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Drama Queens and Crisis Kings

See if this sounds familiar: Someone phones you and begins breathlessly blurting out the latest dramatic details from his or her life, with all the urgency and intensity of a 911 call. There’s been a nasty argument with the parents, a row with the roommate, a blow-up with the boss. The particulars of this latest crisis-de-jour aren’t really the point; it’s another BIG PROBLEM to fume and fuss about, another calamity to fret over.

“It’s all too much!” the person effuses. “I can’t take much more of this. My life is crashing down around me, and I’m on the verge of total meltdown.” Again. Just like last week.

Got someone like that in your life? Someone who turns the most mundane situations into mayhem? Someone whose daily existence is one upheaval or explosion or emotional outburst after another? Call them drama queens — or their male equivalent, crisis kings — and call them a real challenge in dating relationships.

You are probably familiar with how these histrionic and havoc-wreaking types act, but have you ever wondered why they act that way? Psychologists point to several possible reasons:

A chaotic childhood atmosphere. When a child grows up in a home environment lacking stability and predictability, he becomes accustomed to turbulence. The only constants are change, emotional volatility, and the need to adapt to new situations. In such an atmosphere, it’s as if the gauge for what constitutes “normal life” is reset, with a greater need for emotional stimulation. As adults, these people consciously or subconsciously look for ways to satisfy the hunger for commotion.

A lack of internal peace. Healthy people have learned how to just “be”—they know how to enjoy calm moments, savor solitude, and tolerate times of boredom. Drama queens and crisis kings need turmoil to keep them stimulated and preoccupied. They have never learned to be comfortable in their own skin and at peace with themselves, so they are drawn to people and situations that bring disruption.

An avoidance strategy. Some people are so consumed with handling predicaments (or creating them) that it becomes a convenient excuse to avoid looking at real issues. With so many relationships to try to patch up and storms to weather, who’s got the time or energy to take a hard look at what’s going on inside?

An excessive need for attention. Nearly everyone enjoys the attention and interest of others—that’s part of being human. But some people have a disproportionate need for attention because of low self-esteem, a grandiose self-image, or a hollow space inside. A deep-down need is met when people gather around and say, “Wow, you’ve got it rough. How are you bearing up under this burden?” Nothing draws gawkers and onlookers like a train wreck, and that’s exactly what some people’s lives resemble.

A personality or mood disorder. A person with a psychological disorder such as narcissism, bipolar, or borderline personality may have significant behavioral or emotional problems that sometimes spells big trouble for long-term relationships. Some people with these kinds of disorders tend to exaggerate or mismanage emotions.

Here’s the crux of the matter for singles: Even the most normal and stable relationships have plenty of challenges to overcome, feelings to handle, and problems to solve. Beware of getting entangled with a man or woman drawn to excessive drama. Give yourself the best chance for a lasting, happy relationship by finding a partner who can stay level-headed and even-tempered.