Histrionic Personality Disorder

Histrionic Personality Disorder is characterized by constant attention-seeking, emotional overreaction, and suggestibility. This personality's tendency to over-dramatize may impair relationships and lead to depression, but sufferers are often high-functioning.


The word personality describes deeply ingrained patterns of behavior and the manner in which individuals perceive, relate to, and think about themselves and their world. Personality traits are conspicuous features of personality and are not necessarily pathological, although certain styles of personality may cause interpersonal problems.

Personality disorders, though, are rigid, inflexible and maladaptive, causing impairment in functioning or internal distress. A personality disorder is an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of the individual's culture, is pervasive and inflexible, has an onset in adolescence or early adulthood, is stable over time and leads to distress or impairment.

Individuals with Histrionic Personality Disorder exhibit excessive emotionalism--a tendency to regard things in an emotional manner--and are attention seekers. People with this disorder are uncomfortable or feel unappreciated when they are not the center of attention. Behaviors may include constant seeking of approval or attention, self-dramatization, theatricality, and striking self-centeredness or sexual seductiveness in inappropriate situations, including social, occupational and professional relationships beyond what is appropriate for the social context. They may be lively and dramatic and initially charm new acquaintances by their enthusiasm, apparent openness, or flirtatiousness. They commandeer the role of "the life of the party". Personal interests and conversation will be self-focused. They use physical appearance to draw attention to themselves. Emotional expression may be shallow and rapidly shifting. Their style of speech is excessively impressionistic and lacking in detail. They may do well with jobs that value and require imagination and creativity but will probably have difficulty with tasks that demand logical or analytical thinking. The disorder occurs more frequently in women though that may be because it is more often diagnosed in women than men.


• Constantly seeking reassurance or approval• Excessive dramatics with exaggerated displays of emotion• Excessive sensitivity to criticism or disapproval• Inappropriately seductive appearance or behavior• Overly concerned with physical appearance• Tendency to believe that relationships are more intimate than they actually are• Self-centeredness, uncomfortable when not the center of attention• Low tolerance for frustration or delayed gratification• Rapidly shifting emotional states that appear shallow to others• Opinions are easily influenced by other people, but difficult to back up with details• Being easily influenced by other people • Blaming failure or disappointment on others


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

People with this disorder are usually able to function at a high level and can be successful socially and at work. They may seek treatment for depression when romantic relationships end. They often fail to see their own situation realistically, instead tending to overdramatize and exaggerate. Responsibility for failure or disappointment is usually blamed on others. Because they tend to crave novelty and excitement, they may place themselves in risky situations. All of these factors may lead to greater risk of developing depression.

Diagnostic Evaluation

A diagnosis can be made by knowing the patient's history and by doing a psychological examination.

Individual displays five or more of the following criteria:• Is uncomfortable in situations in which he or she is not the center of attention• Interaction with others is often characterized by inappropriate sexually seductive or provocative behavior• Displays rapidly shifting and shallow expression of emotions• Consistently uses physical appearance to draw attention to self• Has a style of speech that is excessively impressionistic and lacking in detail• Shows self-dramatization, theatricality and exaggerated expression of emotion• has a high degree of suggestibility, that is, easily influenced by others or circumstances• Considers relationships to be more intimate than they actually are.


Patients often seek treatment for depression associated with failed romantic relationships. Medication may be helpful with symptoms such as depression. Professional counseling, such as psychotherapy, may also be of benefit.


Concomitant symptoms, such as depression, may be treated with medication but not for long durations because of the potential for abuse.

Possible 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.


Histrionic personality disorder does not usually affect the person's ability to function adequately in a superficial work or social environment. However, problems often arise in more intimate relationships, where deeper involvements are required.


  • American Psychiatric Association
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Revised
  • National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine
Last reviewed 11/24/2014