Histrionic personality disorder (HPD) is also known as an attention-seeking disorder, which is an apt description. People with this disorder live for attention and will do whatever they can to stay in the spotlight. Their sense of self-worth is dependent on the approval of others. HPD sufferers are viewed as overly dramatic, emotional and unpredictable.
While HPD is rare, with one survey finding only 1.8% of American adults have it, it’s still a debilitating condition. It comes with depression and anxiety, especially if the person’s need for attention isn’t being fulfilled. It’s hard for them to realize they have a problem that needs to be treated, even if they alienate everyone around them.
What Is Histrionic Personality Disorder?
HPD is a Class B personality disorder that’s marked by exaggerated emotions and erratic actions. People suffering from HPD disorder are dramatic and constantly seek attention from others. Some experts believe that actresses Anna Nicole Smith and Marilyn Monroe may have had this disorder, as well as the high-profile convicted sex offender Jerry Sandusky.
Women are more likely than men to have HPD, and symptoms can begin as early as young adulthood.
What Causes HPD?
While medical experts haven’t found an exact cause, they believe that both genetic and environmental factors contribute to HPD. In some cases, the disorder is seen in several generations of a family, indicating that they might be genetically susceptible. However, children often imitate their parent’s behavior, meaning the child of an HPD sufferer may appear to have symptoms but doesn’t actually have the disorder. It’s hard to determine what the genetic component might be.
The environmental factors can begin as early as childhood. If the child isn’t disciplined or criticized for bad behavior but is given positive attention for things they don’t understand, they won’t know how to gain their parent’s approval. They might act erratically and learn it’s the only guaranteed way to get attention. This belief can then carry into adulthood, where they won’t understand how to gain the approval of their peers in an appropriate way.
While it might get them temporary attention, the over-the-top behavior often alienates their loved ones. The drama, need for constant reassurance and jealousy toward anyone getting more attention than them are hard for others to deal with. Both friendships and romantic relationships are usually short-lived, and even family members may cut ties.
What Are the Three Symptoms of HPD?
Most HPD symptoms revolve around gaining attention. Three prominent histrionic personality disorder symptoms include:
- Dramatic, rapidly shifting emotions. Those with HPD get bored, frustrated and angry easily. Their emotions may seem shallow or fake. They often seem to be putting on a performance rather than actually experiencing emotions. Some studies suggest that they have trouble understanding emotions both in themselves and in others.
- Inappropriate social behavior. They use erratic behavior to gain attention. If someone else is receiving more attention, they get angry at that person. Often, people with HPD are overly sexual and hyper-focused on their appearance. They might mistake relationships as more intimate than they really are. Those with HPD seek constant reassurance on everything and are overly sensitive to criticism.
- Defense mechanisms such as repression and dissociation. These reactions are automatic protections from overwhelming anxiety or depression. Repression is the act of avoiding painful thoughts or memories. Dissociation is a feeling of disconnect from a sense of reality and their own thoughts and feelings. These symptoms can be exacerbated by the feeling of constant failure in social relationships.
How Is HPD Diagnosed?
People with HPD often don’t realize there’s anything wrong, and it takes a loved one confronting them to realize it. Even then, they may not accept that they need anything diagnosed. If they decide to see a doctor, they’ll begin with a physical examination and lab tests. While HPD is a personality disorder, there could be a medical cause for the behavior.
If nothing is physically wrong, the next step is a consultation with a psychiatrist or psychologist. They’ll be able to identify the disorder and then work on treating it. This is typically the most helpful route for people with HPD.
What Are the Treatment Options for HPD?
Mental health professionals are the best treatment option for those with HPD. However, as noted above, admitting they need treatment for anything is very difficult. If they start therapy, they can explore the cause of their disorder and how they can adjust their thinking and behavior. Treatment will require a lot of dedication from the sufferer, which may be hard if they get bored or frustrated easily. They’ll be more likely to succeed with a strong support network that encourages them to stick with treatment.
In some cases, medicine is an appropriate option. Often, it will be for the depression and anxiety that come along with HPD. This could help with mood swings, dissociation and the anxious feelings of not getting enough validation.
What Do I Do If I Have HPD?
It’s hard for HPD sufferers to admit they have a problem. If you’re having problems with social and romantic relationships, consider what your role in them is. Examine your relationships with the HPD symptoms in mind. People with HPD will sabotage friendships or romantic relationships with their constant need for attention and reassurance.
The lack of social connection can cause depression and anxiety. Sufferers might bounce around between relationships, then feel a deep depression when they fall apart. They might feel a loss of control. If this sounds familiar, consider reaching out to a mental health professional.
Uncovering a mental health problem is tough. However, if you can come to terms with it, you’re ready to get help. If you feel it’s time to explore your mental health and get help, contact us at Restore. You can reach us 24/7 at (877) 594-3566, and our counselors will be able to help you decide your next steps.