When I was young, I used to idolize my older cousins. I wanted to be just like them. But as I grew older, I realized most of them were pretty toxic – they loved creating drama.
As a result, the relationships in my family were rarely harmonious. Family get-togethers were full of gossip and pot-stirring.
I realized I needed to take off the rose-tinted glasses and accept the fact that these family members needed strict boundaries in place.
Otherwise, I was prone to be dragged into their drama and living in constant conflict. But recognizing the signs of the perpetrators wasn’t always clear – those who love drama tend to be manipulative about it.
Are you dealing with something similar? If so, you’re in the right place.
Here are 8 signs you have a family member who is addicted to drama (and what to do about it):
1) They thrive on conflict
A person who is addicted to drama seems to feed on conflict. It’s like caffeine for them – it gets them going.
They might create problems where none exist, just to watch the fireworks. And you might find them arguing over the smallest things and never letting go.
If you notice that every family gathering ends up in a heated argument, and there’s always one person at the center of it all, it’s time to think about their behavior…
Because while disagreements happen in every family, constant conflict is not normal.
In my own family, I’ve taken to being extremely selective with who I invite to family parties.
Sure, I suspect those who don’t receive an invite are pretty pissed off at me, but unfortunately, it’s the only way to preserve my sanity and the sanity of other family members!
2) They always play the victim
Ah, the victim card. This is symbolic of someone who is addicted to drama.
It’s also a reason why it’s not always clear to spot a drama llama – they’re good at twisting things around so you feel sorry for them (when in fact, they created the mess in the first place).
One of my cousins was extremely skilled at this. She even had my sympathy for the longest time.
But luckily, once I moved away from my extended family, I could see things more clearly.
That’s when it dawned on me:
She’s not so innocent after all!
If you’re dealing with a family member like this, it can be tricky. On one hand, you may feel bad for them, especially if they’re convincing in their act of “woe is me”.
But if you suspect they’re putting it on, I’d suggest backing off from the relationship. You don’t need to be their emotional crutch, nor do you need to entertain their drama!
Because in the end, it’ll be you that’s drained and emotionally overwhelmed.
3) They gossip constantly
It’s no surprise that drama addicts are often found gossiping.
They thrive on knowing everyone’s secrets and can’t wait to share them. Even revealing private information about their closest family members – they just can’t keep it in.
If you have a family member who seems to know everything about everyone and is always sharing it, you may be dealing with someone addicted to drama.
Be mindful of what you share with them and remember that you have the right to privacy.
This doesn’t mean you have to cut them off altogether, but be selective in the information you give out.
I had to learn this the hard way – I confided in my cousin about an abusive relationship. A few weeks later, the entire family knew. Her betrayal over something so sensitive hurt a lot.
Now, when we meet, even though years have passed since this incident, I stick to subjects like work and the weather and never reveal anything too personal.
4) They overreact to small issues
“That girl could argue with a paper bag,” I remember hearing my mom saying this about another cousin in my family.
You see when someone is addicted to drama, it doesn’t matter how small an issue is, they find a way to get worked up over it.
And this is incredibly draining for you and everyone else around.
Suddenly, because the cake isn’t the flavor they wanted, they’re having a meltdown and you’re expected to pick up the pieces.
Well – not anymore!
When this happens, the best thing to do is walk away. Ignore their behavior. The more you give in to their drama, the more they’ll create.
And this tip applies to the next point too:
5) They constantly seek attention
When a family member constantly makes everything about them, it’s a surefire sign they’re addicted to drama.
Forget the fact that there may be 15 other people in the room, they want all eyes on them.
And they’ll do anything to achieve it, from being loud and extravagant to creating drama just to get attention.
But as I mentioned above, you don’t need to feed into this behavior. If you and everyone else in the family simply ignored their pleas for attention, eventually they’ll get the message.
Will they be happy about it? No.
But that’s not your problem. Your peace is your priority.
6) They manipulate others
If you have a family member who is addicted to drama, it’s likely that they will use manipulation to get what they want.
My cousins would guilt trip me into telling them things. They’d make me feel bad for not trusting them, and since I was young and naive, I fell for their tricks every time.
Other signs of manipulation include:
- Playing on emotions: They might exaggerate their feelings or personal situations to gain sympathy or assistance, often making you feel guilty if you don’t comply with their wishes.
- Twisting words: They could take something you said out of context, twisting it to suit their narrative, and using it to create conflict or gain leverage in a situation.
- Using others as pawns: Drama addicts might involve others in their schemes, creating rivalries or alliances to further their own agendas.
- Exaggerating situations: By blowing things out of proportion, they can manipulate you into reacting in a way that suits their needs or desires.
- Withholding information: Drama llamas may selectively share or withhold information to control a situation or your perception of events, steering you toward the outcome they desire.
If you recognize these signs in a family member, the only practical way to deal with this is by setting strong boundaries.
If they keep disrespecting your boundaries, it’s a warning signal that they’re an unhealthy, toxic presence in your life (and you might be better off cutting them off entirely).
7) They’re always surrounded by chaos
Ever notice how some people seem to be surrounded by a cloud of chaos and dysfunction?
Even though it’s never their fault (apparently)?
This reminds me of my aunt – somehow, she seemed to be at the epicenter of all fallouts but would swear blindly they had nothing to do with her. In her mind, she was always innocent.
Ring a bell?
If so, I’ve found the easiest way to deal with a family member like this is to limit how much time you spend around them.
Now, when I meet my aunty, I try to keep the topics neutral, and when she brings up the latest drama or chaos, I politely change the subject.
But I have noticed that by spending less time around her, I’m avoiding being dragged into her issues, and my mental health has improved greatly.
Give it a go – it’s not easy to break away from people you love, but if it’s for your health, it’s worth doing.
8) They struggle with genuine relationships
If someone is addicted to drama, it’s only natural that they’ll struggle to form healthy, genuine connections with others.
You might notice a certain family member who can’t seem to keep friends for very long. Or perhaps they always feel like the “black sheep” of the family – claiming everyone leaves them out.
This usually is a result of their antics. And of course, they’re the victim in all this.
In reality, it’s their behavior that pushes good people away.
And while they might lean heavily on you as their only form of support or companionship, know that it’s not your responsibility to be their emotional crutch.
In this situation, I’d suggest talking to them about it. Perhaps highlighting their behavior could help them realize why they’re unable to form strong relationships.
But if that doesn’t work, it’s best to put strong boundaries in place. Be there for them when you can (if you want to be a part of their life), but have strict limits so you don’t end up being at their beck and call.
By now, you should have a pretty clear idea about whether someone in your family is addicted to drama.
Remember – loving them doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your own well-being. I’ve learned over the years that the key to having some form of a relationship without being dragged into the drama is strong, solid boundaries.
That, and a bit of distance.
Ultimately, drama llamas will continue to thrive off conflict, and if you don’t want to be a part of that, you need to put yourself first and do what’s right for you!