Drama Queens: Are They Histrionic?
Sometimes we come across a person who is very much emotional and outspoken. They are easily offended and create major scenes at the drop of a pin. They get surprised easily and laugh too loudly. This is called a dramatic personality, and when this becomes so strong that the person starts behaving irrationally and causes real problems, then it is called a histrionic personality disorder.
Emotional overreaction is the key item in this matter. Histrionic people are very much prone to create scenes out of apparently very small issues. They make drama on everything — laughing theatrically, crying hysterically, shouting like a man possessed! But often their behavior has little or even no provocation behind it. Normal people won’t react so badly to most situations, as they would.
Another thing is that histrionic people are very much suggestible. Anyone can just walk up to them and tell them, “you know, your friend talks about you behind your back” and boom! They would fire up. They are the most easily influenced by celebrity speeches and macho gestures, without thinking it through.
Medical Definition of Histrionic Disorder
According to textbooks, Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD) is characterized by excessive attention seeking behavior, overreaction, dramatic behavior, seductive behavior, being overall loud and exaggerating. They also get easily influenced by outside stimuli, like what others suggest to them, or startling events, or speeches, etc.
Oddly enough, this type of personality begins showing up at late childhood. A good reason behind this can be excessive coddling by parents, or praising the child when they talk or behave in a very flamboyant manner.
There are many people around us with loud and dramatic personalities, but only 2-3% of the population get affected by HPD. Still that is a huge number. Among them, women are prone to get HPD about 4 times more than men — causing the root of many domestic problems.
There are six types of histrionic disorders that we can see commonly, as classified by psychologist Theodore Millon. They are: Appeasing, Vivacious, Tempestuous, Disingenuous, Theatrical, Infantile. We will explain them below.
Types and Symptoms of Histrionic Disorder
All people who have a histrionic issue are never short of social skills, unlike anxiety or depression. Their characters are completely the opposite. People can go one of six ways when they are suffering from HPD. These are:
1. Appeasing Histrionic
— Surprisingly, this is very much opposite to the standard definition of HPD. These people are always trying to resolve troubles instead of causing them. In fact, they are so strongly against any kind of differences or arguments that they would cause a scene to stop a scene!
2. Vivacious Histrionic
— These are very bright and charming people, and they bask in their own glorious existence. Very cheerful and playful, they are often seductive and would forget about common sense in order to capture the love at any cost.
3. Tempestuous Histrionic
— They are the most common type of HPD patients. With explosive, erratic behavior, they live a turbulent life studded with shouting matches and confrontations. They complain about anything and everything, and are very hard to control.
4. Disingenuous Histrionic
— These people are rather inclined towards the illegal and shady lifestyle. They are often quite clever people, but they use most of that brain power towards evil. They are always scheming, plotting, planning something. You can’t expect sincerity and loyalty from these people.
5. Theatrical Histrionic
— Also called the pure histrionic, this pattern of behavior displays the most peacock-like tendencies. A person with this issue will act very “uppity” — very noble and civilized in appearance, will have grand postures, will talk in a dramatic manner as if acting in a movie, and will generally care a lot for personal appearance.
6. Infantile Histrionic
— Probably the hardest to cure among all of them, they show borderline fanatic behavior, latching on to one person. They often behave in a childlike manner, easily pouting, throwing tantrums, demanding attention etc. However, most of this behavior will be targeted towards one person only. They are very much scared of leaving that person.
Other Histrionic Behavior
Besides the above, a significant trait seen in most HPD cases is gullibility. Almost all HPD patients are very easily influenced by what other people are saying. They get highly reactive to suggestions of others and events happening on/near them.
Another strong trait of HPD is excessive romantic behaviors. A histrionic person will fall in love easily and quickly, and will think the relationship depth is much more than what it actually is. They love making big romantic gestures and often disrespect personal boundaries with their spouses.
Due to the highly active mind, a histrionic person can get bored easily. Their brains are made to multitask, and a routine, stable life bothers them very much. A portion of the histrionic type is adventure sports, thrill seeking people, always going off climbing things that should not be climbed or similar behavior. Needless to say, this sort of behavior often results in terrible injuries — and even death.
What Causes HPD
It is hard to say exactly what causes HPD, but many professionals think that childhood treatment plays a major role in this. What kind of behavior a child was encouraged or discouraged for gets reinforced in their brain and later makes them unconsciously follow that attitude. Or, a child can simply learn dramatic behavior.
However, it is well-documented that histrionic disorders run in the family, suggesting there is a strong genetic underline to this. The problem is that it is very hard to figure out if the child has gotten the dramatic trait through the genes naturally, or simply watched and picked up such behavior from the father or mother.
Previously we have said that women are 4 times more prone to HPD than men. Well, that may not be strictly correct. Some psychologists and sociologists believe that women are more easily diagnosed with histrionic disorder because they are expected, by default, to behave very modestly. Especially in underdeveloped countries, sexual forwardness in women is often associated with insanity; while the truth may simply be HPD.
Can Histrionic Behavior be Treated
First, let us mention it strongly that on its own a little bit of histrionic behavior isn’t harmful, so there is no need to worry about it. After all, what’s life without a bit of colorful behavior? Indeed, our media is full of overacting and overreacting heroes and heroines — we love them easily enough.
Complications about treating HPD
But the problem comes when it actually starts to hurt you and people around you. Where a cool mind and professionalism is needed, a histrionic person can destabilize the whole situation. It is hard to love an excessively clingy or needy person, and many relationships have gone bust due to simply overreacting to natural behavior.
The complication with treating Histrionic Personality Disorder is the unreliability of the patient himself or herself. Due to the very nature of their thought process, they may get excited about their own problem and exaggerate and distort the facts about symptoms. That is why if a licensed mental health professional in India diagnoses a person with HPD, they would want to talk to the friends and family of the patient to see the real picture.
When diagnosed properly, the next challenge comes in the form of the patient’s own dissent. Even when aware of their own condition, it is observed that HPD patients are very much unwilling to change. They love their own flamboyant, dramatic, powerful self, and they don’t want to “demote” themselves to a more normalized level. Indeed, most of them will strongly oppose any kind of treatment, insisting that they are perfectly normal and you are an enemy for suggesting it.
Chances of cure
One of the most common reasons why these people would actually agree to treatment is depression. This can happen due to a massive failure (losing a job due to unprofessional behavior, or rejection in love) in life. Only then they would see something wrong in themselves and agree to be fixed. Then the doctor can take steps to dissolve the root cause.
If depression and/or anxiety exists strongly in the patient, some medication can be given before starting the actual treatment. The only known effective treatment of histrionic disorder is psychotherapy. That is, talking to the patient, exploring the roots of the issues in their mind, and slowly pruning out the fears and obsessions.
A histrionic disorder patient is generally one of the most noticeable people on the floor — they are always loud, in the center of things, causing a scene, or being the scene! It starts from there, but it doesn’t end there. A histrionic patient with some narcissism is one of the worst members a family can have, and they can make their lives hell. Friends and family must take steps to cure this person.