You know that person in your life that just can’t seem to stay away from the drama? Whether they are in the middle of it or simply cheering it on from the sidelines, conflict and strife seem to just follow them wherever they go. Maybe you’ve noticed this pattern in your own personal life – you just can’t seem to get away from the drama? Well maybe it’s not fate, or coincidence, but an innate personality trait.

Psychologists and other mental health professionals have grown increasingly aware of some people’s need for drama and it has resulted in some fairly significant findings. Researchers have identified this issue as a personality trait known as Need for Drama (NFD). Scott Frankowski and his team at the University of Texas at El Paso explain NFD as, “a compound maladaptive personality trait in which people impulsively manipulate others from a position of perceived victimhood.” This can create serious issues within one’s career, interpersonal relationships, and even a scarred reputation preluded by a string of toxic behavioral patterns.

Frankowksi and his team developed three central components of NFD: interpersonal manipulation, impulsive outspokenness, and persistent perceived victimhood.

  1. Interpersonal manipulation is a desire to control another’s behavior or reactions to meet a personal need or goal within a situation.
  2. Impulsive outspokenness is a disregard to social cues or appropriate standards when speaking out and/or sharing thoughts and opinions.
  3. Persistent perceived victimhood is consistently viewing oneself as a victim in common situations or circumstances that the majority of people would not consider a big deal.

This study revealed that there are intense correlations between these components of NFD and the Dark Triad traits: non-clinical psychopathy, non-clinical narcissism, and Machiavellianism. They also found a high correlation to people with high NFD and a high tendency to gossip. All of these traits can become highly toxic and even dangerous when coinciding. This is not to say that overly dramatic individuals can be assumed to be malicious or cruel, or vice versa, which is why it is important to understand the specific overlap here. What these different categorizations share is the highly manipulative tendencies as well as the impulsive decision making and thought patterns.

Although NFD has also been linked to many mental health disorders, especially personality disorders such as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD), it is important to note the differences. While NFD is a personality type it is not a diagnosable personality disorder which needs to be assessed and treated by a licensed clinician. There are also distinct symptom differences between BPD/HPD and NFD such as self-harm, (which has not been linked to NFD directly). NFD is not always so extreme that it inflicts harm or disrupts a person’s daily functioning; however, this study found that group therapy can be an impactful tool when exploring your own personal NFD.

Frankowski and his team developed an assessment tool that can be used to effectively measure the presence of this quality in everyday individuals. The NFD Scale includes 12 questions that are measured on a scale of 1-7. Results are found by first reversing the score for question #5, adding up all the rated numbers, and dividing by 12. A score of 3.4 is average and anything above 5 is very high. Want to see what your score would be? Here are the questions, try it out!

  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 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.

Source: Developing and Testing a Scale to Measure Need for Drama, Scott Frankowski, (et al.).