What's the word for someone who tries to get sympathy from others by exaggerating their emotions or constantly reminding them of something tragic that happened to them?

I'm looking for an adjective - no disorders or health related definitions please.


4 Answers 4


I would say:

You are so melodramatic.

Because melodramatic means that someone is being overly emotional. See ODO for a full definition.

It doesn't necessarily mean they are constantly reminding people of something tragic that happened to them, but that could be part of it.

Someone who is constantly referring back to a tragic event could be said to be "playing on people's sympathies".


There are many options, each with their own slight difference. Below is a list of the description I'd use, along with the nuance that I would understand them with.

  • Hysterical - They are beyond reasoning. They are acting irrationally and cannot be talked down through reason alone (e.g. think of someone who is hyperventilating).
  • Dramatic, melodramatic, drama queen - They are intentionally overstating things in order to make things sound as important as they possibly can.
  • Theatrical or histrionic - Same as dramatic, but to a degree where they start (over)acting, not simply overstating.
  • Attention seeking - This person does it to get attention. Although this doesn't inherently imply being dramatic, it is often inferred.
  • Overemotional - This person experiences their emotions more strongly, but they do not intentionally do it.
  • Pathological liar - Someone who lies without remorse. Anything they say can be a lie that they tell you to get a response from you. You cannot trust this person to ever tell you the objective truth about anything.

If you can use a noun, there's hysteric. Its dictionary definition is someone who is over-emotional, who over-responds to stimuli. But it has a popular usage of someone who is a drama queen, exaggerating their emotions, portraying themselves as the center of all things tragic, outdoing everyone else in bad luck.

  • Fun tangential fact: Hysteric comes from the Greek word for uterus (hysterectomy is still the English name for a medical procedure where the uterus is removed). It was believed that dramatic panicked behavior (hysteria) was caused by your uterus, the behavior was thought to only occur in women. Hysteric literally meant "pertaining to a uterus".
    – Flater
    Commented May 15, 2017 at 14:17

Such people are putting on an exaggerated act in order to get attention.

They are being histrionic:

1 : deliberately affected : overly dramatic or emotional : THEATRICAL
    // histrionic gestures
    // a tendency to become histrionic

For completeness, also see the noun histrionics:

1 : theatrical performances
2 : deliberate display of emotion for effect
    // was not moved by her histrionics

  • This has already been suggested. Commented Jun 21, 2020 at 14:44
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth Yes, in a list of 9 different terms without definitions, which does nothing to provide focus on what is thought to the be best answer. To be honest, I didn't even see that word there when I provided my own—I glanced at the list, saw only hysterical (which matches another answer) and dramatic and melodramatic (which also matches another answer), and discounted the list answer altogether. Commented Jun 21, 2020 at 15:04

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