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Histrionic personality disorder

6-minute read

If you, or someone you know, is in immediate danger of hurting themselves or others, call triple zero (000).

Key facts

  • Histrionic personality disorder is where people seek attention and are overly emotional.
  • People with this disorder may seem highly dramatic, lively, excitable and impulsive.
  • Symptoms include discomfort when not the centre of attention, inappropriate seductive behaviour and quick changing emotions.
  • The cause is not entirely known but can involve child abuse, trauma or neglect.
  • The main treatment is long-term psychological therapy.

What is histrionic personality disorder (HPD)?

Histrionic personality disorder (HPD) is a type of personality disorder that shows a pattern of attention-seeking behaviours, seductive behaviour and emotional over-reaction.

Females are more likely to be diagnosed with HPD than males.

What are the symptoms of HPD?

The main symptoms of someone with HPD are:

  • constantly seeking attention
  • being uncomfortable in situations where they are not the centre of attention
  • being overly seductive or sexually provocative
  • showing emotions that appear to be shallow and change rapidly
  • speaking vaguely, lacking in detail
  • being easily influenced by others or circumstances
  • considering relationships to be more intimate than they actually are

People with HPD can seem highly dramatic, excitable and impulsive.

Many people have some of these traits but are still able to function normally and do not have a personality disorder. A personality disorder is a long-term pattern of behaviour, thinking and emotions that causes distress to the person or those around them. This makes it difficult for the person to function in everyday life.

People with personality disorders find it hard to change their behaviour or adapt to different situations. They may have trouble:

  • building positive relationships with others
  • keeping a job

What causes HPD?

The cause is not completely known. Both genetics (inherited traits) and childhood events are thought to have impact.

When should I see my doctor?

If you think that you have symptoms of HPD, you should seek help from your doctor. They may refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist who has experience treating people with personality disorders.

It can be difficult for someone with HPD to seek treatment since they generally do not recognise they have a problem. HPD may not be diagnosed until their behaviour is affecting their life and relationships.

Find out more about how to access mental health services in Australia.

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How is HPD diagnosed?

To find out if you have HPD, you will need to see a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist who gets to know you over a period of time. They can diagnose HPD based on your symptoms and how you interact with others

How is HPD treated?

Unfortunately, often the symptoms of HPD do not improve significantly with treatment. However, psychological therapy may help people with HPD manage their lives and relationships.

There are no medicines that treat HPD. If someone with HPD has other mental health problems such as anxiety or depression, these could be treated with medicines.

What can also be associated with HPD?

People with personality disorders have a higher risk of alcohol or drug abuse and suicide attempts.

If you, or someone you know, is having suicidal thoughts and is in immediate danger, call triple zero (000). For help and support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Resources and support

If you need help or have any concerns with your mental health you should speak to your doctor.

You can also call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

There are organisations that offer help and resources for people with personality disorders. Try the following organisations:

Do you prefer to read in languages other than English?

Looking for information for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people?

  • Yarn Safe has mental health and wellbeing information for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people.
  • Wellmob has more mental health information and resources Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: February 2024

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