Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Histrionic personality disorder

5-minute read

What is histrionic personality disorder?

Histrionic personality disorder is a type of psychiatric disorder that features attention-seeking behaviours, seductive behaviour and emotional over-reaction.

What are the symptoms of histrionic personality disorder?

People with histrionic personality disorder can seem highly dramatic, theatrical and approval seeking.

They seem like the life and soul of the party, but they can be embarrassing, with excessive public displays of love, crying or temper tantrums.

The main characteristics of a histrionic personality are:

  • constantly seeking attention
  • being uncomfortable in situations where they are not the centre of attention
  • displaying inappropriate seductive or sexually provocative behaviour
  • being flirtatious, seductive or charming
  • being manipulative
  • showing emotions that appear to be shallow and change rapidly
  • using physical appearance to gain attention
  • speaking vaguely, lacking in detail
  • displaying dramatic and theatrical behaviour with exaggerated emotion
  • being easily influenced by others or circumstances
  • considering relationships to be more intimate than they actually are

If a person has histrionic personality disorder, these symptoms will have begun to be noticed by early adulthood.

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, and 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 forming positive relationships with others or sustaining a job.

What causes histrionic personality disorder?

The cause is not completely known. Both genetics (inherited traits) and childhood events may contribute. Some people with histrionic personality disorder have come from families where personality disorders are common. Some experienced abuse, trauma or neglect during their childhood. Some come from normal and happy families.

When should I see my doctor?

If you suspect that you have a personality disorder, you should seek help from your doctor or a mental health professional as soon as possible.

If a person with a personality disorder does not get treatment, the destructive patterns in their thoughts, relationships and behaviour will continue to make relationships with others difficult for them and for those close to them, and result in significant unhappiness, and potentially hospitalisations, self-harm or suicide.

Get more information here on how to access mental health services in Australia.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

How is histrionic personality disorder diagnosed?

A diagnosis of histrionic personality disorder can only be made in an adult, not a child, and should be made only by a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist who gets to know the person over a period of time.

How is histrionic personality disorder treated?

The main form of treatment for histrionic personality disorder is long-term psychological therapy. There is usually no place for medicines in its treatment.

Some people with histrionic personality disorder have problems with drug and alcohol use, with anxiety or with depression. These will need to be treated as well.

What can also be associated with histrionic personality disorder?

People with histrionic personality disorder may also suffer from other psychiatric conditions, such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders. They also may have other personality disorders, such as borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder and dependent personality disorder. Up to half of people with histrionic personality disorder will have problems with alcohol or drug abuse.

People with histrionic personality disorder are at risk of self-harm and suicide, especially, because of their sometimes impulsive behaviour.

Resources and support

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

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

Last reviewed: February 2022

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Narcissistic personality disorder - Finding North

What is narcissistic personality disorder, what are the signs and symptoms, and what treatments are available for it?

Read more on Finding North website

Antisocial Personality Disorder - WayAhead

Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) is a mental disorder where a person shows no regard for right or wrong and is not concerned with the feelings or rights of other people.

Read more on WayAhead Mental Health Association NSW website

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)

Quick facts Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a complex and long-term mental health issue.   People living with NPD may have a stro...

Read more on SANE Australia website

What are personality disorders? | Personality disorders | ReachOut Australia

Personality disorders are mental health problems in which your personality and behaviour cause you or others distress.

Read more on website

What is a personality disorder?

Personality disorder is a term used to describe personality traits when they have become extreme, inflexible, and maladaptive.

Read more on Project Air Strategy for Personality Disorders website

Personality disorders | ReachOut Australia

People with personality disorders tend to think and behave more extremely than those around them, and find it difficult to adapt to or change their views and feelings.

Read more on website

Talking to children about personality disorder

Talking to children about personality disorder is a way to increase shared communication and understanding within the family.

Read more on Project Air Strategy for Personality Disorders website

Support services for personality disorders | Personality disorders | ReachOut Australia

A personality disorder is a condition where someone’s personality traits, the way they think, feel and behave are extreme and dysfunctional, causing them great distress.

Read more on website

How does personality disorder impact on parenting?

Parenting may be more difficult when people with personality disorder are experiencing a stressful time or are feeling unwell.

Read more on Project Air Strategy for Personality Disorders website

Personality disorders | Head to Health

Although moods can change as often as the weather, personality is like the ever-present blue sky above the clouds. If your thoughts and actions seem rigid to the point where you have trouble functioning, you may have a personality disorder.

Read more on Head to Health website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.