Histrionic Personality Disorder: Do You Know Anyone Who Is Very Seductive and Influential?

· January 1, 2018

A person with histrionic personality disorder is characterized by a pattern of cognitive, behavioral and emotional tendencies that include seductive behaviors, drama, and emotional instability.

In addition, people with histrionic personality disorder have a magnetism that attracts other people, in the short-term at least. At the same time they’re also easily influenced themselves.

A histrionic personality can be seen in individuals who are seductive, people always seeking to attract the attention of others and are very influential. They also show intense feelings, exaggerate the importance of things, and are quite dramatic.

Histrionic personality disorder in film: “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”

If you remember the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” Blake Edwards, the year 1961, and the character of Holly Golightly (played by Audrey Hepburn) then you’ve seen histrionic personality disorder.

Holly wants to be an actress. She leads a crazy, extravagant life and is also easily influenced. She lets herself fall in love and be persuaded by the men she meets along the way. She turns her life into a play.

Breakfast at Tiffany's - Audrey Hepburn

Now we’ll attempt to explain how a histrionic personality disorder is identified, what its causes are and what the most successful treatments are.

What is the difference between a personality disorder and just a personality?

You could say that we’re talking about a psychological disorder and not just a personality when it is a personality style that seriously affects the person and their environment.

People closest to those with a personality disorder suffer because it’s a psychopathologic condition that is egosyntonic. Therefore, people who have it believe that it’s “normal”.

This means that the disorder is integrated into the psychological structure of the person and is something that lives as part of the self.

Anxiety disorders or obsessive compulsive disorders feel like something invading the person and has a starting point (egodystonic disorders). But personality disorders start developing before adolescence, little by little. The person does not see it as something separate from themselves.

Personality disorders are also characterized by causing a great deal of disruptiveness and conflict in their immediate social context.

Unlike a “way of being”, which can be relaxed relatively quickly in psychological therapy sessions, personality disorders are especially resistant to treatment.

In addition, people with a personality disorder avoid going to a psychologist. The reason is that they feel “they’ve always been like this” and that “their problems are someone else’s fault”.

 

How is histrionic personality disorder diagnosed?

To diagnose a mental disorder, the criteria most frequently used in psychiatry and psychology are those of the American Psychological Association (APA). Currently, the term proposed by the APA in the DSM-5 is “Histrionic Personality Disorder”.

According to the APA, histrionic personality disorder belongs to Group B personality disorders. They are characterized by mood swings, drama and extroversion.

Diagnostic criteria: learn how to identify a histrionic personality disorder

You may know several people who fit the description of being dramatic, seductive and influential. But it doesn’t mean that they all have histrionic personality disorder.

To be able to say that someone has histrionic personality disorder, five or more of the following criteria should be met:

  • They feel uncomfortable in situations where they are not the center of attention.
  • Interaction with others is often characterized by sexually seductive or provocative inappropriate behavior.
  • Rapid changes of emotions and flat expression of them.
  • They constantly use their physical appearance to attract attention.
  • They have a style of speaking that is excessively based on impressions and lacks details.
  • Self-dramatization, theatricality and exaggerated expression of emotion.
  • They are easily persuaded (that is, easily influenced by others or by circumstances).
  • They consider that their relationships are closer than they really are.

In addition to meeting five or more of the above criteria, it is necessary that they be present by the end of adolescence.

When the diagnostic criteria are not met, the person may have a pattern, profile, or personality style that is histrionic.

 

a woman with histrionic personality disorder

How does histrionic personality disorder develop?

Like most psychopathologic disorders, histrionic personality disorder has many causes. There are several causal factors and in most individuals there is a vulnerability (biological, psychological, social) that interacts with their environment (learning, education, drug use, relationships) and all this ends up triggering the disorder.

Other psychological disorders may have a very distinctive and identifiable triggering factor. For example a period of continued anxiety results in a panic attack or job loss that leads to depression. However, in personality disorders there is no precipitating factor of psychopathology.

 

Treatment of histrionic personality disorder

Treatment with cognitive behavioral therapy

Techniques include impulse management, emotional intelligence, improvement of thinking scheme and work on cognitive distortions. The main treatment objectives are to:

  • Counteract their style of global and diffuse thinking.
  • Distinguish fantasies from reality.
  • Be more realistic in cause and effect attributions.
  • Have more control over their impulsive behaviors.
  • Improve the concept they have of themselves.
  • Increase inter- and intra-personal psychological skills.

Training in social skills and assertiveness is basic to the improvement of the disorder. That’s because these are people accustomed to manipulating their interpersonal relationships. They do it with emotional crises, complaints, and other non-assertive attitudes (usually aggressive).

An important part of psychological therapy is dedicated to helping the patient identify what they want, what they feel, what bothers them and how to express it properly.

As part of this training in assertiveness, they learn to question their belief that the loss of a relationship would be disastrous. In addition they learn to cut the fuse on the idea of ​​rejection.

Although it’s a disorder that has a complicated clinical procedure, improvement is not impossible.

Therapy is fundamental, freeing people with this disorder from the great suffering that their psychopathology causes in them.

It also helps them recognize and take responsibility for the suffering that their disorder generates around them. This helps them to repair the damage it causes and have a better life.