Understanding what ‘Histrionic Personality Disorder’ is

Before discussing histrionic personality disorder, it may be useful to briefly outline what ‘personality disorder’ means. Personality disorders can be defined as a persistent and problematic set of thoughts and behaviours that often emerge during young adulthood and can cause significant difficulties for the individual, as well as in interpersonal interactions. Although there is an ongoing debate surrounding the diagnosis of personality disorders, many individuals can find a diagnosis (or diagnostic criteria) useful to make sense of their often overwhelming or confusing experiences.

In this context, a histrionic personality disorder can be understood as a set of thoughts and behaviours characterized by an enduring need or desire for the individual to be the focus of attention. This need for attention is often accompanied by a number of other symptoms including rapidly fluctuating emotions, dramatic behaviours, and perceiving relationships to be more intimate than they are. Individuals with histrionic personality disorder rely heavily on the approval of others, and may, therefore, resort to extreme behaviours if they feel that this need is not being met.

What causes histrionic personality disorder?

Although there is no single underlying cause, a number of theories have been put forward to explain the development of histrionic personality disorder, and it is likely that there are a number of factors involved. For example, one theory focuses on issues surrounding upbringings, such as caregivers showing ‘conditional’ love or a lack of boundaries.

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How can histrionic personality disorder be managed?

While an individual with a histrionic personality disorder can often function relatively well, they may experience difficulties with relationships due to one or more of the symptoms above, particularly when they perceive criticism from people around them or when there is a breakdown in relationships. There are different forms of psychotherapy to help with the management of histrionic personality disorder, such as psychodynamic psychotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Psychodynamic psychotherapy allows individuals to explore the relationship between their current difficulties and past experiences. When delivered by a professional, this exploration and subsequent awareness can help individuals with histrionic personality disorder manage present difficulties more effectively. CBT is also an evidence-based therapy which can help increase individuals’ understanding of the link between thoughts, feelings and behaviours, and improve ways of responding to situations.

For more information call 0753 718 1090 or email [email protected]. To book a Virtual Therapy appointment with the Online Therapy Company, please fill in the online booking form.

Author – Dr Aisha Ali – DPsych Couns Psych, ADOS 2 Certified B.Psych (Hons)

Dr Aisha Ali is a highly experienced BPS Chartered Counselling Psychologist and Expert witness with over 15 years experience of working within the NHS in complex care and private practice. She has extensive experience of working with individuals, couples and families presenting with complex psychological and emotional issues. Aisha provides life and performance coaching.

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