Desperation Or 'Drama Queen Syndrome'?: Histrionic Personality Could Be To Blame For Increase In Hoax Incidents

Desperation Or 'Drama Queen Syndrome'?: Histrionic Personality Could Be To Blame For Increase In Hoax Incidents

The psychotherapist and host of "Black Therapist Podcast," Nikita Banks, offers insight.

Published March 13, 2019

Yesterday, news of Karol Sanchez's kidnapping gripped the greater New York area as a 10 am Amber Alert rang out over devices pleading for help in locating the missing teenager. The video of the attack, which was widely circulated, depicts a harrowing scene where a car pulls up to Sanchez and her mother who were walking together, and figures hop from the car, grab the 16-year old and speed off into the night. Late yesterday afternoon, Sanchez reappeared, unharmed and was reunited with her family but things took a turn for the tragic when it was revealed that the attack was orchestrated by Sanchez herself and several friends served as accomplices. 

Sanchez has confessed to staging the kidnapping and though details are still emerging, allegedly, it had something to do with an older boyfriend and not wanting to make a family move to Honduras. It is looking like the teen will not be charged but this latest case brings 2019 to a exhausting end, where we have seen our fair share of crimes ultimately exposed as hoaxes. 

We can't forget that back in March, the  Jussie Smollet case unravel with the actor being indicted on 16 felony counts by a grand jury for allegedly filing a false police report back on February 20, 2019. We, like everyone else, are still searching for answers as to what would drive a person, especially a wealthy and well-liked celebrity, to construct a lie of this magnitude, if that's what happened at all.

The verdict is still out on whether the 36-year-old star, known widely for his role as Jamal Lyon on Fox’s Empire, is guilty of staging a racist and homophobic attack against himself, but Jussie continues to declare his innocence despite the Chicago Police Department's claims to have evidence to the contrary. 

As the Jussie debate rages on, we started considering this somewhat familiar media trajectory. Crime hoaxes, specifically hate crime ones, started popping up more frequently around the time that Donald Trump became president. Coincidence? Probably not. The openness of newly invigorated racial tensions definitely did make people of color feel endangered, but unfortunately, every time the media jumped upon an incident of injustice, a hate crime at the hands of someone actually hateful was not always the case. Several widely publicized cases were ultimately exposed as fraud, including one at the Air Force Academy, one involving a church fire in Mississippi and one that resulted in jail time for a college student who falsified threatening tweets

It is quite common to use sympathy to manipulate public opinion, but it's usually done on a more intimate scale, such as someone who lies about having cancer, which presumably only affects their own direct network. When the media becomes involved, though, anything involving a lie can balloon out of control. Famously, in 2017, Keaton Jones went viral after a video of him crying about being bullied at school began circulating on Facebook. In mere hours, a GoFundMe had been set up on his behalf and several celebrities and athletes offered him everything from swag to trips to Disney World and courtside tickets. In a matter of days, his family's racist history was exposed, and it was reported that Keaton was actually being bullied because of his racism. For the time that he was controlling the narrative, though, Keaton skyrocketed his status to one of the most popular kids in America. Once exposed, though, the decline is swift and severe. The court of public opinion can be a harsh judge and leaves many wondering why someone would ever invent a story like this. The risk vs. reward scale is a tricky balancing act. Well, on one hand, we all looked, didn't we? 

Psychotherapist, life coach and host of the popular "Black Therapist" podcast Nikita Banks, LCSW, offered BET Digital some insight into understanding why would someone might be inspired to fake a hate crime. 

  1. Clinically speaking, why would someone fake a crime?

    "We have to look at the unique issues [individuals] have to face being from a 'show business family.' That lends to [a] thought process being different than just someone who had a childhood out of the spotlight and came on a successful show. We have seen this time and again with child actors who begin to struggle with making the adjustment of a prospect of a life after show business.

    "Whatever the case, his response, [if true] was neither an appropriate one nor is it one that [shows the] mind is functioning properly with the use of his consequential thinking, which means if I do A, B will happen. There is nothing rational about staging an attack with a co-worker and paying for it with a check."

  2. There are personality types that could lead to this type of situation...

    "There are personality types that lead to someone putting themselves in this kind of situation. Those are histrionic personality types (or 'drama queen syndrome') and martyr syndrome. Histrionic personality type is rampant in today's society. It is someone who will do whatever for likes on Instagram. They crave attention above all else and need it on a visceral level, and it will impact their relationships in significant ways.

    "Martyr syndrome is when a person over identifies themselves as a victim on purpose and their acts aren't totally selfless. Their identity is so wrapped into being the underdog, they can create and invent ways of maintaining that narrative.

    "In this case this could be both, or neither. One would never know, but when one refers themselves as the 'gay Tupac,' it leads you to question his healthy level of self importance."

  3. If there is a personality disorder...

    "If this is a personality disorder, the road to recovery will be long. Our personal narratives are buried deep within our personal identities. It is who we are. If we are forced to change that before we are ready, it is traumatic.

    "If he simply made a mistake and error in judgment, there are some treatment modalities that can help him identify his thinking errors. CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy, may be helpful in either case."

  4. Why a lie, even on this scale, can't easily be chalked up to a personality disorder...

    "The thing about lies in my business is, unless they result in huge consequences, I don't find them remarkable. We have all lied, just not lies big enough to hurt the whole community.

    "Unfortunately, now he has lost the credibility and the trust of the vast majority of his community. However, in this day and age, I'm not sure how much we want to prosecute him for a lie, even one as big as this one, especially since president 45 lies every single day."

  5. How does this affect the rest of society’s psyche around hate crimes?

    "I think Black women got the short end of the stick on this. We are often the most vocal defenders of the brothers, and in my little corner of the world we were outraged, more so than some of my gay friends and Black males. We are fierce defenders of our men, and he made a fool out of a lot of us. That said, this plays into the psyche of this already troubled nation in this current political climate that believes Black victims of racism are playing the 'race card,' as if we made up the game of race and it's a get-out-of-jail-free card. It is not.

    "The race card comes with a long history of suffering and post traumatic stress. And like post traumatic stress, a lot of people of color, especially men, have expressed the concern that they will further be victimized by the police if, for whatever reason, they are indeed victims and need to go to them for help. It makes all of us unsafe and fans the flames of mistrust between the police and the Black community...especially when the deaths and attacks on trans women of color happen all the time and are not seen as a priority."

Written by BET Staff

(Photo by Gary Gershoff/WireImage)


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