From Hysteric Personality to Histrionic Personality Disorder

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From Hysterical Personality to Histrionic Personality Disorder Snezana Kordovan
Andrews University

“In a classroom, party, or at some other gathering, there is frequently one person who is seeming to bask in the glow of celebrity. Often this person is physically attractive, flirtatious, and given to provocative and seductive dress. His or her actions and mannerisms in the presence of others suggest a kind of emotional theatricality, almost a stage performance” (Friedland, 1991, pg. 44). As Friedland illustrated in the paragraph above, there are individuals in our social circles who are charming, energetic and outgoing. With their ability to entertain they get everybody’s attention easily and one is typically impressed with the ease by which they express their thoughts and their feelings (Millon, 1985). Even though there are many positive things about being outgoing, friendly and charming, when these characteristics and theatrical behavior are carried out to the extreme a Histrionic Personality Disorder is most likely to be underlying the behavior (Friedland, 1991). On January 20th, 2003 Time magazine announced that as much as 9% percent of the population is thought to suffer from some kind of personality disorder, and as many as 20% of all mental –health hospitalizations may be the result of such conditions (Song, 2003). In the same article, Song also compared common mental conditions, such as anxiety disorders, eating disorders and depression with personality disorders, saying that the latter cannot be treated easily through talk therapy or melted away with medications because they are marbleized through the entire temperament. Referring to narcissists and histrionics she pointed out that the problem starts with persuading most of them to see a therapist, and an even harder problem is when the patient denies the existence of the problem. This paper will be an attempt to consolidate the most important information on Histrionic Personality Disorder. The materials included were published by researchers from the time when the disorder was still called hysterical personality and by the more recent researchers who refer to it as a Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD). The paper will have a limitation in that the treatment technique suggestions will be only briefly presented and not thoroughly examined. Clinical Picture

Individuals with histrionic personality disorder function out of constant need for approval, affection and admiration of others. In contrast to individuals with dependent personality disorder, histrionics are not passively loyal to one source of security, putting their fate in the hands of others but actively seek reinforcements and esteem from multiple sources avoiding the constant jeopardy of losing security. They acquire friends easily with their apparent care and warmth, but also abandon them fast if they cease to be objects susceptible to their manipulative style. With time, histrionics develop a sensitivity to the moods and thoughts of those they wish to please and their hyperalertness enables them to quickly assess what maneuvers will succeed in attaining the ends they desire (Millon, 1981). This “other-directedness” turns into a life-style full of emotional and behavioral fickleness and results in capricious pattern of personal relationships (Millon, 1981). Behavioral appearances of histrionics usually range from affected in milder variations to theatrical in severely pathological forms. Women usually appear seductive and flirtatious while men often appear charming (Millon, 1985). They spend a considerable amount of money on clothes and grooming in order to look desirable and attractive. Bornstein (1998) has found that more attractive HPD women had a more varied and supportive social network, exhibited more negative behaviors in important relationships, and showed greater use of immature defenses, and less reliance on image-distorting, self-sacrificing, and mature defenses. Physical...
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