What is Histrionic Personality Disorder?

What is histrionic personality disorder?

Histrionic personality disorder is one of a group of conditions called “cluster B” or “dramatic” personality disorders. People with these disorders have intense, unstable emotions and distorted self-images. For people with histrionic personality disorder, their self-esteem is dependent on the approval of others and they have no true feelings of self-worth. They have a great desire to be noticed and often act dramatically or inappropriately to get attention. Histrionic personality disorder is more common in women than men and usually presents during adolescence or early adulthood.

What causes histrionic personality disorder?

The exact cause of histrionic personality disorder is unknown. However, many professionals believe that both environmental and hereditary factors play a role in the development of the disorder. For example, the tendency for histrionic personality disorder to run in families suggests an inherited predisposition to the disorder. A child of a parent with this disorder may be repeating learned behavior.

Other environmental factors that may be relevant include:

  • Lack of criticism or punishment as a child
  • Overly positive reaction to only certain behaviors as a child
  • Excessive attention given by their parents

Such things cause confusion in the child about what kind of behavior receives parental approval, and this disorder may develop later on. In general, personality disorders often develop in relation to individual temperament and psychological styles and the way people learn to cope with stress as they grow up.

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What are the symptoms of histrionic personality disorder?

In most cases, people with histrionic personality disorder have good social skills; however, they tend to use these skills to manipulate others so they can be the center of attention.

A person with this disorder may also:

  • displaying offensive attitudes in order to be the center of attention
  • Dressing provocatively or engaging in inappropriately seductive or flirtatious behavior
  • rapid change of emotions
  • Acting too dramatically, as if performing in front of an audience, with exaggerated emotions and expressions, but appearing lacking in sincerity
  • Being overly concerned with physical appearance
  • Seeking ongoing reassurance or approval
  • Being naive and easily influenced by others
  • Being overly sensitive to criticism or disapproval
  • Having a low tolerance for frustration and easily bored with routine
  • Not planning any venture in advance, diving straight in
  • Being self-centered and rarely showing interest in others
  • Often appearing fake or shallow in their dealings with others
  • Having trouble maintaining relationships
  • Threatening or attempting suicide to get attention

How is histrionic personality disorder diagnosed?

If there are symptoms of this personality disorder, the doctor will begin an evaluation by taking a complete medical and psychiatric history. If physical symptoms are present, a physical examination and laboratory tests (such as neuroimaging studies or blood tests) may be recommended to ensure that a physical illness is not causing symptoms that may be present.

If the doctor cannot find a physical cause for the symptoms, he or she may refer the person to a psychiatrist or psychologist, healthcare professionals specially trained to diagnose and treat mental illness. Psychiatrists and psychologists use specially designed interview and assessment tools to assess a person for a personality disorder.

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How is histrionic personality disorder treated?

Generally, people with histrionic personality disorder do not believe they need therapy. They also tend to exaggerate their feelings and dislike routine, which makes it difficult to follow a treatment plan. However, they may seek help if depression – possibly related to a loss or a failed relationship – or some other problem stemming from their actions is troubling them.

Psychotherapy (a type of counseling) is often the treatment of choice for histrionic personality disorder. The goal of treatment is to help the individual uncover the motivations and fears associated with their thoughts and behaviors and to help the person learn to relate to others in a more positive way.

Medication can sometimes be used as a treatment for other conditions that may be present in this disorder, such as depression and anxiety.

Remember, your doctor will decide which medicine to take and how.


Histrionic personality disorder can affect a person’s social, professional, or romantic relationships, and how they respond to loss or failure. People with this disorder also have a higher risk of suffering from depression than the general population.


Many people with this disorder are able to function well socially and in any job. However, those with the more serious condition may experience significant problems in their daily lives.


While it is not possible to prevent histrionic personality disorder, treatment may allow a person prone to this disorder to learn more efficient ways of dealing with potential negative situations.

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