Love and Histrionic Personality Disorder

A histrionic personality is self-centered, demanding of attention, and sometimes manipulative. For this reason, it's often uncomfortable and difficult to be in relationships with these kinds of people.
Love and Histrionic Personality Disorder
Cristina Roda Rivera

Written and verified by the psychologist Cristina Roda Rivera.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

“I don’t really care but tell me you love me anyway” might be said by a partner with an antisocial tendency. “Say you love me because I need to hear it” could be said by the partner with a pattern of dependent behavior. While, “Say you love me and show the world”, would be typical of a narcissist. On the other hand, an avoidant person might want to be told but would avoid showing their desire out of fear.

However, it’s more difficult to define what a histrionic personality might say. It could be along the lines of “Say you love me on social media but make sure you do it in a really special and unusual way”.

It’s rather ambitious to try and summarize in short sentences the ‘essence’ of certain patterns or personality styles. Nevertheless, it’s useful to understand the difficulty of identifying a predominant personality pattern. It’s also worth noting that many people want to be loved in all of these ways.

Nowadays, it’s common to demonstrate our own love stories in front of the public on social media. Therefore, differentiating the pattern of histrionics in love is no longer an easy task.

Personality style

Having a specific personality style means that we interpret situations in a specific way, react positively to certain contexts, and are ‘allergic’ to others. Also, we consistently behave in certain ways, especially in relationships.

However, a person suffering from a personality disorder has basically similar characteristics to those with the corresponding personality style but in a far more pronounced way.

For example, a narcissistic style often makes people successful, while a histrionic style is characterized by high drama and manipulation. The latter want a lot of attention and need many cues from other people to show them that they’re important.

Both of these styles are particularly common, especially in therapy. They’re also compatible with many trends in Western industrial societies.

The histrionic personality and love

The histrionic personality isn’t necessarily romantic or passionate. In fact, their kind of love is often perceived as unnatural, deep, and even dangerous. Unlike narcissists, they’re not afraid of seeming ridiculous in front of others. Indeed, that’s far preferable for them than going unnoticed.

Histrionic personalities often enjoy being able to command everyone’s attention. So what’s behind that desire?

They hate not being seen or heard. It’s a part of their personality. In fact, it’s really difficult for them to stop behaving in this way.

Furthermore, their personal histories tend to be histrionic. That’s because, since they were little they assumed that attracting attention was the best way to relate to others. This raises the age-old question as to whether personality is due to genetics or the environment.

Life in histrionics: a constant drama

People with histrionic personality disorder have a constant need to seek the approval of others. They use charm, seduction, manipulation, and flirtation to draw attention to themselves. They tend to get angry or depressed when they’re overlooked or aren’t the center of attention.

It’s estimated that between two-three percent of the population suffers from histrionic personality disorder. Women are four times more likely to have this condition than men. However, experts suggest that women may be overdiagnosed with the disorder, while men may be underdiagnosed.

As a matter of fact, the histrionic personality is rarer in men and less socially tolerated. In fact, histrionics tends to translate in men with boasting, bragging, and embellished tales of advantageous adventures with which they seek to mask their weakness and lack of virility. They also tend to adopt a Don Juan attitude to mask their sexual inhibitions.

Histrionics in love

It’s common for these people to avoid genuine emotional relationships with others. Nevertheless, they constantly need others to feel valued.

This emotional dependency, accompanied by self-centeredness, is associated with extreme intolerance of frustrations. In certain cases, they’ll take on spectacular forms, the most frequent being intense crying and excessive anger.

Instability characterizes the usual state of mind of this type of personality. Indeed, outbursts of enthusiasm and discouragement relentlessly follow one another. There’s also emotional hyperactivity.

People with this condition are ego-syntonic. This means that they believe their behavior is normal, so they have a hard time admitting they have a problem. Due to this, it can be challenging to get them to seek psychiatric treatment, which often focuses on psychotherapy.

Consequently, their loved ones often find themselves struggling to cope with their overly dramatic and emotional behavior. As a matter of fact, it’s often the partner or other family members who go to psychotherapy to learn how to manage their daily life with these kinds of personalities.

Dissatisfied people in relationships

A study published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy found that women suffering from histrionic personality disorder had significantly lower sexual assertiveness, self-esteem, sexual desire, and marital satisfaction. They also experienced higher levels of sexual preoccupation, sexual boredom, and orgasmic dysfunction. Furthermore, they were more likely to have extramarital affairs than women in the control group who weren’t suffering from the disorder.

You should ensure you know how to recognize this disorder if you suspect your partner has this type of personality. For instance, you’ll probably find that they tend to care a great deal about their appearance and have rapid mood swings. At first glance, these may seem superficial.

The importance of therapy

If you have a partner who suffers from histrionic personality disorder, the best way to understand them is to educate yourself about the disorder. You might even want to attend couples therapy with them. By doing this, the two of you can learn more about each other, and how to overcome any obstacles your relationship may be facing.

Intervention in histrionic personality disorder usually involves psychotherapy. It’s a form of ‘talk therapy’ that allows the sufferer to discover new parts of themselves and learn more about how they think, act, and feel.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Apt C, Hurlbert DF. The sexual attitudes, behavior, and relationships of women with histrionic personality disorder. J Sex Marital Ther. 1994 Summer;20(2):125-33. doi: 10.1080/00926239408403423. PMID: 8035469.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.