Histrionic Personality Disorder


Histrionic Personality Disorder is the name of a Personality Disorder that is characterised by a long-term pattern of excessive attention–seeking, inappropriately seductive behaviour and a constant need for approval. The disorder is part of the ‘Dramatic, Emotional and Erratic’ cluster of personality disorders. People with Histrionic Personality Disorder are typically very lively, dramatic and flirtatious. This article provides a general look at this disorder.


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A person with Histrionic Personality Disorder will typically:

  • Exhibit impressive social skills – unlike the vast majority of people with a personality disorder.
  • Manipulate others into making them the centre of attention.
  • Exaggerate extensively.
  • Dramatise events.
  • Act in an inappropriately seductive manner, often dressing provocatively.
  • Need to be the centre of attention.
  • Change jobs frequently.
  • Crave excitement, often to the extent where they put themselves in risky situations.
  • Constant seeking of approval.
  • Be attention seeking.
  • Be sensitive to criticism.
  • Blame others for disappointments that happen.
  • Be easily influenced or swayed by others.
  • Be rigid.



It is not entirely known what causes Histrionic Personality Disorder. There have been a few theories proposed however. The disorder only appears to develop fully by the time of early adulthood, though some traits can be present from a young age. The disorder appears to have a strong correlation with certain chemicals in the brain. People who suffer from this disorder appear to have high levels of norepinephrine. Genetics also appear to play a part. Authoritarian parents or neglect can also play a part. Immaturity has also been suggested as a key trait. The way women are portrayed in the media has also been blamed – with some women getting the impression that acting seductively is necessary to gain attention. Around 80% of sufferers of Histrionic personality disorder are women. Traumatic occurrences or an experience of abandonment can also lead to an individual being unable to form an affectionate attachment with someone else. An overlap between this disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder has been proposed – with the two disorders closely related.



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If you suspect you have a personality disorder, it is generally advisable to see your GP. It is likely that they will refer you to a specialist. This specialist will perform a diagnosis – which will involve asking you several questions about your condition and the impact it has had on your life. Generally, the clinician will use guidelines from the American Psychiatric Association to confirm a diagnosis. There has been some controversy over its suitability for making a diagnosis. The guidelines state a diagnosis can be made if:


  • The individual has a pervasive pattern of excessive emotionality and attention-seeking – present in various situations. AND at least five of the following:


  1. The individual is uncomfortable in any situation where they aren’t the centre of attention.
  2. When they do interact with others, they often act in an inappropriately sexual way, or exhibit provocative behaviour.
  3. Displays rapidly shifting emotions.
  4. Consistently uses their physical appearance as a means to draw attention to themselves.
  5. Has a style of speech that is excessively impressionistic and lacking in detail.
  6. Exaggerates events, dramatising things in the process.
  7. Is very suggestible – can easily be influenced by others.
  8. Struggles to ascertain the level of intimacy in a relationship.


Source: American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth ed.). doi:10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596.156852. ISBN 978-0-89042-555-8.



Individuals with Histrionic Personality Disorder usually resist treatment due to believing there is very little wrong with them. However, a patient with the disorder is vulnerable to Depression – due to their constant need for attention and approval, and their sensitivity to criticism. Therefore, it is normally a bout of depression that leads to a cry for help. The disorder is normally treated by a form of Psychotherapy. The therapy will be used with the aim of changing the thoughts, attitudes and behaviour of the individual. While recovering from this disorder is difficult, with the correct treatment and a strong bond between therapist and patient – a recovery is possible. While medication generally isn’t prescribed for this disorder, medicine can be prescribed if the disorder has caused Anxiety or Depression. Generally, an antidepressant will be prescribed.



Other Personality Disorders: