What is Histrionic Personality Disorder

Another form of Narcissism, or Drama Queen Syndrome? How do you know if your friend or loved one is just one of those “larger than life” personalities or if there is a deeper issue you need to be aware of, like Histrionic Personality Disorder? And if there was a problem, how would you go about approaching it with them? Sometimes life, and relationships, can be complicated and we’re not always sure what to do. We hope that our blog posts, like this one, can help give you some pointers for living life well in specific situations, as well as life in general.

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How to Recognise Histrionic Personality Disorder and Respond to It

Everyone enjoys being near a person with charisma. The energy they infuse into a social situation can be contagious and enigmatic.

Often seen as “the life of the party,” people with Histrionic Personality Disorder are most comfortable in this type of situation. The challenge happens when the opportunity to be centre stage is gone.

Perhaps you have met someone with Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD). Generally, people with this condition rely heavily on their physical appearance and depend on compliments and praise to feel good.

Sometimes it can feel challenging to truly connect with someone who struggles with this disorder, as the emotional landscape can change rather quickly. When a person with HPD senses disconnection, they may express a heightened emotional response and this can feel manipulative to others.

If you care about someone with this condition, it is important for you to remember some key points about the disorder.

A lot of the behaviours are fear-based:
Fear is a powerful and influential emotion. It plays a major role in HPD. Fear of rejection and disconnection is at the heart of it, and for people who do not have a solid sense of self-identity, the default response can be a dependence on external qualities.

This does not mean that someone with HPD is devoid of underlying feelings; it just means that they may not feel as if their internal world is interesting enough to carry them in relationships.

This can result in excessive emotionality and seemingly pretentious behaviours, as well as reliance on physical appearance.

There is someone real under there:
All of the emotional extremes and seemingly dramatic behaviours of someone with Histrionic Personality Disorder may make it seem as if the person is unable to truly connect. This simply isn’t true.

If a loved one is patient, encouraging and truthful with someone who has this condition, it can help the individual to feel safe and let their guard down. Consider HPD a defense mechanism.

When one examines the behavior with empathy, it is easy to envision how a person with HPD feels disconnected from others, but also disconnected from a sense of self.

How to Support Someone with Histrionic Personality Disorder

It is impossible for you to “fix” someone with this disorder, but certainly you can be a help by being a steady, honest friend. Here are some suggestions for helping your loved one manage it.

Ask how they are feeling:
Instead of assuming that what you’re seeing is the entire picture, ask your loved one how they are feeling and listen. Pay attention to words and affect, and express caring and consideration.

Ask “what else?” This will enable your loved one to further open up and talk about underlying thoughts and encourage them to go deeper instead of staying on the shallow end of their emotions.

Compliment the stuff that really counts:
Someone who has HPD may be seeking validation through excessively sexualized behaviours or physical attraction, but the real underlying need is recognition for internal qualities.

Observe the beauty within and point it out. Encourage your loved one to notice those qualities within themselves.

Be patient:
These are long-standing defense mechanisms and will not change overnight. Try to be patient and recognize when you are getting frustrated. Be open about what you are seeing but try to remain diplomatic about it.

Try to model genuine connection and show what real emotional expression looks like. The more solid you can be in your own sense of self, the safer your loved one will feel with you.

[This blog post originally appeared on Teyhou’s website www.livingwithfinesse.com ~ some content may have been modified for the UK & Irish context.]

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