Histrionic personality disorder

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Definition

Histrionic personality disorder is a mental condition in which people act in a very emotional and dramatic way that draws attention to themselves.

Causes

Causes of histrionic personality disorder are unknown. Genes and early childhood events may be responsible. It is diagnosed more often in women than in men. Doctors believe that more men may have the disorder than are diagnosed.

Histrionic personality disorder usually begins by late teens or early 20s.

Symptoms

People with this disorder are usually able to function at a high level and can be successful socially and at work.

Symptoms include:

  • Acting or looking overly seductive
  • Being easily influenced by other people
  • Being overly concerned with their looks
  • Being overly dramatic and emotional
  • Being overly sensitive to criticism or disapproval
  • Believing that relationships are more intimate than they actually are
  • Blaming failure or disappointment on others
  • Constantly seeking reassurance or approval
  • Having a low tolerance for frustration or delayed gratification
  • Needing to be the center of attention (self-centeredness)
  • Quickly changing emotions, which may seem shallow to others

Exams and Tests

Histrionic personality disorder is diagnosed based on a psychological evaluation. The health care provider will consider how long and how severe the person's symptoms are.

The provider can diagnose histrionic personality disorder by looking at the person's:

  • Behavior
  • Overall appearance
  • Psychological evaluation

Treatment

People with this condition often seek treatment when they have depression or anxiety from failed romantic relationships or other conflicts with people. Medicine may help the symptoms. Talk therapy is the best treatment for the condition itself.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Histrionic personality disorder can improve with talk therapy and sometimes medicines. Left untreated, it can cause problems in people's personal lives and prevent them doing their best at work.

Possible Complications

Histrionic personality disorder may affect a person's social or romantic relationships. The person may be unable to cope with losses or failures. The person may change jobs often because of boredom and not being able to deal with frustration. They may crave new things and excitement, which leads to risky situations. All of these factors may lead to a higher chance of depression.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

See your health care provider or mental health professional if you or someone you know has symptoms of histrionic personality disorder.

References

American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing. 2013.

Blais MA, Smallwood P, Groves JE, Rivas-Vazquez RA. Personality and personality disorders. In: Stern TA, Rosenbaum JF, Fava M, Biederman J, Rauch SL, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2008:chap 39.

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 10/31/2014
  • Fred K. Berger, MD, Addiction and Forensic Psychiatrist, Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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