If you've ever spent time in a student theater group, it's tempting to diagnose everyone you encounter with personality disorders — especially when you consider the signs of histrionic personality disorder, which is characterized by attention-seeking behavior, suggestibility, and an excessive flair for the dramatic. Chances are you can think of more than a few people who fit the bill right off the top of your head; goodness knows I can. However, personality disorders are more than a punchline to be thrown around at parties — they're very real problems for the people who have them, as well as their friends and family.
What elevates personality into a personality disorder largely depends on the intensity of those characteristics. Plenty of people enjoy being the center of attention, but when a predilection for attention-seeking starts eclipsing other goals in your life, things start edging over into the realm of a personality disorder. In short, a personality disorder arises when certain personality traits cause distress to yourself or others, independent of circumstances like substance abuse or medical conditions.
Most people are aware of the big names, like narcissistic personality disorder or borderline personality disorder, which became a household phrase in the 1990s thanks to the film Girl, Interrupted. However, there are a number of less well-known personality disorders out there as well. Let's take a look at some signs of histrionic personality disorder (HPD) — just remember that only professionals can provide a formal diagnosis. If you meet a few of the criteria below, it's not exactly the basis for a diagnosis; however, if you recognize some characteristics in yourself or someone you know, and they regularly cause distress, it may be a sign you should look into reaching out for help.
1. You Absolutely Must Be The Center Of Attention
HPD is characterized by attention-seeking behavior — the kind that goes beyond trying to out-diva the other theater kids in high school. We're talking hugely dramatic displays to maintain your status as the center of attention, whether it's negative or positive: Starting screaming matches in public, making up stories about alien abduction, and other behaviors that would make a lot of reality TV stars proud and everyone else uncomfortable.
2. You Love Being Provocative
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, one of the signs of HPD is "acting or looking overly seductive," which is wrapped up in the need to be the center of attention. After all, nothing turns heads like publicly challenging sexual norms. "Behaviors may include... sexual seductiveness in inappropriate situations, including social, occupational and professional relationships beyond what is appropriate," Psychology Today explains. There's nothing wrong with being sexual or enjoying your sexuality, by the way; there's just a time and a place for it.
3. You're Easily Influenced
Another characteristic of HPD is suggestibility; people with the disorder are easily swayed — which could be linked to their self-centeredness and shallow emotional expression. Speaking of...
4. You Don't Dwell On Things
Although people with HPD are emotional to the extreme, some with the disorder express "shallow and rapidly shifting" emotion — in other words, moods change quickly and without warning. On the bright side, though, even the bad ones may not stick around for long, so at least there's that.
5. You Often Feel Underappreciated
Psychology Today explains that people with HPD often feel underappreciated when they sense they're being ignored. "People with this disorder are uncomfortable or feel unappreciated when they are not the center of attention," the website writes.
6. You're The Life Of The Party
With their flirtariousness, apparent openness, and status as the center of attention, people with HPD are often considered lively and personable at first. However, conversations with people with HPD are generally self-centered, and their relationships can be one-sided; the person with HPD may consider a friendship closer than the other person does.
7. You're Incredibly Emotional
Above all, HPD is driven by feelings: Although their moods may rapidly change, people with HPD tend to regard everything through the lens of emotion, which in turn drives their dramatic actions.