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What is Histrionic Personality Disorder?

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

November 27, 2023

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Perhaps you have been asking yourself, “What is histrionic personality disorder?”

If so, you might have a mental health condition characterized by a distorted self-image, erratic emotions, and an overwhelming desire for others to notice you. This often results in people with HPD (histrionic personality disorder) behaving inappropriately or dramatically in order to get attention.

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Histrionic Personality Disorder: What is it?

Histrionic personality disorder, usually abbreviated to HPD, is classified as a cluster B personality disorder. Also in this category are the following personality disorders:

  • APD (antisocial personality disorder)
  • NPD (narcissistic personality disorder
  • BPD (borderline personality disorder)

Like all of the above cluster B personality disorders, HPD involves overly emotional thought patterns and behaviors that are both unpredictable and dramatic.

Those diagnosed with histrionic personality disorder have a distorted self-image, often looking for the approval of others for the purposes of improving self-esteem. This usually manifests as an overt need to be noticed, triggering dramatic behaviors designed to provoke a reaction.

More women than men are diagnosed with HPD. This may be due to men reporting symptoms less frequently leading to underdiagnosis of males with this personality disorder.

The disorder usually begins in the late teens or early adulthood and affects 1% of the U.S. population.

Histrionic personality disorder often co-occurs with the following disorders:

  • Substance use disorder
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Narcissistic personality disorder
  • Dependent personality disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Eating disorders

Histrionic Personality Disorder Symptoms and Signs

Although HPD can be disruptive, most people with this personality disorder function successfully at home and at work. Although most people with this condition have impressive interpersonal skills, they also frequently resort to manipulative behaviors.

The central feature of HPD is the display of superficial and overblown emotionality or sexuality with the aim of drawing attention from others. Many people with HPD:

  • Are dramatic and emotionally expressive, sometimes to an extent that embarrasses others.
  • Feel depressed or unappreciated when they are not the center of attention.
  • Have a presence that seems larger than life.
  • Are persistently flirtatious and charming.
  • Have shallow but rapidly cycling emotions.
  • Are easily influenced by those they admire.
  • Are unduly concerned with their physical appearance.
  • Wear bright or revealing clothing.
  • Make inappropriate sexual advances to people they meet, even when they are not physically attracted to the person.
  • Need continual approval or reassurance.
  • Often express strong opinions lacking any supporting evidence.
  • Speak loudly and dramatically.
  • Believe that their relationships with others are closer than they are.
  • Have problems maintaining relationships due to their shallow interactions with others.
  • Require instant gratification.
  • Become very easily bored.

For a diagnosis of histrionic personality disorder according to DSM-5-TR, at least five of these symptoms must present:

  1. You display shallow but rapidly shifting emotions.
  2. You are uncomfortable unless you are the center of attention.
  3. Your interactions with others are characterized by provocative or inappropriate sexual behavior.
  4. You are easily influenced by others.
  5. You consistently use physical means to draw attention to yourself.
  6. Your speech is impressionistic and lacks detail.
  7. You consider your closest relationships to be more intimate than they are.
  8. You demonstrate an overstated expression of emotion and self-dramatization.

Can I Get Tested for Histrionic Personality Disorder?

There is no dedicated histrionic personality disorder test.

If you are concerned that you display some of the traits of HPD listed above, you should first consult your primary care provider. They will evaluate you and take a medical history, as well as performing a physical exam to rule out any physical conditions that could be triggering your symptoms.

Assuming the examination does not reveal a physical health condition, your physician may refer you to a psychiatrist or another mental health professional. This can help you to obtain an accurate diagnosis for HPD.

Regrettably, many people with histrionic personality disorder do not believe they require help or therapy.

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Histrionic Personality Disorder Treatment

Talk therapy or psychotherapy is the first-line treatment for histrionic personality disorder and for other personality disorders. The aim of treatment is to help you to uncover the fears and motivations driving your erratic behaviors. You will also learn how to relate more positively to others.

The most effective forms of psychotherapy for treating HPD are:

  • CBT: CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) is a goal-oriented and structured approach to psychotherapy. In CBT sessions, you will explore the way in which your thoughts impact your actions. A therapist will guide you toward unlearning negative thought patterns and behaviors, replacing them with healthier habits.
  • Psychodynamic psychotherapy: This form of talk therapy probes the psychological causes of your emotional suffering. Through self-examination and self-reflection, you will explore any problematic relationship patterns in your life with the guidance of a trained therapist.
  • Supportive psychotherapy: By engaging with supportive psychotherapy, you should reduce the intensity of HPD symptoms and improve your coping skills and your self-esteem.
  • Group therapy: Group therapy sessions can help you to interact more confidently with others. Also, you will have the opportunity to see your behaviors reflected back at you.

There is currently no approved medication for the treatment of personality disorders like HPD.

Getting Help at Renaissance Recovery

Like all personality disorders, histrionic personality disorder can be disruptive if untreated.

Here at Renaissance Recovery, we can help you connect with a psychiatrist or psychologist near you. As outlined above, HPD is typically treatable with various forms of psychotherapy or talk therapy.

Like all mental health conditions, HPD frequently co-occurs with addiction to alcohol, prescription medications, or illicit drugs. This is known as dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder. If you feel you require alcohol rehab or drug rehab, we can help you to find the right dual diagnosis treatment program that offers integrated and simultaneous treatment of both conditions.

Take action today and reach out to the friendly team at Renaissance Recovery by calling 866.604.1287 right now.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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