Understanding Histrionic Personality Trait

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by Christine Hammond

Histrionic is defined as overly dramatic or emotional but as a personality trait histrionic includes overly sexual or provocative.  Interestingly enough a histrionic will see themselves as very sexual even when they are not sexually appealing or even physically attractive.  It is almost as if they have rose colored glasses on when they look in the mirror and then take them off when they look at others.

So what is Histrionic?  Well, according to the new DSM-V, histrionic is no longer a personality disorder in and of itself rather it is now classified under Personality Disorder Trait Specified (PDTS).  This means that there was not enough research to properly classify histrionics as having a named personality disorder but there is evidence enough that it does exist.  So the traits of histrionics are still classifiable and qualify as a PDTS.  Here is the technical definition based on the new classification:

  • Emotional – crying uncontrollably
  • Manipulative
  • Attention seeking

The practical definition looks more like this:

  • Dresses provocatively
  • Acts very dramatically
  • Gullible
  • Low tolerance for frustration
  • Makes rash decisions
  • Threatens or attempts suicide

One of the best examples of a histrionic is Scarlett O’Hara from “Gone with the Wind”.  Her flair for the overly dramatic, the constant demand for attention, the quick foolish decisions, and emphasis on provocative clothing even during her impoverished years is typical histrionic.  It was all about Scarlett and she was furious at anyone who did not give her attention when she wanted it.

So how do you deal with a person who might be schizoid?  Here are a few suggestions:

  • “You look nice today” is a safe way to give needed attention without getting into the specifics of their clothing.  Remember they are dressing provocatively on purpose so don’t go too crazy on the compliments.
  • Allow them to be the center of attention for a specific time period to get it out of their system and then they will be more likely to share the stage with others.
  • Do your best to minimize conflict when they are around or they will shut down.  They are not great fighters despite their forwardness.
  • Don’t play into their drama moments.  Instead set firm boundaries in your dealings with them.
  • Don’t get emotional, they have a sixth sense about emotion and will play on it.  Sometimes they even turn the emotion sexual when that was the last thing on your mind.
  • Be very careful because they make rash decisions which means they might agree now but won’t later.

You might be wondering what the difference is between Borderline Personality Disorder and a histrionic because when you put the two disorders side by side they do have some of the same characterizations.  Borderlines don’t tend to be as sexual as histrionics.  While they do engage in inappropriate sexual acts or make overly provocative comments, histrionics take it to the next level and make everything sexual to the point of nauseating.  If you are dealing with this, please get some help.  This is too tiring to deal with alone.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

 

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