How Does Histrionic Personality Disorder Contribute to Drug Abuse?

Histrionic personality disorder is a mental health condition characterized by patterns of attention seeking behavior and excessive emotionality. Individuals with histrionic personality disorder constantly attempt to be the center of attention and feel uncomfortable when they are not the focus of others. The attention seeking behavior of persons with histrionic personality disorder is usually dramatic and over-the-top. While these individuals generally do capture the attention of others, the attention is often not “good” attention; their behaviors create negative feelings and reactions in others.

Symptoms of histrionic personality disorder usually appear during the teen years or early 20’s, although individuals cannot be diagnosed with the disorder until age 18. To be diagnosed, an individual must persistently display five symptoms of the disorder. Symptoms of histrionic personality disorder include:

  • Needing to be the center of attention; self-centeredness
  • Having difficulty in situations when one is not the center of attention
  • Behaving in inappropriate, sexually seductive or provocative ways
  • Over-dramatization, theatricality and exaggerated expression of emotions
  • Overly-sensitive to criticism and disapproval
  • Extremely concerned with appearance
  • Being highly suggestible or easily influenced by others
  • Blaming failure and problems on others
  • Thinking relationships are more intimate than they actually are
  • Needing constant positive reinforcement, reassurance and approval from others
  • Showing rapid change in emotions, appearing fake and shallow to others

Because of their penchant for extreme and attention-grabbing behavior, individuals with histrionic personality disorder may also be more likely to engage in risky and dangerous behavior.

The Connection between Histrionic Personality Disorder and Drug Abuse

While most individuals with histrionic personality disorder are able to function at a high level, the disorder can cause difficulties and interfere with one’s quality of life, health and wellbeing. Because of this, the disorder commonly leads to the development of drug abuse and addictive behaviors.

Depression, anxiety disorders, panic disorders, body dysmorphic disorders and PTSD are all conditions closely associated with histrionic personality disorder, and it is quite common for two disorders to co-exist. These psychiatric disorders are all correlated with a higher risk for drug abuse and addiction, and can contribute to the connection between histrionic personality disorder and drug abuse.

The exact cause of histrionic personality disorder is unknown, but researchers believe causation is due to a combination of factors or a biopsychosocial model of causation, meaning that a variety of genetic, biological, social, psychological and environmental factors have contributed to the nature of this condition. Individuals with histrionic personality disorder may have experienced trauma, lack healthy coping skills, have a biological makeup that interferes with healthy emotional response function and behavior, or have social, family and cultural experiences that contribute to their development of histrionic personality disorder. All of these factors increase the risk for developing substance abuse and addictive behaviors in order to cope or self-medicate.

Furthermore, individuals with histrionic personality disorder seek the approval of others to define their own self-worth and self-esteem. This means individuals with the disorder are rarely satisfied and often live an unfulfilling life.  It is common for these individuals to experience inner struggles with self-doubt, self-identity and self-hatred. Drugs and alcohol are often sought-out to quiet these inner battles and numb painful emotions.

How Do You Treat Co-Occurring Histrionic Personality Disorder and Drug Abuse?

Individuals struggling with co-occurring histrionic personality disorder and drug abuse can find specialized treatment to address both conditions simultaneously, allowing for better and longer recovery results. Comprehensive addiction treatment may involve any or all of the following: drug rehab, detox, medication, diet, psychodynamic therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, family therapy, group therapy, support groups, alternative therapies, biofeedback, skills training, and relapse prevention.

If you are looking for treatment for co-occurring disorders, please call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline. A recovery professional is ready to answer your questions and help you find the treatment you need.