Histrionic Personality Disorder

Authored by Hugh Soames

Edited by Alexander Bentley

Key Takeaways

  • 6% of the world’s population suffers from histrionic personality disorder

  • Histrionic personality disorder is a Cluster B personality disorder

  • Behaviors of histrionic personality including unsafe sexual activity, drug and alcohol abuse & impulsiveness

  • A person with histrionic personality uses social skills to manipulate others

  • A person with histrionic personality is at a higher risk of depression

  • Therapy can help

  • Anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications can be used to help

Understanding & Treating Histrionic Personality Disorder


Around 6% of the world’s population suffers from histrionic personality disorder, but in the United States, the figure stands at 9%. Although a sizeable number of the population of the US suffers from personality disorder, many individuals don’t fully understand the mental illness.


The COVID-19 pandemic has helped the world understand mental health issues greater than ever before. Yet, there are still stigmas around mental health diseases, and personality disorder is one of those complex illnesses that are still not fully grasped.


Personality disorders are complex mental health issues. On one hand, they seem quirky, but on the other, they make sufferers very difficult to be around. In most cases, an individual with a personality disorder doesn’t realize there is a problem.


Despite having evidence of possessing a personality disorder, sufferers might be oblivious to it. For persons with histrionic personality disorder, it can be very difficult to recognize the problem.


Histrionic Personality Disorder – What is it?


Histrionic personality disorder is a part of a class of psychological disorders labeled Cluster B personality disorders1https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3606922/. This class of psychological disorders often display unpredictable, dramatic, and emotional personality types.


A person suffering from histrionic personality disorder typically has a chaotic inner personal life. These people will measure their self-esteem on the acceptance of other individuals. This isn’t the same as feeling pressure from peers. A person with histrionic personality is driven to seek attention. These behaviors that crave attention are destructive.


There are several behaviors associated with histrionic personality including unsafe sexual activity, drug and alcohol abuse, impulsiveness, and taking unnecessary risks. These self-destructive behaviors help make relationships difficult for sufferers.


In addition, during a relationship, a person with histrionic personality disorder may believe a relationship with another person is stronger and more intimate than it really is. Unstable relationships with others can result. Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety can spawn from these relationships.


People suffering from histrionic personality function normally in society for the most part. You may even exhibit strong social skills and be quite personable until having an intimate relationship.


A person may manipulate others by engaging in behaviors that are self-destructive if their anxiety grows over self-esteem and self-worth. The risk of suicidal gestures may also rise.

Symptoms of Histrionic Personality Disorder


A person with histrionic personality disorder often uses their social skills to manipulate others. These individuals have good social skills, which allow them to manipulate others. Sufferers of histrionic personality disorder want to be the center of attention and manipulating others allows them to achieve this.


Sufferers of histrionic personality disorder may exhibit the following symptoms:


  • Need to be the center of attention to feel comfortable
  • Dress provocatively to get attention
  • Exhibit inappropriately behavior that is oftentimes seductive or flirtatious
  • Rapidly change emotions
  • Act dramatically while showing a lack of sincerity
  • Be extremely concerned with their physical appearance
  • Constantly seeking approval or reassurance from others
  • Be easily influenced by others
  • Be extremely sensitive to disapproval or criticism
  • Be easily bored by routine and fail to finish projects they start
  • Act before thinking about the consequences
  • Make quick decisions without thinking through the consequences
  • Self-centered and produce a lack of concern for others
  • Have difficulty keeping relationships
  • Appearing shallow or “fake” around others
  • Threaten to commit suicide
  • Attempt suicide to get attention from others

What are the Causes of Histrionic Personality Disorder


It is unknown what causes histrionic personality disorder. It is believed by mental health professionals that inherited factors and learned behaviors cause the mental health illness. However, these may only be a factor in a person developing histrionic personality disorder.


The mental health illness may run in families that are susceptible to it. This makes it possible that a person can inherit it. Yet, a young person may learn the behaviors from a parent and use them after seeing it.


Environmental factors may also play a part in the development of histrionic personality disorder. A lack of punishment or criticism, positive reinforcement given when approved behaviors are performed, and unforeseen attention by parents to their children can all be environmental factors that contribute to the disorder.


Children may be confused about the type of behavior that gains approval from parents. A personality disorder is often created by a person’s temperament and psychological make-up along with the way in which stress coping skills are learned at an early age.


How to diagnose Histrionic Personality Disorder


For histrionic personality disorder to be diagnosed, five of the eight symptoms must be present in an individual.


Five of the following eight symptoms must be diagnosed by a mental healthcare professional:


  • Highly influenced by others or circumstances
  • Uncomfortable when not the center of attention
  • Uses their body to gain attention
  • Uses provocative or sexual behavior to gain attention
  • A propensity to believe relationships are more intimate than they are in reality
  • Exhibits oversized expressions of emotion and dramatics
  • Speech lacks detail and is influenced by people around them
  • Displays shallow expressions of emotion that change quickly

Getting Treatment for Histrionic Personality Disorder


A person with histrionic personality disorder is at a higher risk of developing severe depression. The depression can affect the individual’s ability to keep employment, remain focused on tasks and goals, or develop healthy relationships.


Due to the severity of the depression and its effects, medications may be suggested by mental healthcare professionals.


Anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications can be used to help with the symptoms of anxiety and depression. These medications do not treat the illness, however.


Therapy can help an individual and allow them to explore the causes of the mental health illness. In addition, therapy can help a person develop coping skills to live a more positive life.


Cognitive behavioral therapy will focus on a person’s thoughts and emotions. CBT can explore the issues a person has and how underlaying problems amplify them. A dual diagnosis may be made for a person suffering from substance abuse or other co-occurring mental health problems.


Substance abuse and histrionic personality disorder affect one another, and combine to make the overall issues worse.


Help is available for people with histrionic personality disorder. Rehab is one way to get the help needed to end the mental health illness.


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