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How to Cope with a Spouse who has Histrionic Personality Disorder

written by: Christina Garabedian • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 8/26/2010

What is life like living with a person who has histrionic personality disorder? The spouse of the person who has HPD can often feel alone. Finding ways to cope with day to day life is essential.

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    Living with a Histrionic spouse

    Often times those with histrionic personality disorder do not seek help. They do not seem to feel that they have a problem. It is the spouse or close friends who recognize that something is not right. The erratic and dramatic behaviors displayed in public often causes humiliation for the spouse or family. The daily life of living with someone who has this disorder becomes very emotionally draining. The spouse or loved one becomes unaware of their own feelings and feel as if they are second place to their spouse.

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    Behaviors of Histrionic Personality Disorder

    Noticeable behaviors that your spouse with histrionic personality may display;

    • Seeks attention and feels uncomfortable when attention is not focused on them solely
    • Displays intense emotions
    • Appear to be superficial
    • Acts sexually provocative to gain the attention of others
    • Trouble connecting on an emotional level in an intimate relationship
    • May seek control in a relationship by emotional manipulation or seducing their partner, but they are dependent on their partner in other aspects of relationship
    • Difficulty in maintaining friendships with those of the same sex because of their inappropriate sexually behavior
    • Tend to not keep friends if not given enough attention
    • Easily bored with everyday routine
    • Need immediate pleasure and do not like delayed enjoyment
    • Long term relationships may become boring so they may seek the thrill of a new relationship
    • Suicidal tendencies
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    Life with a Histrionic spouse

    Living life with a person who has histrionic personality disorder can be emotionally debilitating for the spouse.

    • In social situations they often act insane with their actions sometimes being unbelievable. They will do anything whether good or bad to gain attention. Often times ridiculing their spouse just so others will pay attention to them. Sometimes the partner feels as if they are not in a relationship and rejected. When trying to discuss the inappropriate behavior with their spouse they are made to feel guilty or ashamed for even discussing the issue.
    • Life feels like a soap opera and there is always constant drama; it can be emotionally draining. The histrionic feels a constant need for reassurance, the reassurance is another way to get attention.
    • Sometimes the spouse will become depressed, their attention is given to their partner who is histrionic, often feeling alone and like their feelings and concerns are invalid.
    • The spouse may represses angry feelings that they have or just try and forget about an event that was inappropriate in order to keep peace.
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    How to cope

    First you need to take a deep breath and know that their actions are not your fault and you are not to blame for anything that they do.

    • The need for individual psychotherapy is essential in recovery. Family and group therapy is not suggested in the beginning since the person with histrionic personality must have all of the attention.
    • Join a support group in your area; if there aren't any then look for an online support group
    • There may be a need for medication to treat depression or anxiety associated with the disorder
    • Seek alternative therapies such as biofeedback also referred to as neurofeedback
    • Brief hospitalization may be needed if a mental health professional feels the person may need this in order to become stabilized

    Having a good support system is essential so that you have someone who will listen. You cannot do this alone. Explain to your spouse how much you care for them but feel that an intervention with a mental health professional is needed in order to make the partnership succeed.

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    Resources

    1. Histrionic Personality Disorder, PsychCentral http://psychcentral.com/disorders/sx17.htm

    2. Melissa Arthur LCSW MA. Histrionic Personality Disorder http://www.health.am/psy/histrionic-personality-disorder/

    3. Cynthia Levin, Psy.D. Histrionic Personality Disorder Treatment http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=478&cn=8