Hysteria Personality Disorder

by Carol Gomes

Hysteria personality disorder or hysteria histrionic personality disorder is the modern term for what was known as ‘hysterical disorder’ in the past. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines this condition as: “A pervasive pattern of excessive emotionality and attention seeking, beginning by early adulthood and present in varying of contexts.”

This is a disorder in which a person dresses and behaves in a such a way as to seek attention or approval from others. Additionally, they are also extremely emotional, with a need to be suggestive as well as manipulate to gain attention. This disorder is four times more common in women than in men and is by no means uncommon, with 2 to 3 percent of the population suffering from it.

Men who suffer from similar symptoms are usually diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, or antisocial behavior. Often these personality disorders are comorbid with hysteria personality disorder. In this article, we will discuss in brief the causes, symptoms and treatment of this disorder.


In the past, hysteria personality disorder was only associated with women. In fact, people believed that this personality disorder was somehow likened to the womb or the uterus as only women seemed to suffer from it. It was only in the late 19th century that it was discovered that men too could suffer from this condition, although not as prevalent as in women. It was, however, Sigmund Freud who connected this disorder to a psychological problem.


The exact cause of hysteria personality disorder is not known. However, there are a few factors that psychologists feel cause this problem. Listed below are some of the causes that are believed to trigger this condition.

  • Environmental Factors – If as a child you always watched your parents argue and fight, death of a close family member, or even a serious sickness in the family that leads to an anxious state of mind.
  • Genetic traits that are passed down from parent to child.
  • Psychological distance from both or one parent.


Below are some of the common characteristic traits exhibited in hysterical personality disorder. A person with this condition is expected to display at least five of these symptoms to classify under this disorder.

  • Feels out of depth in situations where they are not the center of attention. Constantly, feels the need to be approved and to be liked
  • Provocative or seductive behavior
  • Overly emotional, which others tend to think of as fake
  • Excessively concerned about their looks. Takes a lot of effort to look different by dressing differently as well as using more make up than most normal people do
  • Overly dramatic
  • Speech tends to be shallow
  • Very easily swayed by others and circumstances
  • Believes that they are very close with certain people, when in reality they aren't
  • Extremely selfish and egocentric
  • Easily hurt, but lack of consideration for others

All this does not mean that people who suffer from this disorder will seem odd. In fact, they may be just the opposite, as most people who suffer from this disorder will seem outwardly extremely sociable, lively and entertaining. The risks associated with this disorder are their total absorption in themselves, making them not have any consideration for others, resulting in problems in relationships. Often, when relationships do not work out, a person with this personality disorder can get extremely depressed and suicidal.


Usually, no one seeks treatment for this problem as most people do not consider this a problem at all. The main circumstance when this disorder gets diagnosed in the first place is when the person seeks counseling for depression after a failed relationship. Treatment involves treating the depression with antidepressant medication, counseling and psychotherapy.


  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7400796
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9780399
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19008729

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