There are many personality disorders recognized by the mental health community, but one of the more severe is histrionic personality disorder. This disorder’s severity stems from the person’s intense and unstable emotions that make them quite unbalanced. Since this individual has a twisted self-image, they want everyone to notice them.
The very root of the word means dramatic or theatrical, so it’s easy to see why HPD is a condition where the person’s emotional stability is volatile. According to the Cleveland Clinic, females tend to have this disorder more often than males. They also state that the signs of this mental health condition are usually displayed in childhood, but it can be diagnosed early in adulthood.
Signs of Histrionic Personality Disorder
With HPD, it’s not always easy to detect because the person has keen social skills. Sadly, they use these skills to manipulate and control those around them. They desire to be the center of attention in everything they do, so they can often be confused with a narcissistic or self-centered person.
Here are some classic behaviors that indicate that a person has a histrionic personality disorder.
1. Problems Maintaining Relationships
Like the classic manipulator, they cannot maintain relationships. They use people to make them feel better and to further their agenda. Relationships with family and friends are often strained, which is why there are few, if any, in their inner circle.
2. Dress Provocatively
To get attention, their attire stands out to get them noticed. This individual will wear the most outlandish clothing just so that people can’t help but look. Their poor self-esteem is boosted when someone looks at them longingly.
3. Uncomfortable Unless All Eyes Are on Them
The person suffering from histrionic personality wants all eyes on them. If others in the room are getting more attention, they will use emotional displays to shift the focus to themselves.
4. Shifting Emotions Rapidly
Their emotions are all over the board. They can be happy and on top of the world one minute, and the next minute they’re crying and wanting to end their life. Finding a happy medium is hard for a person who needs the constant approval of others to keep themselves going.
5. Acts Dramatically
Some might call this person the king or queen of drama. They will turn the smallest infraction into a huge ordeal. Everything is over the top, and people dread interactions with them because of their outlandish behavior.
6. Uses Suicidal Attempts for Attention
The person with HPD is not against using suicidal attempts to get attention. They want people to cater to them and rally around in support. They may like the attention they get from this behavior, and they may often use this threat to get their way.
7. Seductive and Flirtatious
Their seductive nature knows no bounds. They will flirt and seduce anyone in their presence. They openly use inappropriate advances to control people, and they have no problem with one-night stands, as long-term relationships don’t often work for them.
8. Bored by Routine
While some people thrive on routine, the HPD person finds it boring. Since they don’t like a set schedule, holding down a job may be impossible. They won’t be the type of person to sit home on the weekend with nothing to do.
They will find something to get into, even if it’s significant trouble. Some might say that they run to danger like a moth to a flame.
9. Makes Rash Decisions
Sure, these individuals make rash decisions, but their brain is working in overdrive. Their impulse control problems are similar to that of a person suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD.
Remember, this person is bored often, so they will do anything for a little fun. They don’t think twice before doing something most people would think long and hard over. Making big purchases or running away for a weekend with a stranger just seems like the thing to do. Sadly, they put themselves in harm’s way too frequently.
No one is as important to the theatrical person as themselves. They think no one can do anything quite as good as they do. While this may be the persona they portray on the outside, inside is usually a deeply wounded individual who has been traumatized by something in life.
11. Extremely Sensitive to Criticism
The HPD individual doesn’t like criticism, even if it’s meant to help. They find that anyone who calls them out on their behaviors is trying to hurt them deliberately. Due to their sensitive nature, going to therapy or getting help for their condition is challenging.
12. Very Gullible
While they tend to focus on themselves, they are very susceptible and don’t see when someone uses them. Their poor decision-making skills and rash movements often make them extremely sensitive to getting involved in sinister things. So, you might not be surprised to learn this person has a history with the law or a substance abuse problem too.
13. Starts Many Projects but Doesn’t Finish Them
Their attention span and tendency to be easily bored means that most projects they start don’t get finished. People have learned in their dealings that they can’t count on them to get the job done. This individual may start with the best of intentions, but their hyperactive brain just goes in circles.
14. Needs the Constant Reassurance and Approval of Others
Something happened in their life that destroyed their self-worth, so they desire others’ approval at all costs. They need that constant reassurance from others, even if it’s strangers, that their life is okay.
What Causes Histrionic Personalidy Disorder?
Not much is known about the origins of this mental health condition. However, the medical community believes that there are genetic links, according to an article on the National Library of Medicine. Since this disorder is often found in families, like bipolar and schizophrenia, it’s believed there are inherited components.
It’s important to note that some children who grow up with a person suffering from HPD might mimic their behaviors. They may learn that it’s socially acceptable to use people to get their way. While this is not indicative of the disorder, poor parenting and a chaotic childhood can be a factor.
Genetics is one possibility of developing this condition, but many environmental influences cannot be ignored. A child who has suffered from damaging psychological situations might use some of the behaviors of HPD as coping mechanisms.
For instance, a kid who was severely neglected by parents who didn’t have time for them may crave attention to fill the void. They can develop such a condition to ease the chaos they feel in their mind.
Treating Histrionic Personality Disorder
As with any mental illness, there is no cut and dry treatment that works for all.
The person who suffers from HPD doesn’t see the need for care as most don’t believe that they have a problem. Treatment is brutal when they don’t like routine and fight any changes.
They may be willing to accept help for specific aspects of the condition, like depression or anxiety, but they don’t consider the bigger picture. The best way to treat a person with HPD is by using psychotherapy. During treatment, the therapist tries to get to the root of their fears, which is the cause of their behaviors.
Uncovering the motivation behind these actions can be quite scary, and therefore so many are resistant to care. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps the person suffering from HPD learn how to treat others more positively so that they can have meaningful relationships.
Since this mental health condition affects social, professional, or romantic relations, they must seek treatment to have any normality in their life. It’s not uncommon for this individual to suffer from deep depressive moods when their tactics to get attention and compensate for their negative feelings don’t work.
Final Thoughts on Histrionic Personality Disorder
HPD falls under “Cluster B” personality disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM-5. Due to the nature of personality disorders, they’re often hard to treat. Someone suffering from histrionic personality will battle this condition lifelong in most instances.
If you regularly deal with this person, you will need firm guidelines in what will be acceptable to you. It’s increasingly challenging to have any relationship with this individual, so encouraging them to seek treatment is advisable. With therapy and a healthy support system, the person with HPD can have a good, quality life.
The goal is to retrain the brain to view situations differently and get at the core issues driving these toxic behaviors. When trauma and environmental factors are to blame, processing these events can help to bring relief and ease the internal struggle. Genetic components are harder to fight, but therapy can be a useful tool to cope.