June 11th, 2012
05:45 PM ET

What is histrionic personality disorder?

The trial of  Jerry Sandusky has begun. Prosecutors accuse the former Penn State assistant football coach of abusing at least 10 boys, allegations that have become widely known.

What may be less familiar is a mental illness his lawyers are connecting with him: Histrionic personality disorder.  The defense attorneys say they intend to offer expert testimony from a psychologist who "will explain that the words, tones, requests and statements made in the letters are consistent with a person who suffers from a Histrionic Personality Disorder," according to documents.

Histrionic personality disorder is part of a class of conditions called dramatic personality disorders, which are marked by unstable emotions and distorted self-images, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

For these people, self-esteem doesn't come from true feelings of self worth, but rather from the approval from other people, and those suffering from this disorder will often engage in dramatic or inappropriate behaviors to call attention to themselves.

“People develop this disorder because they have a need to be appreciated and to feel valued and worthwhile and special,” said Nadine Kaslow, psychologist at Emory University School of Medicine, who has not treated Sandusky.

About 2% to 3% of the general population is thought to have histrionic personality disorder, she said.  "We all have traits that resemble this, but it becomes a problem when all of the symptoms are combined in a way that makes functioning difficult."

Inflicting sexual abuse is not a commonly recognized trait of this condition, but sexually-provocative behavior is, she adds.

People with this personality disorder may also change emotions rapidly, overly dwell on physical appearance, and take criticism or disapproval sensitively. They are easily influenced by others and make rash decisions, according to the Cleveland Clinic.  Rarely showing concern for others, they often find it challenging to maintain relationships.  People with histrionic personality disorder may even threaten or attempt suicide for the sake of getting attention.

No one knows what causes this disorder, but experts say it's probably a combination of nature and nurture.  The personality disorder can run in families, suggesting a genetic connection, but children may also be influenced by their parents in ways that would lead kids to crave attention or be confused about how to get parents' approval.

The standard treatment for this disorder is a type of counseling called psychotherapy, in which a mental health professional helps the person delve into what's causing their thoughts and behaviors, and figure out how to create more positive relationships. Depression and anxiety may be issues for some patients, and may be treated with medications.  But generally this personality disorder has not received a lot of attention in terms of evidence-based treatments, Kaslow said.

It's important to seek help if you believe you have symptoms of histrionic personality disorder, especially if it's causing trouble in your romantic or professional life.

soundoff (803 Responses)
  1. appomannoni

    tens 7000 erectile dysfunction kayamy natural erectile supplements
    best erectile dysfunction supplement slilicy erectile doctor memphis tn
    erectile tissue in men sicAdofs is erectile dysfunction caused by diabetes

    June 11, 2021 at 12:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. appomannoni

    erectile damage kayamy soma erectile dysfunction
    what does erectile dysfunction mean slilicy erectile disf
    erectile deficiency sicAdofs natural erectile supplements

    June 12, 2021 at 03:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. EncoxDev

    pharmacy tech online class princeton university store pharmacy northwestern pharmacy in canada

    June 12, 2021 at 09:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. appomannoni

    erectile diffusion kayamy top erectile dysfunction doctors in tx
    is erectile dysfunction common slilicy why sudden erectile dysfunction
    erectile disorder dsm v sicAdofs erectile pills sample

    June 12, 2021 at 13:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. chloroquine nz

    hydroxychloroquinine buy chloroquine phosphate tablets hydroxychoroquine

    June 12, 2021 at 15:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Lisha Pirone

    Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is essentially a online game where you can do anything you want. SL is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you would like to see more you can see these second life articles and blogs


    June 12, 2021 at 19:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. appomannoni

    erectile disorder icd 10 kayamy erectile injection therapy plan
    erectile massage therapy slilicy erectile function cocaine abuse
    erectile organs pha sicAdofs erectile device

    June 12, 2021 at 21:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. appomannoni

    erectile disorder treatment kayamy erectile on demand pdf
    erectile assistance slilicy erectile boosting medication
    erectile medication where to purchase sicAdofs can erectile dysfunction be fixed

    June 13, 2021 at 04:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Ned Py

    I don't know about you guys but I am obsessed with airplanes. I have a friend in highschool that loved airplanes, so here are some airplane related stuff I don't know about you guys but I love airplanes. I had a friend in highschool that loved airplanes, so here are some airplane related stuff https://www.airlinereporter.com/2010/11/american-airlines-to-introduce-on-board-happy-hour/


    June 13, 2021 at 06:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. appomannoni

    which erectile dysfunction pills work kayamy erectile creams rite aid
    buy erectile dysfunction meds slilicy erectile lump
    can erectile dysfunction be cured naturally sicAdofs erectile deficiency

    June 13, 2021 at 12:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. EncoxAni

    rite aid pharmacy store closings express scripts online pharmacy generic rx online pharmacy

    June 13, 2021 at 14:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. CrulkAsd

    us cialis purchase dapoxetine with cialis online pharmacy for cialis

    June 13, 2021 at 18:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. appomannoni

    erectile pictures kayamy cheapest erectile dysfunction pill
    erectile pills that work slilicy erectile mastery program
    erectile desensitization sicAdofs erectile on demand

    June 13, 2021 at 20:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Ryan Comings

    I don't know about you people but I love airplanes. I had a friend in highschool that loved airplanes, so here are some airplane related stuff I don't know about you guys but I love airplanes. I had a friend in highschool that loved airplanes, so here are some airplane related stuff https://www.airlinereporter.com/2011/02/attention-seattle-peeps-looking-for-aviation-themed-restaraunts-and-bars/


    June 13, 2021 at 20:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. appomannoni

    erectile tension rings kayamy erectile deficiency
    erectile deformity slilicy erectile at 43
    is erectile dysfunction dangerous sicAdofs muse for erectile dysfunction

    June 14, 2021 at 04:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. MileSwa

    cialis self life generic cialis from india safe cialis indien bezahlung mit paypal

    June 14, 2021 at 05:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. appomannoni

    erectile dysfunction pump kayamy erectile booster method book
    erectile vacuum pump slilicy erectile medical vacuum pump
    best erectile medicine sicAdofs reviews of erectile dysfunction treatment

    June 14, 2021 at 12:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. appomannoni

    erectile pills kayamy erectile medicine new zealand silvasta
    erectile pumps slilicy erectile bleeding
    erectile injections pics sicAdofs can erectile dysfunction caused by guilt

    June 14, 2021 at 19:42 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Leave a Reply to GtnbCrulk


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.