Histrionic Personality Disorder

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Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD) is characterized by at least 3 of the following:

  • self-dramatization, theatricality, exaggerated expression of emotions;
  • suggestibility, easily influenced by others or by circumstances;
  • shallow and labile affectivity;
  • continual seeking for excitement and activities in which he/she is the center of attention;
  • inappropriate seductiveness in appearance or behavior;
  • over-concern with physical attractiveness.

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Histrionic personality disorder is defined by the American Psychiatric Association as a personality disorder characterized by a pattern of excessive emotionality and attention-seeking, including inappropriately seductive behavior. These individuals are lively, dramatic, vivacious, enthusiastic, and flirtatious.

Associated features may include egocentrism, self-indulgence, continuous longing for appreciation, and persistent manipulative behavior to achieve their own needs.

People with this disorder are usually able to function at a high level and can be successful socially and professionally. People with histrionic personality disorder usually have good social skills, but they tend to use these skills to manipulate other people and become the center of attention. Furthermore, histrionic personality disorder may affect a person’s social or romantic relationships or their ability to cope with losses or failures.

They start relationships well but tend to falter when depth and durability are needed, alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.

They often fail to see their own personal situation realistically, instead tending to dramatize and exaggerate their difficulties. They may become easily bored and have trouble dealing with frustration.

Additional symptoms include:

  • Exhibitionist behavior.
  • Constant seeking of reassurance or approval.
  • Excessive dramatics with exaggerated displays of emotions
  • Excessive sensitivity to criticism or disapproval.
  • Proud of own personality, unwillingness to change, any change is viewed as a threat.
  • Inappropriately seductive appearance or behavior.
  • Somatic symptoms, and using these symptoms as a means of garnering attention.
  • A need to be the center of attention.
  • Low tolerance for frustration or delayed gratification.
  • Rapidly shifting emotional states that may appear superficial or exaggerated to others.
  • Tendency to believe that relationships are more intimate than they actually are.
  • Making rash decisions.

Disingenuous histrionic—antisocial features

. . . glib and superficial charm, grandiosity, need for stimulation, pathological lying, conning and manipulating, lack of remorse, callousness, poor behavioral controls, impulsivity, irresponsibility, failure to accept responsibility for one’s own actions and so forth.

Despite the seemingly sincere, intelligent, even charming external presentation, internally the psychopathic person does not have the ability to experience genuine emotions.


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7 thoughts on “Histrionic Personality Disorder

  1. Our celebrity culture creates this in people. The amount of money those in the entertainment industry earn, sends the message this is valued. Parents put their very small children in dance and other performance classes. This has happened since Shirley Temple was one of the highest paid entertainers – it is not new. (And Shirley Temple learned her skills even before she was in movies – there must have been 1000s of others her same age doing so.) Throw in a family of origin that either abuses or neglects its children, and you have someone seeking love and the feeling of worth from an audience. One could say Madonna had HPD – her mom died when she was young, as a marker of unmet needs in childhood. She continued to enjoy shocking her Catholic dad for a long time. Once, her best friend at the time, Rosie O’Donnell, told her to stop saying nasty and naughty things in front of her dad sitting next to her on Rosie’s talk show couch. Rosie remarked Madonna was not usually that disrespectful. One could say most of our most highly paid people have HPD. And, with that value system, the behavior in bound to be imitated by the general public. The measure of whether or not the behavior is compulsive and pathological, is can the person change for the better, when it’s pointed out a behavior is harmful. Not that it exists at all.

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    • There is no doubt that American culture encourages and supports many personality disorder traits. On the same note, moral beliefs and social norms, such as the obligation to forgive and to not question “authority,” serve to protect people behaving badly from suffering any consequences of their ill deeds. Instead, it is typically their victim who is criticized, silenced, and prevented from holding an abuser accountable.

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      • Human, you described, in a nutshell, the dynamics that perpetuate abuse. Even Buddhism, with its karma philosophy, does this: If bad things happen to you, it’s because you’ve done something bad to deserve it.

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  2. A telling marker that someone does have true HPD is a tendency to threaten suicide, but then not follow through. (More than one 72 hour lock down for psychiatric observation post suicide threat would be an indicator.) Sometimes children learn this behavior because they’ve experienced their parents threatening suicide as as a manipulation technique, designed to abuse and control those around the suicide threatener. The problem for children, is that they can’t pinpoint the threats for what it is – emotional and psychological abuse – which is why some may start imitating it, or even truly contemplate it, when the lag time effects of a life time of growing up with disordered parents, comes to roost. (Those who grow up with disordered parents almost always pick disordered life mates, only because they feel familiar, intermingled with some core beliefs the wounded child has, that he or she is not worthy of decent treatment, since their disordered parents sent the message they were not worthy, most of their lives.) The measure again, is can the now adult child change for the better, not that the markers of HPD exist in the first place.

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