Histrionic Personality Disorder: A Driving Desire


A riveting flush of seduction, charm, and flirtation passes her by while she’s sitting in a coffee shop. She uses her body to cover up the shallowness that lives inside her. Her power to draw everyone’s attention is compelling to everyone around her. She thrives off of a constant pool of approval and admiration from others. Her hunger to feed off from the attention of others gets in the way of her work and priorities. 

This is a typical textbook gender framing description of a woman we have all seen once or twice in a film. It is quite common in the realm of the film industry to portray women in a seductive manner, getting too caught up in relationships and over exaggerating their reactions to minor situations. The gender stereotyping that continues to take place in cinema brings light to the world of personality disorders. Most commonly what is seen portrayed in the film industry is borderline personality disorder (BPD) or narcissistic personality disorder. Another particular type of personality disorder that seems to be overlooked, rarely discussed, but very apparent in cinema, is histrionic personality disorder, or HPD.  

Regina George, an iconic character portrayed in the movie Mean Girls, demonstrates histrionic personality disorder as the story antagonist. She walks the hallways of her high school as the queen bee and has a posse who sees her as a goddess. She tracks every carb she eats since she is afraid to lose the figure she possesses. She plays with her boyfriend’s hair and kisses him in a vulgar manner in the school cafeteria to warn the protagonist, Cady Heron that she has the hottest boyfriend in school. Regina thinks everyone is below her and theatrically downgrades any students who cross her path. 

A downfall of Regina George in the movie starts to take place when Cady Heron becomes more well-liked among her peers and takes over her throne as queen bee of the school. It is evident Regina experiences a rapid shift in emotion and becomes too invested in a silly popularity battle. The movie depicts this popularity battle as Regina’s only responsibility in life and that she is nothing if no one admires or approves of her. The main conflict in the movie is when Regina tries to take back the attention of the whole school by exposing Cady Heron’s lies. 

Histrionic personality disorder is categorized as part of cluster B personality disorders, and these types are considered to be dramatic, emotional, and erratic. The basic underlying symptoms this personality disorder often displays are an overbearing sense of emotionality, acting out to be the center of attention, dressing inappropriately or provocatively, and varying emotional expressions such as being vague or shallow; this leaves individuals to appear as insincere or dishonest.

A distinct symptom that tends to landmark HPD is an extreme level of confidence which seems to be the source of their behaviors and actions. Someone with HPD may tend to be uncomfortable with the idea that they are not seen as the center of attention. They feel it is their duty to constantly reevaluate their physical appearance if it means bringing more attention to themselves. Regina is in a constant state of mind to watch everything that she eats in order to maintain her figure because she is well aware that it is her skimpy clothing and figure that gets the attention of everyone at school. 

Another common feature of HPD is they often consider meaningless flings with others to be more intimate than they actually are (Cherry, 2020). In the movie Mean Girls, Regina is very intimate with her boyfriend, Aaron Samuels in public anytime she thinks others are looking at her. Regina and Aaron have only been dating for a few months. In her head, she has the perfect prince charming that fits her fantasy for that moment in time. Regina quickly moves on to another relationship when Aaron finds out that she has been cheating on him with someone who has been giving her more attention than he is currently giving her. 

Unfortunately, there is not much research into what causes someone to have HPD. Only 2-3% of the general population have this type of personality disorder. By having such a small diagnostic percentage, researchers have revealed two strong factors that can contribute to the onset of HPD: genetic inheritance and environmental aspects. Personality traits from parents can be passed down through genes to children, and a person’s environment can allow someone to embellish negative behaviors (Cherry, 2020). 

People with HPD are often undiagnosed and don’t find that this disorder gets in the way of their life. However, HPD can cause toxicity in relationships with loved ones, family, and friends. HPD falls into the category of manipulative and shallow patterns of behaviors which are common in causing weak and disingenuous relationships. Key issues that arise with someone who has HPD can be low levels of self-esteem and difficulty in controlling emotional reactivity. 

With regards to seeking help or obtaining treatment, there are not any FDA medications for histrionic personality disorder. Research has stated the most successful techniques in coping with the disorder are psychotherapy, group therapy, and family therapy. Holistic techniques such as mindful meditation and yoga are extremely effective in signaling one’s inner feelings to control triggering emotional reactions and desiring attention-seeking behaviors.  

It is important to bring awareness to personality disorders as they are often misconstrued and people find themselves constantly being judged instead of receiving support and professional help. People should be encouraged to talk about the symptoms amongst their friends and family. Without seeking professional help, it can be a burden to live with HPD and symptomatic behaviors can continue to take a toll on present relationships. There is definite hope for people to improve their relationships and take control of their life by reaching out for help and by learning to better understand themselves. 

 

References

Arabi, S. B. A. (2017, August 7). The Histrionic Female Has an Insatiable and Destructive Desire for Attention. Psych Central. https://www.psychcentral.com/blog/recovering-narcissist/2017/08/the-histrionic-female-has-an-insatiable-and-destructive-desire-for-attention#1

Cherry, K. (2020, September 17). What Is Histrionic Personality Disorder? Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/histrionic-personality-disorder-2795445

DSM-5: The Ten Personality Disorders: Cluster B. (n.d.). Mental Help. https://www.mentalhelp.net/personality-disorders/cluster-b/

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