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Histrionic personality disorder

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

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Cause of histrionic personality disorder is 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

Signs and tests

Histrionic personality disorder is diagnosed based on a psychological evaluation that assesses the history and severity of the symptoms.

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

  • Behavior
  • History
  • Overall appearance
  • Psychological evaluation

Treatment

People with this condition often seek treatment when they experience 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.

Expectations (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.

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. A person with this disorder craves new things and excitement, which leads to risky situations. All of these factors may lead to a higher chance of depression.

Calling your health care provider

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

References

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.

Updated: 11/17/2012

Timothy Rogge, MD, Medical Director, Family Medical Psychiatry Center, Kirkland, WA. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.


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