Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD) is a mental condition characterized by a number of traits, including extreme extroversion, obsession with personal appearance, and an often inappropriate use of seduction to manipulate others. A person with HPD is quite often the life of a party, with an engaging personality and a natural lack of social inhibition. Ironically, the positive traits displayed by a sufferer match much of what society usually considers to be ideal behavior. Those with HPD often rise high in social and business circles because of their outgoing personalities and lofty ambitions.
However, HPD is considered to be a personality disorder for a reason. While sufferers may display all of the qualities admired by others, many of them are also plagued by internal thoughts of inferiority. While someone with this condition may express empathy or affection, the actual level of emotional connection quite often ends at the surface. Someone with HPD can mimic, or even exaggerate, an appropriate emotional response, but his or her selfish nature often prevents a true bond with others. A true sufferer could feel lost in a crowd if he or she is not constantly the center of attention.
The "histrionic" element of HPD is often displayed as dramatic outbursts which are rarely commensurate with the triggering incident. An adult with HPD can literally burst into a childish temper tantrum following an argument with a romantic partner. Sufferers tend to revert to the emotional manipulations of childhood whenever they feel powerless. Many people may have first-hand experiences with so-called "drama queens" who tend to fly off the handle whenever the slightest hint of conflict arises. Others with HPD may create an atmosphere in which others feel compelled to acquiesce to their needs rather than provoke an emotionally charged responses.
Both men and women are susceptible to the development of HPD, which many experts believe has both genetic and social origins. Women with this condition tend to pursue unrealistic relationships, often projecting idealized qualities onto less-than-ideal partners. Sexual promiscuity is also a hallmark symptom of HPD, as is recreational drug use. Women with HPD may also spend hours working on their physical appearance, from excessive workouts to the overuse of cosmetics. Negative emotions are often bottled up in favor of exaggerated smiles and a penchant for hedonistic behavior in public.
Treating HPD can be a difficult process, because many sufferers fail to see their behavior as problematic. They may only seek treatment voluntarily after a volatile romantic break-up or complete social ostracism by those who can no longer tolerate the person's self-absorbed behavior. Others may be ordered into professional counseling as a result of illegal or immoral acts. Psychologists can prescribe anti-depressants to address some of the behavioral issues, and long-term psychotherapy may help HPD sufferers understand how destructive their self-absorbed lifestyle choices can be to themselves and others.