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Histrionic Personality Disorder

Alternate Names

  • HPD
  • hystrionic personality disorder

Definition

A person with histrionic personality disorder constantly seeks attention and behaves dramatically. Emotions often seem exaggerated, childish, and false. This is done to get sympathy or attention from others.

What is going on in the body?

Histrionic personality disorder is a pattern of excessive emotionalism and attention seeking. The person with this disorder is usually immature. He or she is dependent on others, is self-centered, and often vain. The person's behavior is intended to gain attention. The person may not even be aware of the abnormal behavior.

Risks

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

The cause of histrionic personality disorder is unknown. It may be that learned and inherited traits play a role. The disorder is more common in women than in men.

Prevention

What can be done to prevent the condition?

There is no known prevention for histrionic personality disorder.

Diagnosed

How is the condition diagnosed?

Diagnosis of histrionic personality disorder is usually made based on the pattern of symptoms. A full physical examination should be done to rule out physical causes. Psychological testing is sometimes used to help make the diagnosis.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the condition?

A person with histrionic personality disorder tends to have stormy, and often unsuccessful, relationships. The person may threaten or attempt suicide. Alcohol abuse and drug abuse are also common.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

Histrionic personality disorder is not contagious. However, relationships with others are affected by the disorder.

Treatments

What are the treatments for the condition?

Psychological treatments have been shown to be effective in the treatment of histrionic personality disorder. These include cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, and individual psychotherapy. Treatment is aimed at:
  • helping the person relate to others in ways that are more acceptable
  • improving the person's communication skills
  • increasing the person's self-esteem
  • relearning interaction and thought
The person may be impulsive, depressed, and have wide mood swings. Certain medications can help reduce these symptoms. Medication is used only when the person is also getting counseling. In some cases, when the person is in crisis, a short-term stay in the hospital helps to stabilize the person. This may be necessary, for instance, if the person is threatening suicide, self-mutilation, or other serious behaviors.

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Side effects are specific to the medication used, and may include drowsiness or allergic reactions.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the condition?

A person who is successfully treated for histrionic personality disorder is usually able to function at a high level. He or she will usually be appropriate in social and work situations.

Monitor

How is the condition monitored?

A person on antidepressant medications needs to be monitored frequently for side effects. Blood tests are done to be sure that the medication levels are adequate. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.

Sources

Hales, Robert, Textbook of Psychiatry, 2nd edition 1994

The Merck Manual of Medical Information, 1997

Stuart and Sundeen, Principles and Practice of Psychiatric Nursing: 4th edition, 1991

Tierney, Lawrence, editor, "Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment, 39th edition", 2000

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition, 1994

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