What is Histrionic Personality Disorder?

Dramatic. Extremely emotional. Attention-seeking. These are characteristic patterns for individuals with Histrionic Personality Disorder.

Symptoms of Histrionic Personality Disorder:

In addition to excessive emotionality and attention-seeking behavior, at least five of the following symptoms must also exist:

  • Prefers to always be the center of attention and is upset if they are not
  • Tries to draw attention by being sexually seductive or provocative, even when inappropriate to do so
  • Intense emotions that can change abruptly
  • Fixates on physical appearance
  • Has strong opinions and talks boldly about things they know very little about
  • Behaves in a dramatic, theatrical manner; expresses emotions in an exaggerated fashion
  • Easily influenced by other people or circumstances; very suggestible
  • Views relationships as much closer and more intimate than they actually are in reality

Need for Attention:

Histrionic personality disorder (HPD) affects the way a person thinks and perceives things and how they interact with others. The most prominent characteristic of this disorder is an unquenchable need for attention. The intent of the dramatic and sometimes inappropriate behaviors is essentially to draw attention.

New people are often charmed or impressed by the seemingly vibrant personality of an individual with HPD. They may be the life of the party — engaging, entertaining, extroverted, and possibly a big flirt. They are often enthusiastic, helpful, and talkative… as long as they sense that they are the center of attention.

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When they are no longer in the spotlight, they will begin to do things to draw attention back to themselves. They may begin to dominate the conversation or do things that are seductive or sexually provocative. They may make up stories to try to impress or “top” someone else’s, or they may resort to a dramatic display of emotions. They might even fake illness or appear to be having some sort of medical emergency.

Fixation with Physical Appearance:

Some individuals with histrionic personality disorder are overly concerned with their physical appearance. They hope to be noticed by others for their good looks, great clothes, or awesome hair. They will often fish for compliments, post a lot of selfies on social media, and may become livid if someone takes a photo they feel is unflattering.

They may become obsessed with social media and a desire to attract followers. They may worry about how many people liked or responded to their post. Their social media accounts are filled with selfies, long rants, vague messages that imply they are not ok, or anything that might shock someone enough to get their attention.

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Emotional Displays and Drama:

Folks with HPD may express their opinions loudly and boldly, but often know very little about the topic on which they’re speaking. They tend to be quick to “jump on the bandwagon” because they are very easily influenced. But they also crave attention, so they may also be quick to take offense if someone disagrees with their stance on something — they may become emotionally distraught, especially if this results in obtaining sympathy from others they hope will “side” with them.

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Over-reactions and showy public displays of emotion are characteristic of this disorder. Often family and friends are embarrassed by the way that an individual with HPD behaves at a funeral, a wedding, or even in a fast food drive-thru. They may make a very big deal of sentimental occasions, and they tend to view their relationships as much more intimate than they are. As a result, they may wail loudly at the funeral or wedding of a casual acquaintance, which of course draws attention to them at an event where someone else should be in the spotlight.

Their emotions are extra-large and they are very demonstrative in the way they express them — regardless of whether they are laughing, crying, or cursing, it is often “over the top.” However, these extra-large emotions can also change so quickly that it seems to others that they have the ability to turn them on and off. This is often irritating to others, and they may begin to believe that the individual is faking their emotions in order to manipulate them. Relationships are often short-lived for individuals with HPD because other people grow weary of dealing with the drama. A common complaint is: “You always find a way to make everything about you!”

Diagnosis and Treatment:

The best treatment for histrionic personality disorder is psychotherapy with a trained mental health specialist.

Diagnostic criteria for Histrionic Personality Disorder is taken from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition, published by the American Psychiatric Association. For more information on personality disorders, please visit What is a Personality Disorder? – Navigating Life (juliebailey.net) and Get Help With Personality Disorders (psychiatry.org).

Published by Julie Bailey, LCPC

I am a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in the state of Illinois. I hold a master's degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, I'm an author and a clinical manager and my life goal is to help you live your best life possible. I get excited about the daffodils in the spring and the colorful leaves in the fall (I mean like ridiculously excited). I enjoy genealogy, old cemeteries, loud music, and trivia, and I refuse to ever outgrow Harry Potter. I am an empath, which means that I literally feel the pain of others, and from time to time, this requires a visit to a quiet beach so that the wind and waves can soothe my soul.

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