When it comes to certain people in your life, you can never have too much of their attention. People who are “dramatic” or “theatrical” have a tendency to do anything to keep the attention on themselves. The ability of someone with this personality type to maintain meaningful connections can be nearly impossible to achieve. They are rarely able to show empathy, and in order to keep the drama going, they may make risky life choices.
If this is the case, you may be dealing with a person who suffers from histrionic disorder.
This person’s greatest desire in life is the validation of others. People who are low on self-esteem and dissatisfied with the monotony of daily life tend to be depressed. A person with histrionic personality disorder can often bring down anyone who gets in the way of them fulfilling their need to be the center of attention.
Symptoms of Histrionic Personality Disorder
Histrionic personality disorder can only be diagnosed by a professional such as an MD or psychiatrist. But by knowing what symptoms to look for, you can help the individual seeking help.
Histrionic personality disorder affects an estimated 2% of the population. The disorder seems to be more prevalent in women than men, although that may be because women are more likely to show overt symptoms such as flirting or wearing attention-grabbing clothing and are also more likely to seek treatment for the disorder.
A histrionic personality disorder is one of ten personality disorders recognized by psychiatrists. It’s considered one of the “Cluster B” personality disorders, which also includes narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder. These personality disorders are particularly difficult to treat and are often described as “dramatic,” “volatile,” or “erratic.”
The diagnostic criteria for a histrionic personality disorder are detailed in the DSM-5. To be diagnosed, a person must meet five of the aforementioned conditions.
- When they are not the center of attention, they don’t feel like themselves.
- Displays dramatic or provocative behavior
- An emotional rollercoaster that frequently displays “thin” emotions
- Highly concerned with appearance and makes use of it to attract attention
- Speech patterns that are ambiguous and imprecise
- Overly dramatic and highly exaggerated emotions
- Gullible, highly suggestible
- Has an exaggerated notion of the closeness of their personal relationships, which may be unfounded.
What Causes Histrionic Personality Disorder?
Histrionic personality disorder is caused by a “perfect storm” of factors, similar to other personality disorders. Psychiatrists believe that most cases of the disorder occur as a result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Childhood trauma is one potential cause of the disorder. It’s hypothesized that some children deal with childhood trauma by exhibiting behaviors common to histrionic personality disorder. What started out as a way to adapt to trauma becomes a full-fledged disorder if not addressed early on.
Parenting styles and genetics
The way a child is parented may also contribute to the disorder. The disorder may be predisposed by parents who do not set clear boundaries, are inconsistent, or show excessive indulgence toward their children. The disorder may also be triggered in children if their parents show signs of the disorder, such as excessive emotional outbursts or abnormal sexual behavior.
Finally, genetics may be at play. The disorder of a histrionic personality runs in families. People with histrionic personality disorder are more likely to come from families where there is a history of mental health issues, such as other personality disorders or substance abuse issues.
Managing an Excessively Angry Personality
One of the most heartbreaking and frustrating aspects of a disorder like histrionic personality disorder is that the disorder itself makes it difficult for sufferers to seek treatment. The idea that there might be something wrong with them is nearly unfathomable for many people with histrionic personality disorder and would be seen as a sign of weakness that threatens their exalted sense of self.
The good news is that if treatment is sought, histrionic personality disorder can be managed. Psychotherapy is generally regarded as the first treatment option. Group therapy is not recommended for people with histrionic personality disorder because they cannot stop their desire for the spotlight and may dominate the group dynamic. Supportive therapy and psychodynamic psychotherapy (insight-oriented therapy) have been successful.
Often, someone who has histrionic personality disorder will come to therapy not because of the disorder itself, but because of the depression they are experiencing as a result of the disorder and their patterns of behavior. Antidepressants and antipsychotics may be of benefit to those with histrionic personality disorder who also suffer from severe mood disorders.
If You Suspect Your Loved One Has Histrionic Personality Disorder
A friend or family member may be suffering from histrionic personality disorder, but what can you do about it? First, it’s important to create clear boundaries for yourself and your own wellbeing. Do not be swayed by your loved one’s exaggerated emotions if you want to be of assistance to them.
Then, you will need to muster up all the compassion and patience you’ve got. Be a good listener if they are willing to share their most vulnerable side with you. Urging them to get treatment for any related psychological disruptions — like anxiety or depression — might be the best way to help them begin to tackle their personality disorder; if possible, gently nudge them in that direction. Once they are diagnosed, you can help them to see that there is hope for them. A person with bipolar disorder must come to terms with and accept their diagnosis and then have faith that a path to recovery is out there and that this disorder is not the end of their story. To start receiving professional help today, give online therapy a try.