An individual with histrionic personality disorder behaves in a manner that will gain attention. Often there are times when an individual has no awareness that their behavior is unusual or over the top. Instead, they act on impulses and the dramatics are nearly automatic. Friends, loved ones and even acquaintances may find the histrionic behavior of the individual to be absurd but will rarely recognize it as a true personality disorder.
Insight into Histrionic Behaviors
A mental health professional, such as a psychologist or counselor, who has studied the histrionic personality disorder is likely to have more insight into histrionic behaviors than an individual without this expertise. Some of the behaviors an individual with this disorder will exhibit go unnoticed by the untrained person. The behaviors aren’t necessarily persistent to the point that a person seems to be attention-seeking every moment of the day. This makes identifying the disorder more difficult without professional intervention.
One form of attention-seeking exhibited by a histrionic individual is to dress or act overly seductive. The idea is to gain the eye of an onlooker by revealing too much skin, dressing provocatively and even using non-verbal communication to increase desirability. Other examples include violating the personal space of another individual, making sexual suggestions or participating in "flirty" behavior when it isn’t appropriate, such as in the workplace. The individual may also be overly concerned with appearance, wanting to look a certain way or be in fashion with celebrities and other people who receive a great deal of attention. When the individual doesn’t receive the attention that is being sought, he or she may withdraw or seem uncomfortable.
A small paper cut can become the highlight of the day for an individual with histrionic personality disorder. The individual may cry, become outraged or exhibit other extreme emotions over nearly every problem they encounter. Repeating a story of an event that occurred earlier in the day is done in a dramatic way to get attention and gain more interest. The histrionic individual will seem to be on an emotional roller coaster going from one emotion to another and not necessarily from happy to sad. The mood can go from calm to extremely anxious in a matter of seconds and for no apparent reason. In the individual’s mind the event that lead to the change in mood was real and truly warranted such a response.
Histrionic personality disorder can manifest in a wide variety of ways within relationships with other people. A seemingly friendly relationship may be perceived as romantic by the histrionic individual. There is a strong desire to be approved of by others in order to have attention on them at all times. Seeking approval, asking for reassurance and being overly sensitive to disapproval or criticism are all common signs of this personality disorder. Surprisingly, the individual is easily influenced by others and is often guillable. Their actions are perceived as insincere and selfish. It is normal for such an individual to feign interest in relationships with others despite putting forth no effort to strengthen them. The most important person in the relationship is him or herself.
Without insight into histrionic behaviors a friend or loved one may simply find a histrionic individual’s behavior to be slightly abnormal or over the top. The individual’s personality disorder can be recognized by threats of suicide with no intention of actually carrying it out, making hurried decisions, becoming frustrated easily when gratification is delayed, getting bored with routine and starting many projects without ever finishing them.
Cleveland Clinic: Histrionic Personality Disorder https://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/personality_disorders/hic_histrionic_personality_disorder.aspx
University of Maryland Medical Center: Histrionic Personality Disorder https://www.umm.edu/ency/article/001531sym.htm