But, why do we love other people’s drama so much? What makes it so consuming and and exciting to so many? Consider the selfie Chrissy Teigen posted to Instagram following the Vanderpump Rules news breaking, captioned, “exhausted. so much happened today that had nothing to do with us.”
Whatever the reason some folks are so drawn to follow drama that has nothing to do with them, though, there’s a point where the habit crosses into something that stops being fun and into something unproductive or even squarely unhealthy territory. Below, mental health professionals offer tips to help you evaluate whether your fascination with other people’s drama might not be serving you.
Why we love other people’s drama that has nothing to do with us
There are several reasons we like to follow drama unrelated to our own lives unfold, says therapist Joy Berkheimer, LMFT. To start, there’s the pure entertainment value of tuning in, not dissimilar from watching a movie or a TV show. (Consider that with the case of the Vanderpump Rules drama, much of what’s unfolding now will make it to the show.) Then, there’s the opportunity to be involved in an intense situation (which some find thrilling) that doesn’t come with any strings or consequences.
It’s similar to why we might enjoy listening to a sad song even if we’re in a happy relationship. “We like that adventure and shift in feelings—it’s just how we’re built,” Berkheimer says. “If everything feels like it’s the same all the time, it’s like, “Oh my god, I’m bored.” We also tend to love other people’s drama because it can function as escapism, allowing us to push attention away from stressful or unwelcome events in our own lives for a brief amount of time.
But whatever your reason for getting wrapped up in the drama of others, it’s important to recognize when the habit may no longer be functioning as harmless entertainment or a distraction from other aspects of your life. Read on for some signs you could be too consumed with someone else’s drama, and how to break that cycle.
5 signs you’re too consumed with drama that has no bearing on your own life
1. You’re not interested in your own life or are evading your own reality
According to both Berkheimer and psychotherapist Tracy Livecchi, LSCW, a major red flag is when the drama that has nothing to do with you becomes more interesting to you than what’s happening in your own life. If you’re not curious about your own growth and development and are instead only seeking out joy and fulfillment from stewing in someone else’s life, that’s a sign it’s time to bring the focus back to yourself.
And while a little distraction from stressful happenings in your own life can be helpful, Berkheimer says chronically pushing them away isn’t a behavior that will serve you.
2. You’re waking up, waiting for new tea
Are you checking for updates on other people’s drama first thing when you wake up? It’s understandable if you’re following something to want to know the latest, but if that’s your first thought upon waking, it may be a sign to refocus your energy on yourself. “If the first thing I do when I wake up and have my coffee is look for your drama, I’m probably kind of too in this thing,” Berkheimer says.
“If the first thing I do when I wake up and have my coffee is look for your drama, I’m probably kind of too in this thing.”—Joy Berkheimer, LMFT
3. It’s actively interfering with your responsibilities
Another clear sign it’s time to disengage from someone else’s drama is dropping the ball on your responsibilities. For example, if you’re consistently late on work projects or skipping hangouts with friends and loved ones to dig into drama that doesn’t involve you, Bekrheimer and Livecchi suggest checking in with yourself.
4. You’re comparing yourself to the people involved in the drama often
One reason we enjoy drama is because it can be a mirror back to us and our choices—and that’s perfectly fine. But according to Berkheimer and Livecchi, it’s possible that there could be too much of a good thing here.
One sign of this is comparing your life and choices to those of other people specifically to bolster your own behavior and choices. “Instead of being in reference to how we have increased our abilities or understand ourselves from our past selves, we’re using somebody else as the highlight of how we should or should not be,” Berkheimer says.
Specifically, comparing yourself to someone who is seemingly doing something wrong to build yourself up isn’t… well, great. Instead, it’s better to use yourself as a yardstick for your own growth instead of others.
5. You’re getting intense on social media
According to Livecchi, another indicator it’s time to pull back on discourse surrounding other people’s drama is if you find yourself in the social media trenches of having intense discussions that may border on harassment or cyberbullying.
Okay, so you’re too involved in other people’s drama—how can you best disengage?
1. Check in with yourself physically
Your body may provide you with clues it’s time to disengage. According to Livecchi, you may find yourself exhibiting some of the physical signs of stress and overwhelm without realizing it as you’re tucking into someone else’s drama, like a “rush up your neck, or feeling a little dizzy or like you have butterflies,” she says.
She advises doing a brief self check-in to pinpoint how you’re feeling in the moment of overwhelm. This is great information to know about yourself for the future, so you can be better adept at identifying when it’s time to pull back.
2. Set boundaries to preserve your own energy
Setting boundaries around how you engage with other people’s drama can help protect your own energy and well-being. “Getting caught up in gossip or criticism can be really depleting and anxiety-provoking,” says Livecchi. “We don’t have an infinite amount of energy, so we really want to decide where we put it.” To get started, set a time limit for engaging in the drama, and when it’s up, don’t engage anymore.
3. Build interest in your own life
Speaking of having a finite amount of energy, Livecchi says it’s important to channel that into creating a life you’re excited about, first and foremost. Focus on positive relationships, hobbies, and your own health. Sure, it’s a natural inclination sometimes to get wrapped up in other people’s drama—but it should never come at the expense of your own well-being.