Histrionic personality disorder (HPD) is a psychological condition that can cause a person to engage in attention-seeking behavior. People with this condition often feel uncomfortable when they are not receiving attention from those around them.

Having a personality disorder can make it challenging to maintain healthy relationships with friends, family, and partners. It is important for anyone who has a relationship with a person who has HPD to understand the condition and how to navigate their relationship.

Those with HPD may feel extremely uncomfortable when they feel someone is ignoring them, which can result in a volatile or extreme emotional reaction.

This article discusses further details of HPD, the impact of ignoring a person with HPD, and how to manage living with a person who has this condition.

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According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), one of the defining characteristics of HPD is a pattern of excessive attention seeking, as well as feeling uncomfortable when not the center of attention. This means that ignoring someone with HPD may cause them to have a strong emotional reaction and possibly increase their attention-seeking behavior.

Someone may choose to ignore a person with HPD as they don’t want to reinforce their attention-seeking behavior. However, it is important to be aware of the distress this may cause the person with HPD; they may behave impulsively or erratically when they believe someone is ignoring them.

Learn more about HPD.

What is HPD?

HPD is a cluster B personality disorder with a prevalence of around 2–3%. This condition may cause a person to experience exaggerated emotions and engage in excessive attention-seeking behaviors. Other cluster B personality disorders include narcissistic personality disorder and borderline personality disorder.

Researchers do not know for sure what causes HPD, but is likely a combination of factors, including experiences of childhood trauma and certain parenting styles. For example, a child may develop mechanisms to cope with traumatic experiences, which then develop into a personality disorder as they get older.

A child may be more likely to develop HPD if, during childhood, their parents lacked boundaries and engaged in volatile, inconsistent, or inappropriate behavior around them.

Histrionic traits

A person with HPD may exhibit the following traits and behaviors:

  • frequent flirtatious or seductive behaviour
  • feeling uncomfortable when not the center of attention
  • frequently changing emotions that seem shallow or insincere
  • using appearance or clothing to attract attention
  • speaking in a vague way that lacks details
  • exaggerated or overly dramatic emotions
  • being easily influenced by others
  • thinking relationships with others are closer than they really are
  • engaging in manipulative behaviors
  • engaging in impulsive behavior

People with HPD may have issues maintaining their relationships with others, often experiencing relationship breakdown or damaging relationships through actions such as inappropriate sexual behavior. A person may recognize that their friend, partner, or family member is overly flirtatious with others, regardless of their personal relationships, and that their feelings seem inconsistent or insincere.

Those with HPD may constantly attempt to become the center of attention, feel they need to entertain everyone around them, and express their emotions in a dramatic way.

When a doctor diagnoses HPD, they examine a person’s behavioral patterns over time. Just because a person occasionally shows some behaviors that have an association with HPD does not necessarily mean they have this condition.

The gray rock method, or gray rocking, is a technique that some people use when interacting with manipulative or abusive people. A person using this method will remain calm and neutral and not engage with someone who is attempting to get a reaction from them. People use this technique when interacting with people who have narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), which shares some similarities with HPD, including attention-seeking behavior.

The intention of someone using the gray rock method is to make the person lose interest in interacting with them or trying to get their attention. Anecdotal evidence suggests that it can be a helpful tool for detaching from emotionally abusive relationships. However, in some situations, gray rocking may cause the person to escalate their behavior and attempt more extreme ways to get their target’s attention.

Living with somebody who has a personality disorder such as HPD can be difficult. It is important to make sure that everyone in this environment feels as safe and comfortable as possible.

Some methods for managing while living with someone who has a personality disorder include:

  • learning about their condition
  • learning their triggers
  • setting and maintaining boundaries
  • communicating calmly and honestly
  • taking a break when needed
  • avoiding engaging in attention-seeking behaviors

Learn more about cluster B personality disorders.

For friends, family, and partners of someone with a personality disorder, it is important to recognize when they need support or guidance in managing the relationship. Support groups, one-on-one therapy, or therapy together with that person may be beneficial.

HPD is a personality disorder that can cause a person to display exaggerated emotions and engage in attention-seeking behavior. A person with HPD may find it very uncomfortable when they are not the center of attention, meaning that ignoring this person may result in them becoming distressed or escalating attention-seeking behavior.

It can be difficult to maintain close relationships with someone who has HPD, but getting support and guidance on how to navigate these relationships may be beneficial.