Histrionic Personality Disorder Symptoms and Treatment

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Histrionic personality disorder affects approximately 3.8 million (1.8 percent) adults in the United States. The disorder is characterized by shallow emotions, attention-seeking, and manipulative behavior.

According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, an estimated 30.8 million American adults experience symptoms of at least one personality disorder. 

A personality disorder is a type of mental disorder in which you have a rigid and unhealthy pattern of thinking, functioning and behaving. A person with a personality disorder has trouble perceiving and relating to situations and to people. This causes significant problems and limitations in relationships, social encounters, work, and school.

In some cases, you may not realize that you have a personality disorder because your way of thinking and behaving seems natural to you. And you may blame others for the challenges you face.

Personality disorders usually begin in the teenage years or early adulthood. There are many types of personality disorders. Some types may become less obvious throughout middle age.


Personality is a combination of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that makes you unique. It's the way you view, understand and relate to the outside world, as well as how you see yourself. Personality forms during childhood, shaped through an interaction of two factors:

  • Your Genes: Certain personality traits may be passed on to you by your parents through inherited genes. These traits are sometimes called your temperament.
  • Your Environment: This involves the surroundings you grew up in, events that occurred, and relationships with family members and others.

Personality disorders are thought to be caused by a combination of these genetic and environmental influences. Your genes may make you vulnerable to developing a personality disorder, and a life situation may trigger the actual development.

Although the precise cause of personality disorders isn't known, certain factors seem to increase the risk of developing or triggering personality disorders, including:

  • Family history of personality disorders or other mental illness
  • Low level of education and lower social and economic status
  • Verbal, physical or sexual abuse during childhood
  • Neglect or unstable chaotic family life during childhood
  • Being diagnosed with childhood conduct disorder
  • Variations in brain chemistry and structure


Individuals with histrionic personality disorder:

  • Display excessive but shallow emotions and attention-seeking behaviors. These individuals are constantly “performing” in order to gain attention.
  • Experience fleeting moods, opinions, and beliefs. They are also very suggestible and quick to respond to fads.
  • Generally, need others to witness their emotional displays in order to gain validation or attention.
  • Often display exaggerated symptoms of weakness or illness and may use threats of suicide to manipulate others. Also, many people with histrionic personality disorder use sexually provocative behaviors to control others or gain attention.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.


  • Individuals suffering from histrionic personality disorder are often difficult to treat. They often seek treatment only when the disorder is causing major problems or stress.
  • Psychotherapy can be effective. Group therapy is not recommended since the individual tries to seek attention from group members and exaggerates symptoms.
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Article Sources
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  1. French JH, Shrestha S. Histrionic Personality Disorder. National Institutes of Health. Updated November 18, 2019.

  2. Landmark Survey Reports the Prevalence of Personality Disorders in the United States. National Institutes of Health. Published August 2, 2004.

  3. Personality Disorders. National Institute of Mental Health. Updated November 2017.

  4. Histrionic Personality Disorder. Cleveland Clinic. Reviewed January 23, 2018.