Julie Miller's Mental Health Blog

Archive for the ‘"H" is for Histrionic Personality’ Category

An individual with histrionic personality disorder, traits or features has intense, unstable emotions and distorted self-image.  As with any personality issues, the individual often has no idea why they struggle with emotions and relationships.  Depending on the severity of the individual’s illness, they experience varying degrees of suffering.

Their self-esteem depends on the approval of others and does not come from a true feeling of self-worth.  The vagaries of others’ thoughts, feelings and behaviors determine how the individual feels about themselves.

Perhaps you can relate to this – most of us can at one time or another.  Imagine the rollercoaster ride of your emotions when they are based on others’ behaviors and responses to you.  You are not free.  You are not in charge of your own emotions, behaviors, or your own life.  You are at the mercy of others.

In general, people with histrionic personality disorder do not believe they need help, even though they may experience emotional pain. They might seek help if depression or another more acute problem surfaces, often as a result of a loss or failed relationship.


“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!”