What is Histrionic Personality Disorder or HPD
Histrionic personality disorder, or HPD, is a disorder characterized by emotional overreactions and outbursts, attention-seeking behaviors, and a tendency to over-dramatize things.
A person with histrionic personality disorder feels the need to be the center of attention at all times. They are often upset when they are not. A person with HPD has strong difficulties when people are not focused on them. Also, they may use seductive and provocative behavior to draw attention to themselves.
Sometimes, a person with histrionic personality disorder is perceived as shallow as well as the “life of the party”. They are overly focused on their physical appearance, almost to the point of obsession. They will use their physical appearance as a way to draw attention to themselves.
Also, people with HPD often may have interests in things that are extremely self-focused. Because of their need for attention, they may often be loud and inappropriate, exaggerate their emotions or need constant stimulation. They are usually indulgent and will use manipulation to get what they want.
This constant need for validation and attention can be exhausting and when a person with HPD doesn’t get the praise they need, it can lead to depression.
Studies show histrionic personality disorder is about four times more common in women than in men.
“Histrionic” means exaggerated or dramatic behavior designed to attract attention. It can also mean overly emotional or melodramatic attention-seeking behavior.
Another definition for histrionic is acting, actors, or the theater. This can also apply to people with histrionic personality disorder because in many ways they are constantly acting. The need for attention, validation, and praise leads them to act in whatever way is convenient at the time to attain their goal. Much like an actor in a scene.
Sycophantic means praise or flattery that is not entirely sincere.
People with HPD are usually sycophantic by nature. They may seem disingenuous at times because they use flattery as a means to get what they want or a way to gain attention. Instead of praising a person because they really believe they deserve the praise, they may use flattery as a way to turn the attention back on themselves.
An example of this could be giving a huge speech at a wedding flattering the couple and taking up a lot of time and attention to show off what a good friend they are. It’s difficult because a person with histrionic personality disorder won’t even understand their true motivations. They will be shocked when they find out anyone would be upset by their actions.
Their need for constant attention drives them and makes them sycophantic.
Histrionic Personality Disorder Symptoms
A person with HPD must show a pattern of attention seeking behavior and excessive emotions by early adulthood and in a variety of contexts. When symptoms cause distress or impairment in a person, they are diagnosed with HPD.
Some symptoms of histrionic personality disorder are:
- Discomfort when not the center of attention
- Inappropriately seductive behavior
- Constant use of physical appearance to draw attention to self
- Rapidly shifting and shallow emotions
- A constant need for approval
- Easily influenced by others
- Overly dramatic displays of emotion
- Belief relationships are more intimate than they actually are
- Highly suggestible
- Speech style lacking in detail (can make a person with HPD seem young and simplistic)
- Suicide threats for attention
- Rash decision making
- Excessive sensitivity to criticism
- Self-centered with rare concern for others
In order to diagnose a personality disorder, there has to be a long-standing pattern of behavior. Because of this, HPD typically will not be diagnosed until early adulthood.
Histrionic Personality Disorder and relationships
For a person with histrionic personality disorder, romantic relationships are difficult. They can have trouble achieving emotional intimacy in sexual relationships and may act out various roles in other relationships. The over-emotional behavior and need for dramatic situations with HPD leads to problems.
Also, a person with histrionic personality disorder may be overly dependent on a partner while still trying to manipulate them through seductiveness and emotional outbursts. These characteristics make lasting relationships difficult to achieve.
Friendships also provide a challenge. A person with HPD may alienate friends with their constant demand for attention. Also, their provocative personalities can be seen as a threat to their friend’s relationships.
Histrionic Personality Disorder Test
You can take a histrionic personality disorder assessment with a medical professional. They can help identify the symptoms listed above and help look into your life history.
In order for a diagnosis to be made, there must be a marked display of attention-seeking behavior and provocative behavior throughout a person’s lifetime.
Usually, a person with histrionic personality disorder will not seek treatment. It’s normal for a person to think it is just their personality. But, when HPD starts to significantly interfere with a person’s life and they can no longer cope, they should seek out treatment.
It can be a hard disorder to diagnose since it closely resembles borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder. But, the histrionic personality disorder test helps diagnose the exact issue.
Histrionic Personality Disorder Causes
While the exact cause of histrionic personality disorder isn’t known, there are theories.
In some cases, HPD runs in families. This suggests there’s a genetic component, or possibly it is a learned pattern of attention seeking behavior. If a child sees the behavior in a parent they may learn it and have it affect their own mental health.
Another factor is discipline as a child. If discipline is sporadic and a child only gets attention from a parent when they are loud they could be confused about what behaviors get attention and which don’t. This need for validation from a parent can carry into early adulthood and beyond.
Histrionic Personality Disorder in Women
So, women are more likely to have HPD than men. Research shows that 65% of individuals diagnosed are women. There are a number of theories why, many of them social.
The truth is, women are probably overdiagnosed with this disorder. For example, if a man is bragging about his sex life it’s seen as macho, but if a woman is doing the same thing, it’s seen as wrong. It could be that a woman who is seeking out sexual attention in a healthy way is then slapped with an HPD label.
The over-sexualization of women in media might also play a factor. As young girls, we learn to model ourselves after what is on TV or in magazines. So, it’s learned from society that in order for a girl to get attention, she must be sexual. The positive reinforcement of this learned attention-seeking behavior may also contribute to higher diagnosis rates in women.
It is also easier behavior to see in women. If a man seeks attention he is seen as a leader, even if that behavior is destructive. A woman doing the same thing may not be seen as favorably.
Although HPD is a very real disorder, as you can see, there are social factors that probably contribute to over-diagnosis in women.
HPD and Antisocial Personality Disorder
HPD has similarities to other disorders besides borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder.
One recent theory states that histrionic personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder are linked. Researchers have found 2/3 of patients diagnosed with HPD have similar symptoms to patients with antisocial personality disorder. Since both disorders appear to have sex based features, it is possible there is a link between the two.
A person with antisocial personality disorder usually has little regard for other people and may commit crimes with little thought for the moral consequences. People with histrionic personality disorder don’t do this, but they do have little regard for others and share this trait with antisocial personality disorder.
Histrionic Personality Disorder Treatment
The most effective treatment for histrionic personality disorder is psychotherapy. It is best if the therapy is long term with a doctor who specializes in HPD. Psychotherapy can help a person with HPD understand their motivations and identify that contribute to their disorder.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a specialized form of psychotherapy that helps patients to identify patterns of thinking and stop them. Cognitive-behavioral therapy shows people with HPD how to identify problematic thoughts and work on problem-solving skills. This way, a person can learn to avoid feeling like they have to fly into an emotional state every time a problem arises. They can learn to deal with things more rationally.
Also, group therapy is a good tool. Group therapy teaches a person with histrionic personality disorder social skills and improves interpersonal relationships. At first, the patient will need boundaries so they don’t take attention from the group and overdramatize.
Histrionic Personality Disorder: Final Thoughts
Histrionic personality disorder can be difficult to diagnose and includes a cluster of symptoms. The bottom line is if the symptoms are interfering with your life in a negative way, if you have trouble with relationships because of your symptoms, and if these symptoms lead to depression, you should seek help.
It’s great to be the life of the party and spontaneous but when you can’t form deep, loving relationships it can get lonely. Treatments are available and a more balanced life can lead to a lot more happiness.