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Histrionic personality disorder

Definition

Histrionic personality disorder is a condition in which a person acts very emotional and dramatic in order to get attention.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The cause of this disorder is unknown, but childhood events and genes may both be involved. It occurs more often in women than in men, although it may be more often diagnosed in women because attention-seeking and sexual forwardness are less socially acceptable for women.

Histrionic personality disorder usually begins in early adulthood.

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

The health care provider can diagnose histrionic personality disorder by looking at your:

  • Behavior
  • History
  • Overall appearance
  • Psychological evaluation

There is no formal test to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment

People with this condition often seek treatment when they experience depression from failed romantic relationships. Medication may be helpful with symptoms such as depression. Professional counseling (psychotherapy) may also help.

Expectations (prognosis)

Histrionic personality disorder does not usually affect your ability to function at work or in social settings. However, problems often arise in more intimate relationships, where there are deeper involvements.

Complications

Histrionic personality disorder may affect your social or romantic relationships, or your ability to cope with losses or failures. You may go through many job changes as you become easily bored and have trouble dealing with frustration.

Because you tend to crave new things and excitement, you may put yourself in risky situations. All of these factors may lead to a greater risk of depression.

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if you think you may have symptoms of histrionic personality disorder. It is important to call if this condition is affecting your sense of well-being, relationships, or ability to keep a job.

Prevention

Mental health treatment may help you learn better ways of understanding and dealing with your needs.

References

Histrionic Personality Disorder (DSM-IV-TR#301.50). In: Moore DP, Jefferson JW. Moore & Jefferson: Handbook of Medical Psychiatry. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa:Mosby Elsevier;2004:chap139.

Review Date: 1/15/2009
Reviewed By: Christos Ballas, M.D., Attending Psychiatrist, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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