Speaking From Fear, not Fact
Diagnosing Mental Disorders: “We made mistakes that had terrible consequences”

The Origins of Drama Queens?

I've been wondering how you create a Drama Queen.  You know, the people who blow things completely out of proportion to the point of absolute hysteria?  Everything is a big deal and they reach out and suck other people into their drama.  But why?

Looking at family dynamics can be really interesting.  When I look at the parents of drama queens I often see two possible factors.

If the parent is seriously narcissistic they may have children who are drama queens.  I think this happens because the parent is so completely absorbed with themselves, the child cannot get the attention they need unless they elevate it to the level of an emergency.  For instance, if the child merely says, "My throat hurts" or "I'm hot" it may not be enough to get the parent's attention off themselves long enough to get the care they need.  So they learn to escalate their description of what is happening to the highest level to start with because anything less provokes no response at all.

A second factor may be substance abuse.  I've seen overly dramatic children who act that way as a result of living with a parent who is heavily medicated or intoxicated.  They have to elevate their behavior to crisis level before the parent, who is in a stupor, will be raised to a level of arousal where they will respond.

If this is true, drama queens are not necessarily being dramatic as a manipulation.  They learned at an early age that they had to get this agitated and elevate things to a major crisis level before they would get a reaction from the self-absorbed and heavily sedated parent.

It's just a theory, mind you.  I'm watching to see if it pans out.  Tell me what you think.



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Just saying

I think those are both very good theories, and I'll watch for them too.

I think there is at least one more route into the creation of a 'drama queen' (or king): covert but intentionally abusive parenting. The parent types you've described above are both neglectful, self-centred &/or indifferent. There is another type of parent, the malicious one who actually and actively WANTS to turn their child into a disordered person who acts out the parent's own desire for revenge on society for the parent's own benefit: either to get sadistic satisfaction by proxy, or to collect the 'poor-me, I'm such a martyr' accolades that come with 'having to put up with' such a horrible child. I can't take credit for this idea, btw, I first came across this in the following post:
http://whatprivilege.com/how-the-golden-child-upbringing-is-abusive/ (The only place I disagree with the author is that I think this can apply just as easily to girls/women and boys/men.)

That scenario was true in my own family, and I've seen it to be true in many others -even more than the neglectful/indifferent types you write about above. It's quite easy to do: reward the child for acting up behaviour, after punishing &/or provoking them in select ways that elicit that specific response. Of course, you must do this in combination with public gaslighting & discrediting of the child, in order to get the drama queen/king outcome you desire. But then you can sit back in the safe assurance that no-one will notice that you've actively done this, because no-one could conceive that anyone would, therefore they won't believe the evidence that's plain in front of their eyes.

My mother didn't train my middle brother to be a typical drama queen, but she trained him in something similar - to have really big obvious accidents where he harmed himself &/or may have harmed others: driving dangerously, taking ridiculous physical risks where he got obvious injuries, etc... It's not easy to explain - the way I've described it sounds dissimilar to drama queen/king but it really isn't that far.

Also, my mother could most certainly elicit drama queen-appearing levels of panic in other people she worked or volunteered with, and this learned behaviour - this way of interacting with others - is something I have to keep on guard against, because that is sometimes what you unknowingly do in unguarded moments, if you don't have time to think about it, because it's just what's been modeled. It's not a part of my personality, but I had to become aware of those influences to understand that my way of interacting at certain times - the learned behaviours from my mother - weren't creating the outcomes I wanted. Once I understood what she was attempting to accomplish in those behaviours I'd been taught as appropriate and expected for social situations (which required me to understand that she was actively - not passively or accidentally - malevolent), it was fairly easy to start to address.


Hi Kellen,
I wonder if some drama queens can be self made? They create such mayhem because they can't bear the hidden personality that peace brings.

I wonder if they try to hide the shame of earlier trauma, of perhaps having been abused, or of knowing that they are an abuser.

I recently met a couple who alerted my internal radar, yes, a man and wife! Their every interaction was over dramatised as they tried to suck me and others into their world of denial. Exit Felix!

Elena K

Interesting idea. It could very well have happened that way for many.

I suspect it developed somewhat differently in our family. My mother is a narcissistic drama queen and her father was a narcissistic drama queen...I think she learned from him! Despite having a narcissistic father, she didn't lack for attention (it was a large and close family with a loving mother) and by all accounts grandfather was adored (perhaps engulfed?) by his own parents.

I feel my mother developed this trait because she saw the power the attention brought to her father. Gaining power seems to be the main motivation in her life and manufacturing drama assures that all activity revolves around her.

Interestingly, none of her children (my two siblings and me) are dramatic. I showed signs at a young age (under 10) but quickly learned that being withdrawn and avoidant was in my best interest.

The comments to this entry are closed.