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Social Sci LibreTexts

8.30: Histrionic Personality Disorder

  • Page ID
    23223
  • Name: Michael Scott
    Source: The Office (American television show, 2005-2011)

    Background Information

    Michael Scott is a forty-six year old Caucasian male from Scranton, Pennsylvania. Scott is the regional manager at Dunder Mifflin Inc., a local paper and printer distribution company, where he has worked for the last fifteen years. There are no known medical conditions held by Scott, though his family history is unknown. He claims to be of English, Irish, German, Scottish, and Native American descent, though this is unconfirmed, and perhaps an exaggeration. The patient’s outward appearance is well put together, as he presents as a business professional, and there are no obvious health concerns. Despite his seemingly composed demeanor, Scott displays exaggerated emotions and reactions. In addition to this, romantic relationships have proven turbulent for Scott throughout his life, as he goes from one relationship to the next with the other person usually being the one to end it. He has few close friends or relatives, and tends to perceive new friendships as closer than they actually are. Scott believes his subordinates to be his family, and often times gets involved in their personal lives without their consent. His parents divorced when he was young (age unknown), and he displays clear resentment towards his stepfather and sister, whom he once didn’t talk to for fifteen years. Scott has a very close relationship with his mother now, though this was not case when he was a child. Though Scott seems to be lacking in managerial style, responsibility, and delegation, he demonstrates above average sales abilities due to his personable qualities. Scott does not have a history of drug or alcohol abuse, though he will drink in social situations and when pressured to do so by coworkers.

    Description of the Problem

    The patient demonstrates many personality traits that could be indicative of a variety of disorders. Scott seeks attention every opportunity he gets, and this often interferes with his ability to function in his job as manager. In addition to attention-seeking, Scott often interrupts his subordinates from working to discuss his personal life. This behavior not only affects his ability to work, but it interferes with the overall productivity of the office. It is Scott’s belief that he should not be seen as just a boss, but more of a close friend and even family member, to the dismay of his subordinates. This expectation of a close bond leads Scott to display rapidly shifting emotions, from exuberant and hopeful, to depressed and hopeless. There seems to be a lack of consistency in his behavior, rather a dramatic shift from extremely happy to irreversibly sad. In Scott’s depressed state, he feels as if the entire office should be focused on his problem and that others’ problems pale in comparison, such as his birthday being of more importance than a coworkers cancer scare. When he is happy, however, work at the office ceases to a halt, as his well-being is put before the needs of the company. In addition to his attention-seeking and rapidly shifting emotions, the patient is easily suggestible and is often the victim of pyramid schemes and persuasive coworkers. Scott also shows a pattern of theatric behavior, including different characters, voices, and personalities, in which he uses as distractions on a constant basis.

    Diagnosis

    The diagnosis that seems to fit most appropriately for Scott is Histrionic Personality Disorder (301.50).

    To qualify for a diagnosis of Histrionic Personality Disorder, a person must display the following general criteria of a Personality Disorder:

    A. An enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of the individual’s culture. This pattern is manifested in two (or more) of the following areas:

    1. Cognition (I.e., ways of perceiving and interpreting self, other people, and events)
    2. Affectivity (I.e., the range, intensity, and appropriateness of emotional response)
    3. Interpersonal functioning
    4. Impulse Control
    Mr. Scott displays dysfunctions in many, if not all, of the above categories. His thoughts are consumed by his thinking that he is a comedian, consistently referring to his improv classes and impersonations. The affectivity displayed by the patient is continuously out of proportion to the situation, such as halting the workday for an office meeting over a minor problem, oftentimes a non-work related problem. His interpersonal and relationship functioning is severely limited, demonstrated by his lack insight into the true feelings (I.e. distain) of the people in his life. His impulse control is lacking, if not nonexistent.
    B. The enduring pattern is inflexible and pervasive across a broad range of personal and social situations.
    The displayed symptoms cause, and have caused, significant distress in the areas of work relationships, friendships, and romantic relationships. The observed behavior also has negative consequences in many aspects of his life, including resentment and distain from coworkers, as well as from his superiors and romantic partners.
    C. The enduring pattern leads to clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
    The inflexible nature of his symptoms clearly affects his ability to function in his day-to-day tasks. His ability to function is severely impacted by his need for attention, as he demonstrates a lack of motivation and productiveness in his occupation and social life. This enduring pattern has also led to resentment from his subordinates, who believe he is incompetent due to his emotional outbursts.
    D. The pattern is stable and of long duration, and its onset can be traced back at least to adolescence or early adulthood.
    Scott’s symptoms have been present for at least six years, though they seem to have been present during his entire employment at Dunder Mifflin, and are pervasive in both his work and personal life. The symptoms can be traced back to his early adulthood, as demonstrated by his lack of friendships and romantic relationships in the past. The symptoms may also be a result of early childhood experiences, as he lacked a father-figure and his mother seemingly neglected him.

    E. The enduring pattern is not better accounted for as a manifestation or consequence of another mental disorder.
    Although the patient demonstrates some characteristics consistent with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, he is too suggestible to fit this criteria. As those with Narcissistic PD are interpersonally exploitative, Scott demonstrates a need for immediate attention as opposed to a need for future success. Neither mood, psychotic, nor anxiety disorders better account for his symptoms.

    F. The enduring pattern is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., head trauma).
    The presenting symptoms are not the result of drugs, alcohol or head trauma.

    To fit the Diagnostic Criteria for 301.50 Histrionic Type, at least five (or more) of the following criteria must be met:

    1. Uncomfortable in situations in which they are not the center of attention
    In many instances, such as making a coworkers wedding all about him, caring more about his superficial wound than an employee with a concussion, holding impromptu meetings to discuss his personal life, or dozens of other examples, Scott demands the attention be on him and only him. Typically in a situation in which he is not the center of attention, Scott is visibly uncomfortable and can barely sit still.
    2. Interaction with others are often characterized by inappropriate sexually seductive or provocative behavior
    Although Scott does not demonstrate sexually seductive behavior, he exhibits provocative behavior on a regular basis by use of inappropriate jokes or sexual advances on coworkers.
    3. Displays rapid shifting and shallow expressions of emotions
    Scott goes from angry, to upset, to jealous, to happy, to ecstatic very rapidly, and displays a pattern of shallow emotions. For instance, after hitting a coworker with his car, the patient displayed little remorse or genuine emotion.
    4. Consistently uses physical appearance to draw attention to self
    5. Has a style of speech that is excessively impressionistic and lacking in detail
    6. Shows self-dramatization, theatricality, and exaggerated expression of emotion
    After a superficial wound, the patient exaggerated the symptoms for the entire day, demanding the focus of that workday be on his recovery. Scott also demonstrates theatricality through use of characters, voices, and impromptu presentations.
    7. Is suggestible, I.e., easily influenced by others or circumstances
    Scott is highly suggestible, and has been observed to lose substantial amounts of money in pyramid schemes due to his trusting nature and easily influenced personality. The patient is so suggestible that he has participated in highly risky behaviors, such as placing his face in drying cement, from pressure from those around him.
    8. Considers relationships more intimate than they actually are
    In many aspects of his life, the patient demonstrates a destructive attachment style, oftentimes believing those around him are closer to him than they actually are. Scott believes the office staff to be his family, and considers a temporary employee to be his best friend after only one day of knowing him. As with his friendships, Scott’s personal relationships suffer from the same overzealous attitude. While once dating a woman, Scott placed his own photo over the photo of her ex-husband, while also proposing to her after three dates.

    Accuracy of portrayal

    To those watching The Office, the portrayal of Michael Scott as a person with Histrionic Personality Disorder is quite good, though those with the disorder are more often females than males. Those with Histrionic Personality Disorder are known to use their body as a seductive tool, and Scott’s portrayal lacks this important quality of the disorder. However, due to the differing presentation of Histrionic Personality Disorder between men and women, this trait may be unnecessary for the diagnosis. The sudden change of emotion is quite accurately portrayed, as well as the attention-seeking behavior patterns. As symptom expression is accurately portrayed, so too is the onset of symptoms. Histrionic PD is expressed most often in a person’s early adult years, and those with the disorder typically come from a family history of neglect or lack of attention from the primary caregiver during pivotal developmental years. For this reason, the attention-seeking and self-centered behavior tends to manifest later in life as a result of the early experience. This symptom is accurately portrayed in the show as well. Overall, the portrayal of Michael Scott as a person with Histrionic Personality Disorder is accurate in many ways.

    Treatment

    The best course of treatment for Scott would be therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy would be beneficial in a similar way by helping him to cope with his emotional outbursts. CBT would provide Scott tools for controlling his behavior in a more systematic and structured way to be able to function more productively in the workplace. In addition to systematic planning, it is recommended that Scott be given assertiveness training to help with his propensity for taking advice from others. Behavioral rehearsals may aid in his workplace manner and help him to establish appropriate workplace behaviors. Although family counseling is not an option, it is recommended that Scott participate in relationship counseling to help establish a long-lasting, stable relationship.

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    Name: Regina George

    Source: Mean Girls (movie, 2004)

    Background Information

    Regina George is a sixteen year old Caucasian female. She is a junior in high school at North Shore High School. Regina comes from a very wealthy family and does not have a job besides attending school. She is presumed to be in good health since the film did not mention any health conditions. Regina George is considered the ring leader of the meanest girl clique at North Shore High. She is the queen bee of the popular girls group that pride themselves on making each other look as hot as possible while they put others down in the process.

    As previously mentioned Regina comes from a very affluent family. They live in a beautiful mansion considered to be the biggest and most lavish house out of any of the ‘mean girl clique’. Regina’s relationship with her parents is very twisted and abnormal. One example of this backward relationship is displayed when Regina brings her friends over and her mom insists on inserting herself into Regina and her friend’s conversations. Not only does her mom think of her as her best friend but her parents allowed her take the master bedroom simply because she desired it. Regina does not have a strong relationship with either parent but drifts more toward her mother.

    Regina George has a preoccupation with her looks. She is constantly talking about how she is either too fat or that she is not pretty enough and also seeks confirmation about her body and looks through others. She does not have a regular drinking problem or drug abuse issue since she is so preoccupied with her appearance and that would definitely tarnish her ideal reputation. Her obsession with her appearance would have to be one of her biggest weaknesses. With regard to her weight, she is constantly seeking new and unsearched ways of losing weight.

    Description of the Problem

    This patient displays many of the traits associated with a number of personality disorders, but most strongly shows symptoms of Histrionic Personality Disorder. Regina George is an attention junkie. She seeks out attention from people in every aspect of her daily life. This hunger for attention has created tension between Regina and her group of friends. Her need for attention impairs her abilities to function inside the classroom, hindering her performance in school. Regina often wears seductive clothing that most girls and women would not walk out the front door in, let alone wear to school. Another way Regina actively seeks attention is by talking about people behind their backs. In a three way phone call, she deliberately tries to sabotage one of her close friend’s relationships with another close friend of hers. This attack displays her need to be needed. She felt threatened by their relationship so the only means of coping with the problem to her was by pinning two of her friends against each other. When Regina has a problem, the only way she knows to resolve it is by making someone else feel inferior. Along with these distorted coping skills, Regina displays extreme variances in her emotions. When she is happy she is through the moon happy and when she is mad she is definitely going to let someone know about it. When Regina has a problem going on in her life, she thinks that every single one of her friends must stop what they are doing and solve the problem with or for her. One example of this is shown when Regina is eating lunch, wants something else to eat, and then she says that she is really trying to lose five pounds. She is flabbergasted when the rest of the clique does not immediately pipe in to say that she is already flawless.

    Diagnosis

    The diagnosis that seems to fit most appropriately for Regina George is Histrionic Personality Disorder (301.50). To qualify for a diagnosis of Histrionic Personality Disorder, a person must display the following general criteria of a Personality Disorder:

    A. An enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of the individual’s culture. This pattern is manifested in two (or more) of the following areas:

    1. Cognition (I.e., ways of perceiving and interpreting self, other people, and events)
    2. Affectivity (I.e., the range, intensity, and appropriateness of emotional response)
    3. Interpersonal functioning
    4. Impulse Control

    Regina George has shown impairments through all of these conditions. She has shown that all that consumes her thoughts is the obsession she has with her appearance and the appearance of others. Her displayed affectivity is most often over exaggerated to the situation. Most notable was her reaction to her “friend” not inviting her to her house party: she single handedly brought the entire student body to a crippling halt by sharing a “burn book” with them. This book contained pictures and captions (written by Regina herself) about different people in their school. The pictures were not the most flattering and the captions were mean spirited and hurtful to say the least.

    B. The enduring pattern is inflexible and pervasive across a broad range of personal and social situations.

    Her symptoms have caused her significant turmoil in her relationships at home, school, and in her daily life. Her behavior has caused many issues in all aspects of her life, such as with friends turning against her, her family not being very supportive and the entire student body rallying against her.

    C. The enduring pattern leads to clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

    Regina’s apparent inflexible nature has caused tremendous impairment among her social life as well as her occupational or school life. Regina’s preoccupation with her outward appearance has left her little if any time to focus on things that really matter to people such as her character and demeanor towards others.

    D. The pattern is stable and of long duration, and its onset can be traced back at least to adolescence or early adulthood.

    The behaviors that Regina displays in the movie Mean Girls has been going on her entire life, per her mother’s report. She has been the same appearance obsessed girl since she was born. This pattern of attention seeking, mean behavior escalated in middle school when she made up a rumor about a girl being a lesbian in the eighth grade.

    E. The enduring pattern is not better accounted for as a manifestation or consequence of another mental disorder.

    This patient does display some of the characteristics of a person with narcissistic personality disorder and perhaps even some dependent PD characteristics, but the disorder that Regina displays through the entire movie is HPD.

    F. The enduring pattern is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., head trauma).

    The symptoms are not as a result of drugs, alcohol, or any general medical condition.

    To fit the Diagnostic Criteria for 301.50 Histrionic Type, at least five (or more) of the following criteria must be met:

    1. Uncomfortable in situations in which they are not the center of attention

    Regina George is not only uncomfortable in situations in which she is not the center of attention but she most notably does not allow herself to be in a situation where she is not the center of attention. When a new girl starts going to North Shore, and the girl is as pretty as or prettier than her, Regina makes a consorted effort to make that girl her new best friend forever.

    1. Interaction with others are often characterized by inappropriate sexually seductive or provocative behavior

    Regina definitely displays this behavior in every aspect of her life. She cannot even sing in the Christmas talent show without being in a midriff tube top shirt with a matching much too short skirt.

    1. Displays rapid shifting and shallow expressions of emotions

    Regina has an extremely wide range of shallow emotions. For example when she is confronted with an old friend (the one she spread the lesbian rumor about) she shrugs it off as if it never happened. Her ability to show no remorse and be so nonchalant about something that destroyed a young impressionable human being show her shallow expression of emotion.

    1. Consistently uses physical appearance to draw attention to self

    She uses her body, her beauty, and her weight to keep people focused on herself. When someone tries to shift the conversation she always finds a way to get the attention back on herself.

    1. Has a style of speech that is excessively impressionistic and lacking in detail

    Regina has an immature speaking style. When talking in the cafeteria she uses many words that are not even words such as ‘skeeze’ to describe other students.

    1. Shows self-dramatization, theatricality, and exaggerated expression of emotion

    In regard to her constant obsession with her weight, Regina has all of her friends focus on the things that she should be doing on her own to lose the weight. When Regina goes to a dress shop to be fitted for her prom dress and finds that she cannot fit the one she wants she has a tyrannical outburst.

    1. Is suggestible, I.e., easily influenced by others or circumstances

    Regina is highly suggestible especially since she does not focus on the facts. She is a person who will take a person for their word. When one of her friends tries to help her with a “weight-loss” bar she takes it without question. She is shocked to later find out that the bars she has been eating for the past few months has been the sole contributor to her slow but steady weight gain.

    1. Considers relationships more intimate than they actually are

    Accuracy of Portrayal

    To the average person watching the movie Mean Girls, Regina George would seem like the typical high school bitch. She is popular, pretty, and, most of all, rich. To most laypeople they would not think to make the connection that she has histrionic personality disorder even though she does a phenomenal job portraying an individual with this disorder. Regina displays the symptom most commonly associated with having histrionic personality disorder, those being sexually seductive behaviors. Regina is sexually seductive in appropriate times such as high school girls and Halloween but most notably she is seductive at times when it is completely inappropriate. Her extreme variances and range of shallow emotions are another key symptom of histrionic personality disorder. The fact that Regina is unhappy and uncomfortable with not being the center of attention is another symptom of histrionic personality disorder. The portrayal of Regina George in the movie Mean Girls is an accurate portrayal a person living with histrionic personality disorder.

    Treatment

    The best treatment for histrionic personality disorder is through therapy. The most effective therapy treatment would be Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy would help Regina to be able to control her emotionality better as well as give her some tools to cope with life in a more adaptive way. Regina would benefit from CBT in that it would help her in her interpersonal relationships to be better able to make and maintain friendships.

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