The Explosive Personality: Understanding Histrionic Traits
Do you know someone who is emotionally explosive (blowing up at the slightest thing, becoming hysterical over minor infractions), self-centered, rageful, and distorted self-image? Have you found yourself repeatedly blamed and devalued in confrontations or arguments with this person? Have you noticed this person is desperate for attention, shifts emotions quickly, and “performs” his/her emotions as if they are the center of a stage play? If so, this article is for you.
Histrionic Personality Disorder is a personality disorder characterized as a cluster B disorder in the DSM ( Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). Cluster B disorders are characterized by emotionally unstable, dramatic, attention-seeking individuals who have unstable interpersonal relationships with others and often function in detrimental ways. Cluster B personality disorders include:
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder
- Borderline Personality Disorder
- Histrionic Personality Disorder
- Antisocial Personality Disorder (sociopathy/Psychopathy)
A personality disorder (a long pattern of inflexible traits) is difficult to treat with both medication and therapy, but therapy, according to research has been the most successful in helping the individual develop an awareness of the effects of their behaviors on others. Therapy with individuals with personality disorders can not only require long-term treatment, but also has the possibility of rendering little to no positive results in the person’s life. This is most true for individuals who do not believe they need to change or have a problem. Individuals with personality disorders, especially the cluster B personalities, are often forced into treatment by family members, loved ones, or are court-ordered to treatment after committing a crime. Many do not seek therapy on their own. Their attitude is often: “why should I seek therapy if I am already perfect?”
As a therapist, my journey with personality disorders has been tough. Although I specialize in behavioral and mood disorders, personality disorders are often concurrent with depression, anxiety, or oppositional traits in the adolescent population. A recent experience with a histrionic individual reminded me of the serious and damaging nature of cluster B disorders. A histrionic individual, primarily women, have the ability to not only drain others, but control their emotions with their dramatic displays of anger, resentment, self-love, and devaluation of others. They can be dangerously convincing to someone who is unfamiliar with histrionic personality traits. They can convince an audience of severe abuse or maltreatment and often seem to control the emotions of others with their expansive emotions. It can be almost impossible to not believe a histrionic personality. Their emotional upset and sometimes alluring personality and appearance can make it difficult to decipher truth from fiction with these individuals.
Families, caregivers, strangers, friends, neighbors, and even mental health professionals often become the victims to these types of individuals. Their egotistic, social insensitivity, and marked naiveté about their own mental health, causes them to point fingers and assume that everyone is out to get them, deceive them, or misuse them. There is often an inflated, yet insecure sense of self-worth that underlies most behavior. Histrionic individuals often exhibit a seductive social intelligence an d a self-seeking social attitude that will provide benefits for them (e.g., money, a spouse, prestige, attention, admiration, sexual favors, drugs, etc.). Some histrionic personalities often live their lives as if they are performing in their own dramatic stage play or X-rated movie. Histrionic personalities can also become intensified if there are delinquent or criminal predispositions that cause devious or overly defiant behaviors. These individuals may “design” a course of life for themselves that will prove to everyone how unfairly they are or have been treated. Most are easily provoked to anger, tears, or extreme emotional reactions. Pathological lying, manipulation, two-facedness, and a lack of loyalty and deep emotional connections can make living with such individuals like the fiery place on earth.
Have you experienced someone in your life who fits the histrionic traits listed above? As always, feel free to share. Next week we will discuss how to cope with the histrionic personality.
I wish you well
MedPlus. (2014). Histrionic Personality Disorder. Retrieved May 3,2014 from, http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001531.htm.
WebMD. (2014). Histrionic Personality Disorder. Retrieved May 3,2014 from,http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/histrionic-personality-disorder.
Hill, T. (2018). The Explosive Personality: Understanding Histrionic Traits. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 22, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/caregivers/2014/05/the-explosive-personality-understanding-histrionic-traits/