What is Histrionic Personality Disorder?

In-depth insight into histrionic personality disorder. Definition and causes of histrionic personality disorder, and HPD relationships.

People with histrionic personality disorder (HPD) behave in highly emotional and dramatic ways in hopes of drawing attention to themselves. Everyone likes attention and most everyone wants to look attractive. These are normal desires, but people with HPD take this to the extreme. (See famous people with histrionic personality disorder.) These individuals have a pervasive and consistent pattern of seeking attention and dramatic, excessively emotional behaviors. They often dress and behave in sexually provocative, dramatic ways to get attention from others.

Although it may start in childhood, noticeable symptoms arise in late adolescence and early adulthood. People with a histrionic personality can typically function at a high level and achieve success educationally, socially, and professionally. However, those with very severe symptoms may find it difficult to live up to their potential at work or in school and treatment for histrionic personality disorder may prove helpful.

Definition of Histrionic Personality Disorder

The simple answer to the question – what is histrionic personality disorder – is that people with the disorder are attention-seeking individuals with a proclivity for fomenting drama across a wide variety of situations. People with HPD typically have character traits like:

  • Highly emotional
  • Charming
  • Manipulative
  • Seductive
  • Demanding
  • Energetic
  • Impulsive

These character traits explain why individuals with histrionic personality disorder tend to see things from a highly emotional perspective. In short, they crave attention and the emotional "reward" that they derive from it and they feel uncomfortable when they aren't the center of attention. They're often lively and energetic (think: life of the party), but become greatly distressed when they are not capturing the attention of others. Do you know anyone that people think of as a "drama queen"? That person may have histrionic personality disorder.

People with histrionic personality disorder will try a variety of tactics to garner the attention of a room, including:

  • Cause some sort of drama
  • Flirt and talk loudly
  • Tell stories in engaging and interesting ways
  • Dress seductively
  • Interrupt conversations
  • Play the victim or princess

These attention-seeking behaviors occur consistently and over a long period of time. Individuals with the disorder frequently crave new experiences and become easily bored with routine daily life.

Histrionic Personality Disorder Relationships

Histrionic personality disorder relationships may be impaired because people with the disorder often have difficulty achieving emotional intimacy in romantic relationships. They may move away from long-term relationships so they can enjoy the excitement of a new one. Others may see them as shallow and overly provocative and their same-gender friendships may suffer due to their seductive behaviors toward the opposite sex.

Causes of Histrionic Personality Disorder

As with many mental illnesses, experts don't have a clear understanding of the causes of histrionic personality disorder. Most researchers theorize that genetic predisposition and experiences in early childhood may contribute to its development. The condition is diagnosed by comparing symptoms to the histrionic personality disorder DSM diagnostic criteria.

Histrionic personality disorder statistics show that far more women are diagnosed with the disorder than men. Experts believe that more men may have histrionic personality disorder than are diagnosed. Researchers estimate the prevalence of HPD in the United States at about 2-3 percent.

The disorder has a unique characteristic that sets it apart from the other personality disorders in that it is the only one directly connected to a person's physical appearance. Research shows that histrionic personality disorder occurs in women and men with above-average physical appearance. Some of the research suggests that the connection between appearance and HPD is stronger for women with the disorder than in men.

article references

APA Reference
Gluck, S. (2021, December 17). What is Histrionic Personality Disorder?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Last Updated: January 28, 2022

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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