Are you known for your over-the-top behaviour and desperate need to be the centre of attention? Do you overreact and exaggerate when you’re telling stories – eager to gain approval from others? Do you take everything extremely personally, and can be relied upon to be the overly emotional one in a group? Is your attention seeking way beyond a simple need to be seen and heard?
If you’ve answered yes to some/all of the above – and these behaviours are taken to extremes – it could be that you have what’s known as ‘histrionic personality disorder’. This condition appears in the DSM-V, which is the manual used by psychiatrists to diagnose disorders. Histrionic personality disorder falls into the ‘Cluster B’ of personality disorders, where emotional regulation and impulse control are issues. Other Cluster Bs are borderline and narcissistic personality disorder.
Traits of histrionic personality disorder:
This disorder is said to affect about 2% of the population, and is predominantly, though not exclusively, a female issue. The pattern of excessive emotional expression, and pathological attention seeking, starts in late teen or early adult years.
- You feel uncomfortable in situations where you are not the centre of attention.
- Interacting with others often involves using inappropriate sexually seductive or provocative behaviour.
- The way you express emotion is often shallow, and you can shift rapidly from topic to topic.
- You consistently use your physical appearance to draw attention to yourself.
- Your style of speech is vague and lacking in detail, and you can come across as insincere and fickle.
- You are overly dramatic, theatrical, and show an exaggerated expression of emotion. Your reaction may seem out of proportion to the circumstances, and this can be embarrassing for those around you.
- You are easily influenced by others or circumstances.
- You often consider relationships to be more intimate than they actually are.
In order to be diagnosed, people with histrionic personality disorder need to display at least five of these traits consistently over time. There also needs to be a significant impairment in how they see themselves, or how they function interpersonally – for example, if intimate relationships and close friendships are difficult for them. They can often alienate people because of the need for constant attention.
While they are regarded as ‘drama queens’, people with histrionic personality disorder really struggle to be by themselves. That struggle can sometimes manifest itself in depression, which is when they might seek support from a mental health professional. Long-term psychotherapy is recommended for people who recognise that they have the condition, and that the symptoms are making their lives and relationships unmanageable. Psychotherapy can help people with histrionic personality disorder to understand the patterns in their lives, to identify other ways to soothe their needs, and to adapt their behaviours so they are less likely to alienate others.
If your need for attention is overwhelming you and others, then talking to a therapist may help you gain some perspective on how you interact with the world. To book an appointment with one of our therapists, call 020 8673 4545 or email [email protected]