Do you know someone who seems to thrive on chaos? A person who manufactures crisis where there is none, makes mountains out of molehills, and whose very presence feels like an inescapable whirlwind? You may even label them a “drama queen.” This person might be someone close to you. This person might even be you…..

Dr Scott Lyons, clinical psychologist and mind-body expert, in his groundbreaking book, turns the notion of the “drama queen” on its head, showing that Drama is an addiction and those suffering from it are experiencing a much deeper psychological, biological and social pain.

Discover the science and psychology of drama addiction—and a path to healing where Scott examines drama addiction and charts an approach for healing in this groundbreaking book.

How did you get to where you are today?

I got to where I am today through much trial and error. But I still find it hard to believe that I’ve written a book or that I have the title of doctor in front of my name.

 “Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.”

By the time I reached high school, several teachers had told my parents and me that with my low aptitude and inability to focus, I would be lucky if I even graduated high school. What they called my inability to focus was a symptom of my underlying trauma. I couldn’t possibly pay attention to anything when I felt on constant high alert, disconnected from my body, and out of sync with everyone around me—leading to an internalized belief that I didn’t belong.

The few moments I felt relief was when things were intense:

-Performing in front of a vast audience.

-Playing in sports games where winning was down the wire.

-Even getting into fights with my sister.

That surge of energy—that I now know is integral to how stress works—was my medicine, my short antidote from feeling alone and detached. A dose of crisis and chaos allowed me to rise above the numbness (trauma) and focus on the task.

I was unknowingly solidifying a bridge between stress and reprieve, ensuring my attachment to Drama. Years later, I began confronting my addiction to crisis and chaos and recognizing the same propensity in many other people I was working with. Clients would describe what I had always felt: a pervasive anxiety that worsened when things were quiet and still. Relationships were always fraught. “It’s always something!” became their anthem of existence. 

This unprocessed trauma forms a survival pattern of drama addiction and has afflicted many people. Whether it’s a person hooked on crisis and chaos themselves or affected by that person, we all know someone connected to the Drama. So here I am today, building a new bridge between surviving crisis and chaos and healing from it.  

Tell us about ADDICTED TO DRAMA.

One of the questions we can ask ourselves as humans in this day of age is, what would you do to avoid pain? This question sets the tone for understanding addiction to Drama. Drama is not about seeking attention; it’s about a twisted survival strategy. We can begin to ask why anyone would create more suffering to soothe an underlying pain.

Well, the answer is both complex and relatively simple. Drama can be created at any moment for free, creating both a high and an intense distraction from feeling the underlying dis-ease of unprocessed trauma. In other words, we can outrun our trauma by stirring the Drama. And it works for a limited time.

As that person starts to come down from the high of chaos, they begin to get bored and experience withdrawal symptoms. Worse yet, without the distraction from the Drama, the underlying ache and discomfort, the feeling of being out of sync with the world starts to creep back in, and the hunger to get another hit of distraction arise. It’s so strong that the person begins to operate on autopilot, going right back into creating a storm or walking into the eye of one. This cycle is tough to break, and the person has bulldozed every relationship, only furthering the underlying pain that fuels the process.

If someone can’t show up for you, they are revealing their capacity, and not a reflection of your worth.

Why did you choose to write a book about drama addiction?

Addicted to Drama is my way of filling in the gap between what we all inherently know—that there are people who create and live in chronic crisis and chaos—and the lack of science and support around this fact. The lack of support and resources isn’t just for those stuck in a cycle of stirring things up and having extremely disproportionate reactions but also for those around them.  

This book is also about my own attachment to Drama and the wisdom I learned in the healing of it. Chaos and crisis were all that I knew. I grew up in a long lineage of drama addicts, those replicating and passing down their hypervigilance to the woes of the world and their enmeshment with it, discomfort and boredom when things were quiet or easy, boundaryless interactions, and using provocativeness and fights as a love language.

In your opinion, why are people find it hard to let go of Drama?

Whenever we have a survival response—a pattern of navigating the world with a deficit of perceived or actual safety—it becomes how we see and experience the world. In short, our coping mechanism becomes our identity and our reality. In turn, letting go of the Drama is asking someone to give up their sense of who they are and the unintentional way they have been surviving.

You talk about communicating with less Drama. How can we practice that in the workplace?

First, pay attention to language choices. There’s a style of communication called dramatic narrative, where the person shares an exaggerated story with another person. You’ll mostly hear things like, “And then he said, and then she said, and then _____ happened… “Differently, the reflective narrative occurs when what is being shared has much more to do with expressing the feelings and needs of the individual sharing. For example, “When X person talked over me in the meeting, I felt really frustrated and invisible.” While sharing one’s feelings and needs in a workplace is often frowned upon, we can at least recognize when we default to more of a dramatic narrative and gossiping.

As we get older, we add stories to fill in the gap
of why people don’t or didn’t show up for us.”

What’s the next challenge for us?

The next major challenge is navigating how the urgency culture—high impact, over-stimulating, over-exposing media coverage and marketing strategies, and mass social media platforms—has become a stage for the contagious nature of stress and replicates the conditions for creating an addiction to Drama on a mass scale.

Reference: Dr Scott Lyons is an innovator in transformative wellness, combining his work in holistic psychology, mind-body medicine and embodied education with progressive design.