More than Just Seeking Attention: Histrionic Personality Disorder


Personality disorders, because they do not seem to fit our typical understanding of mental illness, often go ignored and unmentioned, leaving those with these disorders unable to name what they’re going through, and therefore without the knowledge that they can get help. A specific personality disorder that goes largely undiscussed is Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD), in which a person exhibits “a long-standing pattern of attention seeking behavior and extreme emotionality” (Grohol 2020). Those with HPD often act out of a sense of insecurity and low self-esteem, basing their self-worth on the opinions of others. 

But don’t many people—especially in their younger years—suffer from low self-esteem and feel the need to act out? How are we to tell the difference? In order to become diagnosed, a doctor will “begin an evaluation by performing a complete medical and psychiatric history” (Casarella 2020). There are cases in which physical illness can cause symptoms similar to those present in people with HPD. Therefore, if there seems to be no danger of physical illness, patients will be referred to a psychiatrist/psychologist who will perform a thorough assessment of the patient in order to determine whether to diagnose them. Additionally, HPD has been shown to run in families, indicating that some genetic component is involved.

The low self-esteem and desire for validation of those with this disorder can be extremely damaging for their personal life and day-to-day interactions. Maybe you have a friend you deem to be dramatic, and you criticize them harshly for this. But those with this disorder who haven’t yet sought treatment and don’t know how to properly deal with their symptoms often cannot control their attention-seeking actions. This need for attention is so deeply rooted within their personality that it’s incredibly difficult for them to actively work against it. A big problem lies in the fact that those with HPD often don’t believe that they need therapy; they “tend to exaggerate their feelings and to dislike routine, which makes following a treatment plan difficult” (Casarella 2020). They might only seek help if they truly feel that their life is being significantly impaired by the disorder, which can be very difficult for them to admit and acknowledge. 

The more knowledgeable we become about personality disorders as a whole, the more likely people with HPD are to acknowledge their symptoms and seek treatment. You’ve likely only heard of very few personality disorders, and the rest go largely unexamined and invisible within society. The more often we can recognize the signs and symptoms, the less likely we are to harshly judge our dramatic friends or berate them for symptoms of their personality that can very well be out of their control. If you suspect that a friend of yours is acting out due to low self-esteem and seeking attention in a way that seems irrational and far too grand, it’s important to suggest therapy so that they can seek help. Even if that friend isn’t diagnosed with HPD, therapy can still be very beneficial for them. As the stigma behind seeking mental help continues to be dismantled, we can all learn the benefits of working to dismantle our negative behaviors and perceptions of ourselves.

 

References

Casarella, J. (2020, September 27). Histrionic Personality Disorder Symptoms, Causes, Treatments. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/histrionic-personality-disorder 

Grohol, J. M. (2020, January 14). Histrionic Personality Disorder: Symptoms & Treatments. Psych Central. https://psychcentral.com/disorders/histrionic-personality-disorder/ 

Tartakovsky, M. (2020, January 9). Histrionic Personality Disorder Treatment. https://psychcentral.com/disorders/histrionic-personality-disorder/treatment/.  

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