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

WHAT IS HISTRIONIC PERSONALITY DISORDER?

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.

SYMPTOMS OF HISTRIONIC PERSONALITY DISORDER

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.

WHAT CAUSES HISTRIONIC PERSONALITY DISORDER?

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.

HISTRIONIC PERSONALITY DISORDER AND THE BRAIN

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.

DEALING WITH SOMEONE WHO HAS 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.

11 Comments »

  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

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