5 Ways to Cope When a Loved One Has Histrionic Personality Disorder

Histrionic Personality Disorder

Are you involved with someone who has to be the center of attention at all times? Someone who engages in overly dramatic, highly emotional, volatile, excitable, or erratic behavior? If so, your romantic partner, family member, or friend may have histrionic personality disorder. Although these people can seem like the life of the party, their behavior can be exhausting for anyone who loves them. How can you cope when a loved one has this mental health condition?



Although people with histrionic personality disorder can seem like the life of the party, their behavior can be exhausting for anyone who loves them. Click To Tweet


Histrionic personality disorder is characterized by extreme attention-seeking behavior and exaggerated emotions. The word histrionic is defined as “dramatic or theatrical.” One of 10 types of personality disorders recognized by mental health experts, histrionic personality disorder falls within the “Cluster B” category of personality disorders. Cluster B disorders also includes narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder.

People with histrionic personality disorder have a constant need to seek approval from others. They employ charm, seduction, manipulation, and flirtatiousness to draw attention to themselves. These larger-than-life types tend to get upset or feel depressed when they are overlooked or aren’t in the spotlight.

An estimated 2-3% of the population has histrionic personality disorder, and women are 4 times as likely to have the condition than men. However, experts suggest women may be over-diagnosed with the disorder while men may be under-diagnosed.


There is a wide array of symptoms associated with histrionic personality disorder, including:

  • Attention-seeking
  • Approval-seeking
  • Exaggerated emotions that can shift rapidly
  • Overly dramatic
  • Charming
  • Manipulative
  • Dressing provocatively or wearing colorful clothing
  • Inappropriately flirtatious
  • Excessively concerned about physical appearance
  • Upset or depressed if not the center of attention
  • Impulsivity
  • Being gullible or easily influenced by others
  • Sensitive to criticism
  • Seeming shallow or insincere

These symptoms can interfere with daily life and cause trouble in relationships, at work, or in school. These symptoms can range from mild to severe and can lead to other mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, or substance abuse. In some instances, people may even threaten or attempt suicide to gain attention.


It isn’t clear what causes histrionic personality disorder, but mental health experts suggest that several factors—both inherited and environmental—contribute to the condition. Among the factors believed to increase risk are having a genetic vulnerability, experiencing childhood trauma, over-indulgent or inconsistent parenting, or having a parent who acts in an overly dramatic fashion.


Early research on Cluster B personality disorders (histrionic, narcissistic, borderline, and antisocial) revealed significant neurocognitive impairment in these individuals in multi-step behavior planning. Newer research, including a 2021 functional brain imaging study in the Journal of Neuroimaging, shows that each personality disorder is associated with unique patterns of activity in certain brain structures and neural networks. Abnormal activity within the limbic and paralimbic systems, sometimes referred to as the emotional centers of the brain, was noted in several personality disorders. Despite these findings, the authors of this study point to a need for more neuroimaging studies to explore the specific brain changes associated with conditions such as histrionic personality disorder.


Individuals with this condition are ego-syntonic, which means they believe their behavior is normal, so they have a hard time admitting they have a problem. Because of this, it can be challenging to get these people to seek psychiatric treatment, which often centers on psychotherapy. This leaves loved ones struggling to cope with their overly dramatic and emotional behavior. For this reason, it is often the spouse or other family members who go to psychotherapy to learn how to handle everyday life.

Some of the strategies that can help you cope with a loved one’s histrionic personality disorder include:

Get educated.

Learning as much as you can about histrionic personality disorder can help you understand why your partner or family member acts the way they do. This can help you avoid taking their dramatic antics personally.

Suggest couples therapy.

Although a person with histrionic personality disorder may not be aware that they have a problem, they may be willing to go to marital therapy if they think it is intended to help you. Once in the safe space of a therapist’s office, you may be able to explore your loved one’s troubling behaviors.

Make time to shine.

When your loved one constantly steals the spotlight, it can leave you feeling underappreciated. Be sure to schedule time with friends or other family members—without the person who has histrionic personality disorder—so you can step out of the background.

Set boundaries for children.

If you have kids, set boundaries to limit their exposure to the drama created by the parent with histrionic personality disorder.

Recognize if it’s time to move on.

When a loved one’s attention-seeking behaviors leave you so physically exhausted and emotionally depleted that it is disrupting your ability to parent your children, feel your best, or perform at work or school, it may be time to end the relationship.

Histrionic personality disorder and the anxiety, stress, and depression it can cause others can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.


  1. Whilst this might be true, this is not so easily done for a parent or sister of the person. Where does responsibility come in?

    Comment by D.J. — December 15, 2021 @ 5:52 AM

  2. So, this is going to sound histrionic. But, it is the truth. My children’s father was definitely a narcissistic, histrionic personality!!! We were together for 25 years. I tried ALL of the above suggestions. He never thought he had a problem. His angry tirades would last from 30 minutes to 2-3 hours, and were definitely linked to his childish resentment of having to work or take care of his responsibilities. I was a terrible people pleaser who took his blame shifting to heart. We were a total mess!! I am 71 now and so there wasn’t any help for such situations back in the 70’s where we lived. I sought counsel from a pastor, who after 2 meetings with us, sadly looked at me and said, “I can’t help you.” But, I have to give credit where credit is due. I was, and am, a praying woman. Although I seriously considered suicide, and yes, murder, several times, God heard my desperate cries and gave me and my children the grace to hang onto. I finally realized I didn’t have to keep punishing myself for my mistake of marrying him. Jesus had paid enough!! For me!! It still took me years to stop trying to “fix him, our marriage”. I left him, with much fear, finally when I feared someone was going to die. Either he would use one of his hunting guns on me, or we’d be the murder/ suicide family, or he or my teenage son would kill the other. Please, if you are relating to any of this, GET HELP!! The greatest shame and regrets I have are staying too long and subjecting my kids to this abuse. They are scarred for life. And now they are acting out a lot of what they were programmed with from their childhood onto their own kids. But, until you can get that help or make that break, know this, God is Real, and He wants to be your very best friend in the middle of your mess. He can give you the grace and strength to endure the now, and He can make a way out when you need it. He won’t always answer the way we want, because it involves someone else’s will and wounding. But, He loves you and them. Today, I am remarried to a wonderful man, though not perfect. And I know the love of God, His blessings, and His forgiveness like never before. My Ex and I are friendly and he still hasn’t changed. Someone once told me, “hurting people hurt people.” And my Ex used to say, when I would ask him why he was so angry, when he was on one of his rants, “I’m not angry, I’m hurt.” But, he couldn’t tell me or anyone else what had hurt him. So sad. And for so many, so true. Don’t try to go it alone, or try to hide the reality you live with. We are all broken to some degree. But, be the one who gets help, who gets your healing, who sets an example to your kids of what is acceptable or unacceptable behavior. That gives them hope that they can have a better future. And that seeking emotional, relational help is not something to be ashamed of. And most of all, don’t put it off. Don’t let pride or fear stop you from growing, learning, and getting the help that is now out there for you and your family. Keep the faith.

    Comment by EvaS. — December 16, 2021 @ 4:22 AM

  3. How do you cope when it’s an 18 yr old granddaughter and the parents don’t see it and running around catering to her for fear of her suicidal threats and accusations against others who she envies and is jealous.

    Comment by Kathy — December 20, 2021 @ 5:50 AM

  4. Sometimes a very tough situation can lead to success in not only the target but also it’s broader surroundings!

    Comment by Grant Schettler — December 20, 2021 @ 6:03 AM

  5. Good suggestions, however you don’t give a lot of suggestion if it is one of your children that has this DX

    Comment by Leigh Guy — December 20, 2021 @ 7:50 AM

  6. My adopted daughter was diagnosed with this… she is a lot for anyone to handle. The extreme drama even now at almost 19 is frustrating at times as her siblings and other family members don’t understand her continued attention seeking behaviors. But, she is sweet when she wants to be and I love her deeply. She is avoiding therapy at this time and Moved out of state, telling others I kicked her out (not true). This mama will always worry about her, but at least I understand why she does what she does.

    Comment by Carrie Blase — December 20, 2021 @ 9:26 AM

  7. I have 3 daughters & my oldest daughter who is 56 has HPD & finally after putting up with her nonsense for years I have cut the apron strings! Life is too short to suffer the hurt she has caused with her toxic ways.

    Comment by Linda Rowan — April 2, 2022 @ 3:29 PM

  8. My mother seems to display all the symptoms of HPD but I can not cut ties with her. She is the only family member I have. How do I deal with always feeling like a prop in her play? It’s relentless.

    Comment by Lou Blair — June 4, 2022 @ 8:57 AM

  9. How to cope and help a 70 year old man with HPD to get counseling or realization of his disorder. There is a young victim involved and has been manipulated into his charm to think he gives attention where her husband is lacking. Praying for the victim and the husband to see a so called friends agenda.

    Comment by G. Thompson — June 21, 2022 @ 9:09 PM

  10. The hard truth is how painful this condition is to marriage. Leaving loved ones feeling treated less than, but seeing the charming public nicess to strangers. It hurts. Feels like your hiding in public. You are always the bad guy when boundaries are set. From my experience, I would rather go back to the man who would physically abuse or try to kill me than deal with the immense emotional pain and stress of walking on egg shells constantly. And counseling? Here’s phrase that was stated ‘I’ll only go if they agree with me’…. waste of time, energy, love it seems😞

    Comment by Devin — June 24, 2022 @ 11:31 AM

  11. My sister has recently passed and on looking up I believe she lived with hysterical personality disorder, she was born deaf and wonder if this could be related to her personality disorder. She was never treated for this as mental health was not easily available at that time

    Comment by Rose Boobyer — July 6, 2022 @ 8:51 AM

  12. My brother has this disorder and I can no longer cope with him. The latest drama was his wife sent me a photo of him looking as if he partially hanged himself with paracord looped around his neck holding his head up with his eyes closed in response to me being angry with him for not paying money back to me that I loaned him over a month ago to fix his car. She said "Look at what you made him do! I found him like this!"

    So if you found your unconscious spouse who might have hanged himself your reaction is to take a picture? Wouldn’t you cut them down and do CPR instead?

    I am no longer able to tolerate the stress he causes me. I had a mild stroke last year and I don't want another one, so I'm utilizing No Contact with him.

    Comment by Sissy — November 17, 2022 @ 12:28 AM

  13. I have a friend who has many symptoms of HPD. I googled 'why does my friend exhaust me' and this came up. We have been friends for years but as I get older her behaviour causes me more angst. When we are together she has to have all our attention. She can be outrageous and doent seem to realise that others are exiting fast also to not get trapped. After doing a relaxation class she actually undoes all the results. I sometimes have to rush off so she doesn't rob me of the benefits.
    When we talk on the phone by brain cannot keep up as she jumps from one subject to another and sometimes subjects do not correlate. I feel very anxious and feel my blood pressure is rising. When I question "where is this going" she gets defensive and makes me feel as if it is my brain that is not coping. What steps can I take to keep this friend but learn to manage her without feeling such anxiety? When we have been out she will even say inappropriate things to strangers just to get their attention and cause embarrassment both to them and myself. Can someone please advise me as I ended up in tears after an hour long call today with me having to end the call saying I was so tired. She seems to like hearing her own voice and talks about so much and I can't keep up. I suffer from anxiety and don't like hurting people so this makes it hard for me. Thanks for some answer. Gail Savage

    Comment by Gail Savage — February 16, 2023 @ 11:07 PM

  14. Interesting article, thanks for this helpful advice!

    Comment by Whitney Sawyer — May 19, 2023 @ 7:17 PM

  15. I have lived with a young woman with histrionic personality disorder for a year before I even knew of the condition. I can tell you that they were very charming and I had at one moment in time actually believed that this woman was the love of my life. I know now that dealing with cluster B personality disorders is a sure fire way to end one's mental stability. She was inherently manipulative, deceitful, and a liar. This woman had a crush on me since her earlier teen years and targeted me to be in a relationship with me when she was of age. She used me to be the center of attention at all times and cared for like a child. I was like the parent in this relationship. Histrionic is no thing to mess with, should anyone read this, and should you have any self esteem or care for your future, RUN FOR THE HILLS. This person cannot be fixed. It stems from hereditary functions as well as childhood trauma, sort of like a generational curse that cannot be cured. More specifically, she matched more closely the definition of "infantile histrionic". Basically a more pitiful version of narcissism. They use many tools of the narcissist such as stonewalling, scapegoating, flying monkeys, gaslighting, etc. But she also cheated on me, and played the victim card for attention. She tried to keep me on the back burner like all the other exes that she either slandered as abusers or who had dumped her. They are incapable of true love as they can only move into the infatuation stage of love(but even that may have been a scheming test), and it's all down hill from there. They are always chasing love, but only because it makes them feel loved to have a host to feed off of, to escape any responsibility and the harshness of reality. I could go on but if this doesn't dissuade you, nothing will.

    Comment by Bubba Johnson — June 5, 2023 @ 10:30 PM

  16. I recently had to call for time out with an old friend whose behaviour was becoming increasingly erratic, demanding and draining. It certainly fits the criteria of HPD, especially the flirting and overestimating the closeness of relationships with ego-syntonic lack of awareness. She complains constantly of loneliness yet has vast network of friends and acquaintances, and chases romantic partners who show only mild interest. Even if she has met such men once or twice, she's already planning their future together and reacts with rage if he doesn't think the same way. I hadn't realised how exhausted I had become by all of this until I said I needed a break. I have so much more peace of mind now, and energy for my own family. It is not being a bad friend to draw a line and expect the other party to take responsibility for themself. If they won't go into therapy or put it into practice, as Bubba says above, you end up being parentified and it's a bad situation.

    Comment by EB — July 21, 2023 @ 8:01 AM

  17. My daughter seems to be a text book example of HDP. I’ve always walked on egg shells when dealing with her. She is the mother to my 4 precious grandchildren. I love them and help with them almost daily. We are or were very close. The children never want to leave my house and go home. It breaks my heart. Well 6 weeks ago I made the mistake of gently criticizing some of her parenting in a text. So, now She’s completely cut me off from her and them. She’s blocked me on all social media, blocked my phone number and anything else she can think to do to hurt me. I went to her house a few days ago and begged at her door to see the children. She called the police and put a tresspass on me. Now I feel crazy for even attempting to reason with her, but I’m terrified she’s taken them from me for good this time. She’s done it before but never this long and never to this extent. It’s broken our family completely apart. No one wants anything to do with her now. I don’t know if there is anything to be done or if there is anyway she will let me see my grandchildren again She won’t let them have any contact not letters not calls nothing. The oldest turns 8 next month and is so attached to me. I’m so very worried about all of them. I pray everyday and night for wisdom and strength to deal with this.

    Comment by Kat A — September 4, 2023 @ 8:39 PM

  18. Have realized in recent years, through therapy and personal growth, that I likely grew up with a mom and sister with undiagnosed HPD. I came upon the description of HPD a while back and was able to start making sense of the effect it had and still has on me and my other siblings.

    It's hard, because we were raised with approval, or the withholding thereof, as our mom's means of parental control. And it is still thrown at us today in defense or our reactions to our sister.

    Sad to have come from such a deeply dysfunctional family.

    Comment by Jacqueline Gargiulo — December 10, 2023 @ 10:01 AM

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