Histrionic disorder is a chronic condition in which a person feels the need to be at the center of attention at all times. When a person has histrionic disorder, she tends to have volatile emotions and an unstable self-image. She needs other people to pay constant attention to her, and will become very distressed if she loses that attention. Typical histrionic behavior includes having a shallow manner, maintaining superficial relationships and inappropriately displaying seductive or flirtatious conduct.

Precise histrionic personality disorder causes are not known, and the disorder has not been extensively studied. However, researchers suspect that biology and childhood history are involved. Histrionic personality disorder is most often diagnosed in women, but whether gender is a risk factor or not is questionable. It is possible that histrionic personality disorder is less often diagnosed in men because of social conventions that consider extroversion and sexual promiscuity more acceptable in men than in women.

Biological Causes of Histrionic Disorder

Some studies have identified a link between histrionic personality disorder and the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. The job of neurotransmitters is to connect impulses between nerve cells in the brain, which influences behavior patterns. A malfunction in the group of neurotransmitters that includes norepinephrine may cause extreme emotional reactions to rejection–a common histrionic behavior.

In addition, certain types of personality disorder, histrionic included, may have a genetic link. Histrionic personality disorder does tend to run in families, according to the Cleveland Clinic (2009). In addition, the Mayo Clinic (2008) reports that a family history of mental illness or personality disorders puts someone at increased risk of developing a personality disorder themselves.

Environmental Causes of Dramatic Personality Disorders

Traumatic childhood events or disapproval from parents may put a person at increased risk for developing dramatic personality disorders such as histrionic disorder. Often, personality disorders emerge as a coping mechanism for dealing with past distress, such as abuse or neglect. For example, Freudian psychoanalyic theory links cases of histrionic personality disorder to specific defense mechanisms such as repression, denial and dissociation. In addition, if someone has a parent with the disorder, histrionic symptoms may be a learned, imitated behavior.

Social factors and age may also play a role in the development of histrionic personality disorder. Dramatic personality disorders might be more common in cultures that encourage unrestrained emotion and less common in more reserved cultures. Many of the flirtatious and seductive symptoms of histrionic behavior tend to wane as a person ages, but the need for attention remains and often becomes more intense as a person gets older.


Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders. (2010). Histrionic personality disorder. Retrieved August 19, 2010, from http://www.minddisorders.com/Flu-Inv/Histrionic-personality-disorder.html

Grohol, J.M. (2010). Histrionic personality disorder. Retrieved August 19, 2010, from http://psychcentral.com/disorders/sx17.htm

Mayo Clinic. (2008). Personality disorders. Retrieved August 22, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/personality-disorders/DS00562/

The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. (2009). Histrionic personality disorder. Retrieved August 19, 2010, from http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/personality_disorders/hic_histrionic_personality_disorder. aspx

 Posted on : June 23, 2014