Histrionic Personality Disorder: Mental illness

Histrionic personality disorder is a psychological condition in which a person exhibits erratic and emotionally charged behavior , which usually arises from a person with a distorted self-image who wants to get attention. Although histrionic personality disorder is not a serious psychological problem, the mental illness does lead to problems in relationships, work and/or school. The causes of histrionic personality disorder are unclear as of October 2020. The disorder remains a challenge for doctors to diagnose or treat. Psychotherapy can usually be used to treat people with a histrionic personality disorder.

  • What is a personality disorder?
  • Causes of mental illness
  • Risk factors of histrionic personality disorder
  • Symptoms: Compulsive attention seeking
  • Diagnosis and examinations
  • Treatment of histrionic personality disorder
  • Prognosis
  • Complications


What is a personality disorder?

A personality refers to the combination of traits that produce patterns of thought and behavior that are unique to a person. A normal personality is difficult to determine, because personalities differ greatly between people. However, some people exhibit certain combinations of traits that are considered maladaptive or cause problems with functioning in everyday life. This is then known as a personality disorder. As of October 2020, doctors use the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, to help define personalities.

Causes of mental illness

Histrionic personality disorder is a cluster B disorder. This group of personality disorders includes personality disorders with dramatic, emotional and erratic symptoms, mood swings and exuberance. This cluster also includes antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder. The causes of this personality disorder are unknown as of October 2020.

Risk factors of histrionic personality disorder

Histrionic personality disorder may be the result of a combination of genetic, social, and developmental factors. A childhood trauma may contribute to the development of a histrionic personality disorder. If a person has inherited certain genes, they may be more prone to developing this personality disorder. Women are affected more often than men, but women report symptoms earlier than men.

Symptoms: Compulsive attention seeking

The symptoms of the mental illness usually develop during adolescence. Histrionic personality disorder is associated with a distorted self-image. People with these personality disorders exhibit extremely dramatic, emotional, influential, seductive and erratic behavior. They compulsively seek attention and seek confirmation from others. Individuals with histrionic personality disorder are usually good at manipulating social situations to make themselves the center of attention. They exhibit dramatic and irrational behavior when the attention is not on them. Inappropriate attention-seeking behavior and emotional volatility mean that individuals with histrionic personality disorder often develop unstable and superficial relationships with others.The following often chronic psychological symptoms arise from a thermal personality disorder:

  • thinking that relationships are closer than they actually are
  • dramatic and provocative behavior
  • a compulsive desire for attention and angry, sad or insecure behavior if they do not receive attention
  • emotional instability
  • flirtatious or inappropriate sexual behavior
  • the excessive use of appearance to attract attention
  • impulsiveness
  • difficulty expressing deep feelings
  • being obsessive about self-image
  • feeling uncomfortable due to lack of attention


Diagnosis and examinations

Diagnosing a personality disorder poses a challenge for the doctor because symptoms are sometimes related to a more serious, underlying mental or physical condition. The doctor therefore requires the complete medical and psychiatric history and also performs a physical examination. If the doctor suspects that the person suffers from a personality disorder, he or she will refer the person to a psychiatrist or psychologist. Based on diagnostic questions and guidelines in the DSM-5, the doctor determines whether a person suffers from a histrionic personality disorder. However, the symptoms of histrionic personality disorder overlap with several personality disorders, making it difficult to determine exactly which disorder the person has.

Treatment of histrionic personality disorder

A psychotherapist identifies underlying fears or problems that lead to the person’s behavior. Furthermore, the psychotherapist helps the person to learn other patterns of gratitude. The person also learns to better frame his behavior. This improves functioning on a social, occupational or academic level. However, people with histrionic personality disorder do not always feel that they need treatment for their personality disorder.


Histrionic personality disorder is often a lifelong psychological condition. Doctors find it difficult to diagnose and treat this condition, and people are reluctant to seek help. The condition leads to problems with daily functioning, especially in social and professional situations. Although this may pose serious psychological complications, many individuals with histrionic personality disorder often lead relatively normal lives. Only a minority of people with histrionic personality disorder experience significant problems in life as a direct result of the disorder.


In addition to problems at school, in a relationship and at work, people with a histrionic personality disorder are more likely to develop an anxiety disorder, depression and stress-related physical complaints.

read more

  • Personality disorders: Types and characteristics
  • Borderline Personality Disorder: Mental illness
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder: Mental illness
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Symptoms of Narcissism