a child’s thoughts, feelings and experiences, the child may decide that dramatic presentations—from dressing provocatively to telling stories of wild adventures or crises—are necessary to get attention.

Genes could contribute as well. Excessive behavior runs in families, according to a 2004 study led by psychiatrist John Gunderson of Harvard Medical School. Gunderson’s team found that 27 percent of the relatives of BPD patients displayed aspects of the disorder’s problematic relationship style as compared with just 17 percent of the relatives of people with other personality disorders. Shared environmental factors—say, particular parenting practices that a child learns—could play a role in this pattern, although Gunderson theorizes that as yet undiscovered genetic variations may also predispose some family members to difficulties with attachment and mood regulation.

Altered Circuitry
Whatever the roots of their personality, the brains of drama queens seem to be constructed differently from those of calmer people. In 2007 psychiatrist Emily Stern and her colleagues at Weill Cornell Medical College used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure the brain activity of 14 healthy individuals and 16 people with BPD while they performed a task that required reacting to negative, positive and neutral words. The BPD patients displayed diminished activity in part of the brain’s prefrontal cortex that controls planning and emotional reactions when they had to inhibit a response—in this case, pressing a button—to a negative word.

Thus, seriously afflicted drama queens seem to have weaker circuitry for inhibiting inappropriate reactions to negative emotions, making it difficult for them to stop themselves from acting out. Drama queens may also have more intense emotions: the amygdala, an area of the brain that processes feelings, was hyperactive in the BPD patients in the Cornell study.The results of such faulty wiring leave a trail of distress. The volatility gets in the way of efficiency and congeniality at work and prevents stable, happy relationships at home. Dealing with such people can be difficult, although accepting the theatrics as ingrained in the brain, among other strategies, may help you distance yourself from them and temper the consequences.

This  post was based on an article by Ophelia Austin-Small in  “Scientific American.”

The following video  is  the hilarious assessment and comedic prescription for the Drama Queens in our lives.

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