I am Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.
Most of the patients with histrionic personality disorder are women.
This fact immediately raises the question, is histrionic personality disorder a real mental health problem, or is it a culture-bound syndrome which reflects the values of a patriarchal and misogynistic society?
After all, no man is labeled histrionic. A man with similar traits to a histrionic woman is bound to be admired as a macho, or at worst, labeled a womanizer.
Histrionics resemble narcissists. They both crave and seek attention compulsively, and they are markedly dysphoric and uncomfortable when they are not at the center of attention. Both histrionic and narcissists have to be the life of the party. If they fail in achieving this pivotal role, they act out, they create hysterical sins, or they confabulate.
Like the somatic narcissist, the histrionic is preoccupied with physical appearance, with sexual conquests, with her health, or with her body.
The typical histrionic spends huge dollops of money and expend inordinate amounts of time on grooming herself and titivating. Histrionics fish for compliments, and they are very upset when confronted with criticism, or with proof that they are not as glamorous or alluring as they thought they are.
Unlike narcissists, though, histrionics are genuinely enthusiastic, open, emotional, warm, and empathic, up to the point of being maudlin or sentimental. Histrionics also strive to fit in, to mingle, to blend, and to become part of groups, collectives, and social institutions. They are very big on belonging.
Histrionics sexualize everyone in every situation. Histrionics constantly act flirtatious, provocative, and seductive, even when such behavior is not warranted by circumstances, or where still is prescribed and highly inappropriate, for instance in professional and occupational settings, or in a funeral. Such conduct, highly sexualized conduct, is often ill-received. People usually find this unabashed directness and undisguised hunger for approval annoying or outright repulsive.
Consequently, histrionics are sometimes subject to social censure and ostracism.
The histrionic leverages this libidinous excess and overt emotionality to gain the attention she craves.
But the histrionics' intensity and unpredictability are exhausting. The histrionics' nearest and dearest are often embarrassed by her unbridled display of emotions, hugging casual acquaintances, uncontrollable sobbing in public, or having temper tantrums.
The histrionics' behavior is so off-color that she is typically accused of being a fake, which she is not.
As the histrionic depletes one source of narcissistic supply after another, she glides from one relationship to the next, experiencing a range of shallow feelings and commitments in the process. This shallowness is reflected in the histrionic speech, which is impressionistic, disjointed, and generalized.
Concerned only with the latest conquest, the histrionic uses her physical appearance and attire as a kind of conscious bait. It is ironic that histrionics often mistake the depth, durability, and intimacy of their relationships and are devastated by their inevitable premature termination.
Histrionics are the quintessential drama queens. They are theatrical. Their emotions exaggerated to the point of caricature. Their gestures are sweeping, disproportional, and inappropriate.
The histrionic is easily suggestible and responds instantly and fully to the slightest change in circumstances and to the most meaningless communication or behavior by others. Histrionics are early adopters and closely adhere to the latest fads and fashions. Society would have been far less colorful without them.