Histrionic Personality Disorder

What are personality disorders?

We all have unique personalities that have developed as a result of both genetics and environment. As we grow our personalities are constantly shaped by our experiences and behaviour choices.

Those with a personality disorder have developed rigid or extreme thoughts and behaviours that they cannot control. They have trouble relating to others and are often limited in their ability to deal with daily life. Personalities normally continue to develop through teenage years so disorders are generally not diagnosed until adulthood.

There are 3 main groups or clusters of personality disorders.

Cluster A – odd or eccentric behaviour

  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder
  • Schizoid Personality Disorder
  • Paranoid Personality Disorder

Cluster B – Dramatic or erratic behaviour

  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder
  • Histrionic Personality Disorder
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Cluster C – Anxious or fearful behaviour

  • Avoidant Personality Disorder
  • Dependant Personality Disorder
  • Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder


What is Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD)?

Those with Histrionic Personality Disorder generally have good social skills and can appear bubbly, flirtatious and fun but this is generally superficial. Their behaviour is driven by an intense need for attention, approval and reassurance.

HPD is believed to affect up to 3 in every 100 people with more than half of these being women. It is difficult to diagnose as symptoms are often seen as simply ‘over the top’ behaviour and they may also overlap with other mental health disorders.


What causes Histrionic Personality Disorder?

To date research has found no definitive cause of HPD however several factors are known to influence its development.

The condition does appear to run in families. This could be a result of genetics, environmental influences or both. Many researchers support the theory that growing up with an emotionally distant or domineering parent could affect a child’s ability to learn to love unconditionally. Childhood trauma such as the death of a family member, divorce or separation could also have a negative effect on emotional development.


What are the most common symptoms?

Histrionic Personality Disorder is characterised by dramatic behaviour and frequent mood swings. Other common symptoms include:

  • Craving attention and the approval of others.
  • Being easily bored or distracted – demanding that others entertain them.
  • Being manipulative and self-indulgent in order to cater to their whims.
  • Constantly seeking novelty and excitement.
  • Believing relationships to be deeper than they really are.
  • Exhibiting overtly sexual or flirtatious behaviour which is generally shallow and meaningless.
  • Having multiple partners – sometimes while in a relationship- to avoid getting ‘bogged down’ or to experience the thrill of the risk.
  • Being easily influenced or gullible.
  • Tending to exaggerate or dramatise their personal difficulties.
  • Being overly sensitive to disapproval and criticism.
  • Withdrawing from frustration rather than dealing with it.


What are the main treatment options?

As many of the symptoms of HPD are experienced by most people at some stage in their lives it can be hard to distinguish where ‘normal’ ends and ‘personality disorder’ begins. Once these behaviours begin to have a negative influence on relationships and affect the person’s ability to function effectively in everyday situations then professional help can be very beneficial.

Sufferers of HPD are unable to control their behaviour and may not even be aware they have a personality problem. If they seek treatment of their own accord it is usually for related conditions such as anxiety and depression particularly after the end of a relationship. They may be offered medication to help manage these conditions but medication has no real benefit for HPD itself.

A professional therapist or counsellor will normally use psychotherapy to help the person learn to recognise their own role in the situations causing them distress. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is often used in conjunction with other therapies such as Family Therapy and Group Therapy.

During CBT sessions, the counsellor will help the sufferer to identify the underlying thoughts and beliefs that may have triggered their behavioural issues. Together they can come up with new, more considerate ways to manage in social situations.

While Histrionic Personality Disorder has no ‘cure’ as such. With time the person can become more effective at expressing their feelings and work towards a happier future.


Why seek professional help?

Mental illness can be frightening and isolating, especially if you are in a depressed or suicidal state. Talking to friends and family may help but having the support and guidance of a professional counsellor is usually more beneficial. Therapy sessions are confidential and non-judgemental. Seeking help early gives you a greater chance of overcoming your condition and getting your life back to normal.


Where to find help

Our True Counsellor Directory lists hundreds of psychotherapists and counsellors from Australia.

Some psychotherapists and counsellors listed in our directory offer counselling over the phone and online in addition to one-on-one consultations. Many also offer workshops and seminars.

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