A person with histrionic personality disorder displays a persistent pattern of attention-seeking behavior. Someone with a histrionic personality typically has volatile emotions and a shaky sense of his own self image. His level of self-esteem generally rises when all attention is focused on him.

According to the Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders (2010), histrionic personality disorder affects approximately 2 to 3 percent of the general population and is the only personality disorder with an explicit link to personal appearance. Histrionic personality disorder is more frequently diagnosed in women, but evidence suggests that it is equally common in both genders.

Histrionic Definition

“Histrionic” is a term derived from Latin that means “dramatic or theatrical.” People who exhibit histrionic behavior are often extremely dramatic in their speech and actions. They thrive on the attention and support of other people, and often do whatever is necessary to remain at the center of attention.

Histrionic Personality Disorder Symptoms

The most obvious symptom of the histrionic personality is a chronic need to be the center of attention. Additional histrionic personality disorder symptoms include:

  • Apparent lack of sincerity coupled with dramatic, exaggerated emotions and expressions
  • Constant need for approval and reassurance
  • Difficulty maintaining personal relationships
  • Discomfort when not at the center of attention
  • Easily bored by routine
  • Excessive sensitivity to criticism
  • Gullibility; tendency to be easily influenced by other people
  • Inappropriately seductive or flirtatious behavior
  • Lack of detail in speech; tendency to generalize and to speak in a manner intended to impress or please other people
  • Low tolerance for frustration
  • Obsession with physical appearance
  • Provocative style of dress
  • Rapidly shifting emotions
  • Rash decision making or impulsive actions
  • Self-centeredness and lack of concern for other people
  • Suicide threats or attempts, usually as a means to get attention
  • Tendency to overestimate the level of intimacy in relationships.

Histrionic Behavior

People with histrionic personality disorder often appear to have very good social skills. They typically come across as extremely extroverted and friendly, and they often appear to speak well in public. A person with a histrionic personality may seem lively, energetic and dramatic. However, he may also come across as somewhat shallow. People with this disorder crave excitement and novelty and are bored easily. Among typical histrionic features is trouble accepting delayed gratification–histrionic personalities tend to want things immediately and quickly lose interest if they don’t get them right away.

Histrionic personality disorder causes people with the illness to feel agitated when they’re not at the center of attention. In many cases, they go to extreme measures to make sure attention is focused on them. For example, some may draw attention to themselves by engaging in sexually seductive or provocative behavior. Others may make dramatic attempts at suicide. Often, the person with the histrionic personality may not actually want to end her life, but instead uses the attempt as a desperate measure to gain attention. However, these attempts are still extremely dangerous and potentially fatal.


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

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