Dr. David B. Adams – Psychological Blog

Psychology of Illness, Pain, Anxiety and Depression

The Histrionic Patient

histrionicDramatic, theatric and impressionistic behavior does not occur to this extent in “normal”  individuals. It is seen in histrionic (often referred to as hysterical) individuals (most often women, but certainly not always) in which there is a pattern of rapidly shifting and shallow emotions. These are the patients who can be agonizingly tearful and suddenly calm and equally as suddenly repentant or angry or briefly sullen.

You will find that they are uncomfortable if they are not the center of attention. Histrionic individuals are highly suggestible, and when you offer a symptom to them, they are immediately convinced that they have this symptom and any other you care to mention.

They will offer a great deal of verbiage, length and dramatic explanations, yet you find that there is no substance or helpful data in what they provide.

Emotions seem exaggerated as though they are performing in a play. Histrionic individuals will be overly familiar with staff in offices and often overly demonstrative seeking to hug, touch and otherwise treat relationships as though they are more intimate than they actually are.

The best management for such patients is brief, direct, concrete, communication without excessive latitude within which they can become overly dramatic. Be matter-of-fact, objective and avoid the tangents that the patient will attempt to introduce.

For these patients, an injury (as an illness) provides a stage on which they can perform and feed what is often an insatiable need for attention.


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