Histrionic personality disorder is characterized by a constant need to be the center of attention. Histrionic behavior isn’t always easy to recognize because people with the disorder may simply appear outgoing, flirtatious or extremely extroverted. However, a person with a histrionic personality tends to be overly dramatic and will take desperate measures to get people to pay attention to them. People with this disorder may come across as charming and energetic, but in reality they experience volatile emotions and low levels of self-esteem.
Histrionic Personality Disorder Symptoms
In general, only adults are diagnosed with histrionic personality disorder. Some combination of the following symptoms must be present for a histrionic personality diagnosis to be appropriate:
- Discomfort when not at the center of attention
- Exaggerated emotions and dramatic behavior
- Inappropriate provocative or sexually seductive behavior toward others
- Shallow, rapidly shifting emotions
- Speech that lacks detail but is meant to please and impress others
- Suggestibility–easily influenced by circumstances or by other people
- Tendency to overestimate the level of intimacy in a relationship
- Using physical appearance to gain attention.
Women tend to be diagnosed with histrionic personality disoder more often than men. However, studies suggest that the disorder is equally common in both genders. It is possible that men and women display histrionic personality symptoms differently, and that gender stereotypes contribute to a greater likelihood of diagnosis in women.
Histrionic Personality Diagnosis
Although someone with histrionic behavior symptoms rarely seeks help for her attention-seeking compulsions, she may seek medical assistance for depression or another mood disorder. Typically, the patient is examined by a doctor first to rule out any physical causes of histrionic personality disorder symptoms. In the absence of physical causes, she is usually referred to a psychologist for an assessment, which typically involves an interview, a complete medical history and a personality disorder test.
Even if histrionic personality disorder symptoms are present, it is possible that other conditions are causing the histrionic behavior. Before a definitive histrionic personality disorder diagnosis is made, conditions such as the following must be ruled out:
- Antisocial personality disorder
- Borderline personality disorder
- Dependent personality disorder
- Narcissistic personality disorder
- Substance abuse.
Often, other personality disorders occur along with histrionic personality disorder. If this is the case, it may be difficult for the psychologist to make an accurate histrionic personality diagnosis. Two of the diagnostic criteria for histrionic behavior–suggestibility and overestimating intimacy–were officially added in 1994 to make the disorder easier to identify.
If a histrionic personality diagnosis is made, the next step involves exploring treatment options. Treatment for histrionic personality disorder typically involves therapy, although medication may be prescribed if the patient is simultaneously struggling with a mood disorder such as anxiety or depression.
Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders. (2010). Histrionic personality disorder. Retrieved August 19, 2010, from http://www.minddisorders.com/Flu-Inv/Histrionic-personality-disorder.html
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