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Histrionic Personality Disorder

A maladaptive or inflexible pattern of behavior characterized by emotional instability, excitability, over-reactivity, and self-dramatization.

Individuals with histrionic personality disorder tend to seek attention by exaggerating events, even if insignificant, and are immature, self-centered and often vain. They react emotionally to the slightest provocation. Histrionic personality disorder is classified by psychologists with the group of personality disorders characterized by overly dramatic, emotional, impulsive or erratic reactions. People with histrionic personality disorder seek stimulation and novelty and easily become bored with routine situations and relationships. Their low tolerance for inactivity leads to hedonistic or impulsive actions. They tend to be preoccupied with their appearance and attractiveness, and their demeanor is often charming and seductive, even if this behavior is inappropriate. These individuals pursue a fast-paced social and romantic lifestyle, although their relationships usually are shallow and fleeting. They also tend to be dependent on others.

The use of the term "histrionic" by professional in psychology is relatively recent and replaces the term "hysterical," which has been dropped due to its negative and sexist associations. Women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with histrionic personality disorder, although this may at least partly reflect gender and cultural biases that cause this pattern of behavior to be less easily recognized in men. Individuals with histrionic personality disorder can benefit from psychodynamic therapy or group therapy. The latter can help by enabling these individuals to learn how they relate to others and try out new ways of relating. The goals for individuals who undergo therapy should include gaining more control over emotional reactions and understanding how their overly dramatic behavior undermines their relationships or careers. Medication is ineffective in treating histrionic personality disorder, although it might be prescribed for accompanying symptoms, such as anxiety or depression.

Further Reading

Morrison, James. DSM-IV Made Easy: The Clinician's Guide to Diagnosis. New York: The Guilford Press, 1995.

Additional topics

Psychology EncyclopediaDiseases, Disorders & Mental Conditions