Histrionic personality disorder is characterized by being easily influenced by others, constant attention-seeking, emotional instability, and an intense desire to seek the approval of others. People who suffer from this mental disorder will often take on the role as the “life of the party” at any social gathering. Their conversations are typically self-centered while giving little detail. They may even appear to come off as being narcissistic.

Someone with condition may also act sexually seductive in very inappropriate situations. They may express great amounts of love for friends whom they barely know. Their over-the-top emotional reaction to things such as this is a text book symptom of this disorder. They will typically come off as very charming and exciting when meeting new people by being inappropriately overt or flirtatious.

People suffering from histrionic personality disorder will express very strong emotions with an impressionistic, dramatized style in an attempt to gain the attention of others. This is often a very vicious cycle as the they will usually get the attention they desire from their outbursts, thus reassuring themselves that their emotional behavior will then give them what they want.

It has been shown that histrionic personality disorder affects 2–3% of the general population and affects women four times more than it does men. It is classified as a cluster B (dramatic) personality disorder. In this cluster, histrionic personality disorder sits alongside antisocial, narcissistic, and borderline personality disorder.

Causes of Histrionic Personality Disorder

Not much is known about what specifically causes histrionic personality disorder. Nevertheless, there are some hypotheses which may prove that neurochemicals, genetics, and environmental stresses can develop this disorder.

People diagnosed with condition have highly responsive noradrenergic systems which is responsible for the synthesis, storage, and release of norepinephrine (neurotransmitter). High levels of this neurotransmitter will then lead to dependency and high sociability, among other things.

Genetics is likely to play a very significant role for someone developing this disorder as well. This is likely to be the case with virtually any given mental disorder. People who have mental illness in their family history, especially personality disorders may have a much higher chance of developing histrionic personality disorder.

Someone’s environment may be another very pertinent factor depending on the particular living conditions they were subjected to. For instance, a child raised by parents who were very cold-hearted and lacking in compassion may grow up to develop histrionic personality disorder, expressing over-the-top emotions and desperately seeking attention from others. This may be done in an attempt overcompensate for their past.

Symptoms of Histrionic Personality Disorder

People suffering from this condition are typically very high functioning in their day to day life, despite the amount of distress their condition gives them. In fact, the same can be said for narcissistic personality disorder as well. However, the other two cluster B personality disorders, borderline personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder will typically not be nearly as high functioning. Below, you will see some of the most textbook symptoms of histrionic personality disorder:

  • Needing to be the center of attention
  • Easily influenced by others
  • Constantly seeking approval
  • Being overly dramatic and emotional
  • Making rash decisions
  • Tendency to believe that relationships are more intimate than they really are
  • Inappropriately seductive appearance or behavior
  • Overly concerned with physical appearance
  • Blaming personal failures and disappointments on others
  • Prideful and unwilling to change

Histrionic Personality Disorder Diagnostic Criteria

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV-TR), histrionic personality disorder is defined as:

A pervasive pattern of excessive emotionality and attention-seeking, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

  • is uncomfortable in situations in which he or she is not the center of attention
  • interaction with others is often characterized by inappropriate sexually seductive or provocative behavior
  • displays rapidly shifting and shallow expression of emotions
  • consistently uses physical appearance to draw attention to self
  • has a style of speech that is excessively impressionistic and lacking in detail
  • shows self-dramatization, theatricality, and exaggerated expression of emotion
  • is suggestible, i.e., easily influenced by others or circumstances
  • considers relationships to be more intimate than they actually are

Treatments for Histrionic Personality Disorder

Psychotherapy is the recommended form of treatment for people suffering from histrionic personality disorder. Medication is likely to have little to no affect on reducing the symptoms associated with this condition. This is typically the case with all personality disorders. Psychotherapy such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are typically used to treat people suffering from personality disorders.

DBT is a very common form of treatment for people suffering from borderline personality disorder as it helps individuals to better regulate their emotions. Be that as it may, DBT may be a beneficial form of treatment for someone suffering from histrionic personality disorder as well due to the fact that both of these personality disorders share similar symptoms, such as being impulsive and overly emotional. CBT can help someone with histrionic personality disorder as well, though it may not be as effective as DBT.

Besides DBT and CBT, this disorder may also be treated by using what is called functional analytic psychotherapy. The purpose of a Functional Analytic Psychotherapist is to identify the interpersonal issues with the patient as they happen in session or out of session. Functional analytic psychotherapy is significantly different than traditional psychotherapy as the therapist can directly address the patterns of behavior as they occur in-session. This can be very useful for someone suffering from histrionic personality disorder.

If you think you are suffering from this disorder or if you are suffering from some of the symptoms that have been outlined in this article, then you should talk to your doctor as soon as you can so that you can be properly diagnosed and treated. Upon seeing your doctor, she may refer you to see a specialist such as a psychologist or a psychiatrist to further treat all of the symptoms you are experiencing.