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what is it and how to overcome it

Histrionic personality disorder (HPD) affects about 2-3 percent of the population. But in an age where some levels of narcissism are encouraged, even celebrated, someone you know could be quietly suffering. 

We probably all have that friend who you have to basically pry their phone away when you’re trying to engage in conversation.

They’re obsessed with ‘likes’ and selfies, they constantly ask for your approval of their Insta outfit and buy everything their favourite influencer is wears. But could there be a more serious reason behind it? It’s possible.

Social media has given us the opportunity to indulge in a bit of narcissism from time to time, and while it can be harmless fun for many people, this constant obsession with self can activate or worsen the symptoms of a little-known personality disorder.

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Characterised by risky or manipulative attention-seeking, emotional overreaction, and flirtatious behaviour in inappropriate situations, per Psychology Today, it’s believed histrionic personality disorder (HPD) affects about 2-3 percent of the population, and psychologists believe social media could be exacerbating it.

Simply put, someone with HPD relies almost solely on the approval of others for their self-esteem.

“Social media can persistently allow people to draw attention to themselves through their physical appearance by giving them the chance to upload pictures that give them psychological rewards from followers,” writes Dr. Caroline Kamau.

Commonly developed in early adulthood, “social media is likely unhelpful to people with a biological or social predisposition towards the disorder,” though little is known about its causes and “everyone should consider the potential risks.”

Dr. Kamau outlines the symptoms to look out for, though someone with the disorder will show at least five of the below in different contexts:

  1. Considering relationships to be more intimate than they actually are.
  2. Being easily influenced by other people or circumstances.
  3. Being theatrical and dramatic in expressing emotions.
  4. Speaking in a way that is excessively impressionistic but lacking in detail.
  5. Consistently drawing attention to oneself through physical appearance.
  6. Expressing emotions that are shallow in that shifting rapidly from one extreme to another, or from one emotion to another.
  7. Engaging in seductive or provocative behaviour during ordinary social interactions where that kind of behaviour is inappropriate.
  8. Feeling uncomfortable in situations where one is not the centre of attention.

Generally, people with HPD do not believe they need treatment and tend to dislike routine. Following a treatment plan, therefore, can be difficult.

Psychotherapy, a type of counselling, is generally the recommended form of treatment to encourage the individual to talk through their insecurities and help them relate to others in a more positive and constructive way.

Mental health professionals are available 24/7 at the beyondblue Support Service – 1300 22 46 36 or via beyondblue.org.au/get-support for online chat (3pm-12am AEST) or email response.