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Histrionic personality disorder

Definition

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

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The cause of this disorder is unknown. Both genes and early childhood events are thought to contribute. It occurs more often in women than in men, although it may be diagnosed more often 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

Like other personality disorders, histrionic personality disorder is diagnosed based on a psychological evaluation and the history and severity of the symptoms.

Treatment

People with this condition often seek treatment when they experience depression or anxiety from failed romantic relationships or other conflicts with people. Medication may help the symptoms, but talk therapy (psychotherapy) is the best treatment for the condition itself.

Expectations (prognosis)

Histrionic personality disorder can improve with psychotherapy and sometimes medications. If left untreated, it can cause conflict in people's personal life and prevent them from reaching their potential in their work life.

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

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: Mosby Elsevier; 2008:chap 39.


Review Date: 11/23/2010
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Michelle Benger Merrill, MD, Instructor in Clinical Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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