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According to the World Health Organization, a person may have Histrionic Personality Disorder if he or she inculcates a combination of any three of the following characteristics:
- self-dramatization, theatricality, exaggerated expression of emotions
- suggestibility, easily influenced by others or by circumstances
- shallow and labile affectivity
- continual seeking for excitement, appreciation by others, and activities in which the patient is the center of attention
- inappropriate seductiveness in appearance or behavior
- over-concern with physical attractiveness
(ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioral Disorders, World Health Organization, Geneva, 1992)
People suffering from this disorder remain uncomfortable when they cannot attain such circumstances. For instance, they remain uncomfortable when they are not the center of attention.
Image Credit: flickr.com/Cat Sacdalan
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The causes for a person having Histrionic Personality Disorder are not yet clear. Genetics and childhood events such as deaths, illness, or other tragedies in the immediate family that causes considerable anxiety remain possible causes.
How to deal with Histronic Personality Disorder?
While it is not possible to prevent the disorder, psychotherapy is an effective way of dealing with Histronic Personality Disorder. The success of the treatment depends on proper diagnosis of the nature of the disorder by a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist or psychologist. Such a diagnosis however remains difficult owing to the symptoms varying depending on the person’s stress levels.
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The most effective forms of treatment for Histrionic Personality Disorder is psychotherapy, a type of counseling aimed at helping the patient uncover the motivations and fears associated with their thoughts and behavior, and helping them relate to others in a more positive way.
In the initial phase of the treatment, the patient often exaggerate losses and feels upset about undeserved criticisms or losses and tries to seek the therapist’s sympathy. Soon the patient starts displaying unprovoked behaviors and perceptions allowing the therapist to draw parallels to the patient’s behaviors at work and at home. This allows the patient to recognize counterproductive behaviors and the painful underlying emotions.
The therapist gradually explores the behaviors and help address the self destructive traits, while recognizing the positive and engaging elements. Success of the treatment depends on the therapist making the patient understand their hitherto preference of “style over substance" and offering alternatives. The criteria and alternatives suggested by the therapist on how to deal with Historinic Personality Disorder depend on social norms, rules and obligations.
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The major challenge of treating people with Histrionic Personality Disorders with therapy is the fact that such people do not believe they require the therapy, and as such do no co-operate with the same or exaggerate the feelings. The best chance of cooperation comes when they fall into depression that comes owing to breakdown in relationships or owing to thought processes.
Case reports suggest that individual therapy works best to discover and isolate cases of the disorder. Group therapy usually becomes counterproductive as the patient secures an audience and remains reluctant to terminate the sessions.
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Apart from therapy, the only other method on how to deal with Histronic Personality Disorder is medication. Medication treats the distressing symptoms of Histrionic Personality Disorders such as depression and anxiety, but may actually contribute to enhancing the disorder by the patient trying to draw more attention to the physical reaction to the drug itself.
Histrionic personality disorder can affect a person’s social or romantic relationships and how a person reacts to losses or failures. Treatment helps individuals remove negative tendencies such as suicide tendency, distress and depression. It helps the patient recognize counterproductive behaviors, uncover their motivations and fears, and relate to others in a positive way, allowing them to lead a better life with respect.
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- World Health Organization. "Histrionic Personality Disorder." http://www.mentalhealth.com/icd/p22-pe06.html. Retrieved 20 October 2010.
- Cleveland Clinic. "Histrionic Personality Disorder." http://www.clevelandclinic.org/health/health-info/docs/3700/3795.asp?index=9743. Retrieved 20 October 2010
- Bienenfeld, David. "Personality Disorders." http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/294307-overview. Retrieved 20 October 2010.
- Psych Central. "Histrionic Personality Disorder" Treatment. http://psychcentral.com/disorders/sx17t.htm. Retrieved 20 October 2010.