When an individual suffers from an attention-seeking histrionic personality disorder (ASHPD), they base their sense of self-worth on the approval of others to an extreme degree. This often results in behavior where the individual acts in an overly dramatic, exaggerated or inappropriate manner to gain attention.
Although ASHPD is far from the most common of the personality disorders known to medicine (a landmark survey done in 2004 estimated that 1.8% of the adult population in America suffered from ASHPD), it can still be debilitating and life-crushing for those who suffer from it.
What Is a Histrionic Personality Disorder?
Histrionic personality disorders (HPD) are Class B personality disorders. When a person suffers from an HPD, they engage in actions that others around them consider overly emotional, erratic and dramatic and are designed to seek attention from others. Some individuals medical experts believe had an HPD include actresses Anna Nicole Smith and Marilyn Monroe, as well as former football coach and convicted sex offender Jerry Sandusky.
More women than men are known to suffer from this disorder, which is often observable as early as young adulthood.
Causes of HPD
Medical experts acknowledge there’s no known exact cause for an HPD, but they believe that genetic and environmental factors both play important roles. If HPDs are known to run in several generations of a family, it’s possible a genetic susceptibility exists among its members. It’s also possible, however, that a child of an HPD adult who begins to exhibit the same symptoms may be simply repeating behavior learned from their mother or father.
Environmental factors may include a lack of punishment or criticism for any kind of bad behavior, unusual attention paid to a child they don’t understand or attention and praise only given for particular behaviors. The result of these actions is that the child is uncertain of the right way to behave and what actions will earn the genuine approval of their parents. In adulthood, this leads to often erratic and overly dramatic behaviors designed to generate attention because the individual isn’t sure of the appropriate way to gain approval from their peers.
The problem for someone with a histrionic personality is that these behaviors usually alienate their family, friends or loved ones. The need for constant reassurance and inability to deal with anyone near them receiving more attention than them undermines many relationships.
What Are the Symptoms of HPD?
The many symptoms of an HPD are oriented to generate more attention for the individual suffering from the HPD. Some of the symptoms include:
- Emotions that shift rapidly from one extreme to the other
- Constantly seeking reassurance for things they’ve done
- Extremely concerned about their appearance
- Overly sensitive to criticism, even when justified and delivered in a non-threatening way
- Constantly acting in a dramatic fashion that seems more a performance than anything else
- Easily influenced by others, which results in constantly shifting decisions
- Not comfortable in any situation unless they’re the center of attention
- Easily bored by routine
- Will begin a project but then drop it when it requires attention or effort
- Low tolerance for frustration
How Is It Typically Diagnosed?
Confronting someone with histrionic personality disorder can be difficult. If the individual agrees to be tested for an HPD, doctors will first perform a complete physical examination that includes a thorough look at the individual’s medical history. No lab test can detect an HPD, but doctors can use a series of tests to determine if the HPD is the result of a medical issue.
If all the medical tests produce a negative result, the doctor will then recommend the individual seek consultation with a psychiatrist or a psychologist. This is probably the best approach to dealing with an HPD as these mental health care professionals have the assessment tools designed to detect an HPD. A psychiatrist or a psychologist can then work with the individual to help them overcome the HPD.
What Should You Do If You Think You Have an HPD?
It is often difficult for a person suffering from an HPD to admit it. The key to discovering if you have an HPD is to consider your social and romantic relationships. Look for evidence of a histrionic relationship cycle. A person with an HPD will often sabotage friendships, marriages or other relationships because of their need for constant attention or constant reassurance from their friends or partners.
This often leads to severe depression or anxiety when the individual with an HPD wonders why they can’t form any solid relationships. If you find yourself constantly ping-ponging from one friendship or relationship to another, which leads to depressive episodes, you should consider speaking to a mental health professional.
How Is HPD Treated?
The best way to treat an HPD is with the help of a psychologist or a psychotherapist. As we noted above, it’s difficult for individuals suffering from ASHPD to admit they need help. And once they do, it can be difficult for them to follow routine treatment or attend regular appointments since they find routine boring and frustrating.
However, once they’ve made that leap, mental health professionals can help them deal with their diagnosis. The psychologist or psychotherapist can help them uncover the circumstances that led to their having an HPD and encourage them to engage in more positive behaviors. If appropriate, these mental health professionals can use medication to help individuals deal with depression and anxiety as they struggle to overcome the HPD.
If you’re worried about your inability to form solid relationships with other people or your behavior feels out of control and you think you may be confronting a real mental illness, we can help you. Reaching out for help is the first step on your journey to recovery. You can contact us 24/7 at (844) 209-0618. We have a team of compassionate counselors standing by to talk with you and help you take the next steps toward your recovery.