Julie Miller's Mental Health Blog

“H” is for Histrionic Personality

Posted on: April 6, 2010

“Histrionic” means different things to different people.  The origin of the word comes from the Latin histrionicus, “pertaining to an actor.”  The common usage for the word includes expression of exaggerated theatricality, drama or emotionality, as in “she laughed hysterically” when it appears one’s laughter is out of control.

Sigmund Freud wrote about hysteria, making popular the idea that women’s deficiencies were due to penis envy and feelings of castration. These ideas paralleled the misogynistic sentiment of the times.

From a mental health definition today, histrionic personality has a  different flavor.  The DSM-IV describes the essential feature of HPD as “pervasive and excessive emotionality and attention-seeking behavior.”  As with any personality disorder, this pattern begins by early adulthood and is present in many areas of the individual’s life.

Pervasive seductive behavior and shallow expression of emotion may be seen.  The individual may be easily influenced by others, and may consider relationships to be closer than they actually are.

There may also be an element of “everything’s fine; what me?  a problem?  no, I’m great!”


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