© 2012 By Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq.
Histrionics operate so much on the emotional surface that relationships with them are difficult and superficial. Those close to a Histrionic usually maintain an emotional distance while dealing with them and the problems they cause. Those who remain in their lives often become resigned to letting someone else’s crises be the focus of their lives.
Histrionics can be fascinating and exciting. Friendships and romantic relationships with Histrionics usually start intensely, but end up as disasters. They may be stormy for years, then have dramatic endings. Temper tantrums, manipulations, and angry outbursts can be common.
A Histrionic may use emotions to get your attention, to make countless demands on you, and to try to persuade you of something. However, these emotions are generally more superficial and unfocused than the intense emotions of someone with Borderline Personality Disorder.
Histrionics may seek out authority figures to help them solve problems, then become easily disappointed. They’re very suggestible and may incorporate recent news events into their own stories of harrowing experiences. In legal disputes, they may allege that they are victims of the latest abuse trend in the news.
Fabrication, or making things up, is common and appears in a range of behaviors, from simple exaggeration to the complete description of nonexistent events. Researchers describe many Histrionics as unconcerned about truthful details if distortion does a better job (Ford, 1996).
While noted for their skills at lying, Histrionics are generally not considered to have the same hostile motivations as those with Antisocial personalities. However, some researchers have found a close similarity with antisocial behavior for some Histrionics. Apparently some prisoners, when deprived of the ability to engage in antisocial behaviors like lying and cheating, will shift to Histrionic crying and whining behaviors instead (Ford, 1996).
Generally, this deceitfulness is intended to get people to pay attention to them or to like them. However, since most of their emotions are simply on the surface, their deception and shallowness eventually anger or irritate most people—who then try to escape being around them. True intimacy is unlikely for Histrionics. They deceive themselves as much as anyone.
High Conflict Dynamics
Neighborhood and workplace disputes may give the Histrionic a great opportunity to get attention for no real reason. Their complaints may draw attention, but then turn out to lack any real substance. Histrionics can alienate people around them quicker than most HCPs. Their constant emotional alarm-sounding pushes most people away, fast.
Those with HPD (histrionic personality disorder) may attempt to shock or surprise family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and professionals with provocative behavior or with reports of provocative behavior by others. Disputes are often marked by frequent crises, emergency phone calls, or sudden appearances by the HP and dramatic reports of someone else’s misbehavior. However, the Histrionic’s emotions and provocations are usually the source of the problem—the other people’s behavior often doesn’t fit the dramatic complaints. …
Bill Eddy is a lawyer, therapist, and mediator. He is the co-founder and Training Director of the High Conflict Institute, a training and consultation firm that trains professionals to deal with high conflict people and situations. He is the author of several books and methods for handling high conflict personalities and high conflict disputes with the most difficult people.