"Pay attention to me, or I'll...": Handling hysterical personality disorder

Mar 18, 2019

A woman can make three things out of nothing: a salad, a hat and a quarrel (c) Coco Chanel

Each and every one of us has a unique character and a unique set of personality traits. However, sometimes an expression of excessive emotion, melodrama and dramatic qualities can stem from hysteria rather than character. Hysteria is not a unique trait, but a medical condition.

People with this condition are extremely emotional, they are always “on stage”. They place great importance on other people’s opinion, making it the crux of their lives.

For example, imagine a situation when a woman doesn’t want her husband to go fishing or spend time with his friends, but instead wants him to spend the evening with her. Due to this, she may pretend she is feeling unwell, or even throw a tantrum. She may say that he doesn’t care about her, leaving her alone all the time. She will shed a lot of tears as if in a dramatic play. The goal of such behavior is quite clear: manipulation and control.

However, how can we distinguish genuine emotion from hysteria? Are there any distinct signs of this problem? When should we consult with a specialist? Let’s find the answers to these questions.

What is hysteria?

First of all, let’s look at the definition of hysteria as it is presented in a “Dictionary for Practical Psychologists” by S.Y. Golovin:

“Hysteria is a subtype of neurosis, a pathocharacterological disorder described by an addiction to persuasion and self-persuasion, as well as weak conscious control over behavior. It is defined by various psychiatric, motor and sensibility disorders. Hysteria is manifested through specific behavior, tantrums, alteration of consciousness and impairment of internal organs. Psychiatric disorders are manifested in the form of various psychotic events. Behavior during hysteria is usually demonstrative: weak emotional experience is presented to others in an exaggerated manner (shouting, crying, fainting) in order to attract attention from other people.” [1]

Modern medicine defines it as hysterical personality disorder (ὑστέρα – ancient Greek for uterus). This condition is defined by an endless need for attention, unstable self-esteem, overestimation of the significance of gender, factitious behavior etc. [2] In this article we will shorten this condition to “hysteria” for good measure.

As you can see, both definitions mention that a person with this condition requires a lot of attention. Their self-esteem goes up as easily as it goes down. Hysterical people will commend themselves for even minor success, and then cry the next day and call themselves talentless. Such people overreact a lot and exaggerate the significance of their life events. This is a learned behavior pattern, which can be changed with proper treatment. We will talk about this a bit later.

Research says that 2-3% of people have this condition. [3]

Are only women hysteric?

For a long time people used to think that only women were susceptible to hysteria. We can see hysterical women in many works of literature, psychological articles, dissertations, and even daily conversation. For example, remember Mrs. Bennet from “Pride and Prejudice”. People always pay attention to her while she manipulates them with her tremors, overreacting to any event, even if it doesn’t affect her directly.

Even though women present this disorder more often, men are also susceptible to it. [4] However, they also find it extremely hard to recognize and comprehend their own hysteria.

There is no shame in being hysterical, regardless of your gender. It is a disease, not a feigning. A hysterical person needs help in overcoming their issues. Of course, only a medical professional can diagnose hysteria, but we can still analyze certain signs of this condition that can help us to recognize it. We will also look at symptoms and treatment of hysteria in women.

Signs of hysterical personality disorder

A person with this disorder often cannot distinguish between reality and their imagination. They struggle to give an unbiased evaluation of various events, which is why others can call them liars and pretenders. A person also finds it hard to analyze the processes happening within their heads. Some emotional experiences slip their minds, while others become extremely exaggerated. They often cry or laugh hysterically and all their emotions are strongly pronounced. A person may even attempt suicide in order to manipulate people and lead them by the nose.

Such people cannot continuously perform repetitive work, they prefer a life of leisure. They choose their idols and get attracted to people quickly. Women can also display hysteria by choosing an unsuitable partner, engaging in passionate yet short-lived relationships and/or frequently changing partners. A woman can even convince herself she is in a relationship with a person who barely knows her. She will stalk him, feel jealous and throw tantrums. Here is another example: she may behave in an alluring manner, but when others read her “hints” and want to go even further, she will get surprised or even offended.

By the way, a person requires an audience for a proper tantrum. The nature of the audience is often less important, it can consist of acquaintances or even complete strangers. A tantrum can start in a matter of seconds and end as quickly.

There are several groups of signs representative of a hysterical personality disorder [5]:

  1. Motor signs:
  • motor dysfunction;
  • hand tremor;
  • faint voice;
  • myopalmus;
  • spasms.
  1. Somatic signs.
  • A person may fake faints and breathing problems.
  • They may run around the room, wring their hands or express their ill-being with excessive emotion.

If someone manages to distract a person, these signs become significantly less pronounced.

  1. Sensory impairment.

A person experiences an increased, decreased or total lack of sensitivity in certain parts of the body. An arm can go completely numb, or they could experience strong pain. In extreme cases a person can go blind or deaf, or have a shift in color perception, etc.

  1. Vegetative signs:
  • nausea and vomiting;
  • ragged breathing;
  • painful sensations in the heart and other organs;
  • false esophageal spasm, which makes a person decline food;
  • headache;
  • dizziness;
  • itching.

Attracting attention

What is typical for hysteria? The most common sign of hysteria is a tendency towards dramatized fits. A person needs them to have their needs and demands fulfilled. You may witness a person falling on the floor, bumping their head on different objects, throwing their arms around, all while crying or laughing. However, pay attention to this: every fall and every impact will be perfectly safe. A hysterical person does not want to harm themselves, they just want to be noticed and catered to.

It is also important to understand the physical causes of hysterical personality disorder. The psychological state of people with this condition directly affects their health. This may lead to dysfunction of certain organs, the nerve system in particular.

Causes of hysteria

Causes for this disorder can be both internal and external. Individual emotional intensity also plays an important role. Other causes include inner conflicts, stress, emotional suppression, dissatisfaction with oneself, medical conditions etc.

The need or desire to control another person’s life and behavior can also become the cause of this condition. A person tries to manipulate and control others through tantrums.

People who grew up in dysfunctional families are often susceptible to hysteric neurosis. It can manifest itself in difficult or unusual situations. We should also mention individual traits, such as character or personality type, as they can also affect this condition.

With such a variety of causes, it is not necessary to know all the actual reasons to treat a person. Certain techniques can successfully treat symptoms and change learned behavior patterns. We will talk about them in a moment.

Testing for hysteria

We offer you to take a short test to find out whether you have this problem. Mark the statements you agree with.

1) You tend to overreact, exaggerate your emotions and retell recent events in a dramatic manner.

2) You are weak with persuasion, you can be easily affected by other people or circumstances.

3) Your emotions are shallow and change quite often. You may be crying one minute and laughing the next.

4) You gravitate towards actions and situations that can attract attention to you.

5) You are excessively seductive, both in appearance and behavior.

6) You are concerned about your attractiveness.

If at least 4 out of 6 statements are true for you or someone you’re close with, you should pay attention to this problem and get a more detailed diagnosis.

Treating hysteria

A person or their loved ones often turn a blind eye to the hysteric disorder. They consider it to be a personality trait, rather than a medical condition. This is especially true in the case of female hysteria. Neither the woman nor her relatives think that her behavior is a sign of a disease.

People with hysteria usually blame chronic fatigue or stress for their weird behavior. However, we must never ignore the signs of this condition. In certain cases hysteria can lead to blindness and hearing impairment. This disorder must be diagnosed and treated.

There are various ways to eliminate this disease.


A therapist examines the patient and gives them several psychological tests. The therapist will also help to figure out the causes of the hysteric disorder through long conversations. However, not all people are able to analyze their emotions, their condition and their past. Some people cannot remember their childhood and other periods in their lives – as well as significant events during those periods – without experiencing strong emotions.

Nevertheless, a good therapist can uncover the causes of present-day hysteria. They are also able to evaluate the psychological state of their patients.

Psychotherapy can treat this condition. However, this method can be ineffective if patients consciously use their condition to gain some benefits and manipulate their surroundings. In such cases, treatment may be useless.

The same can be said for group and family counseling. These let a person see themselves through other people’s eyes.

7Spsy behavior modification technique

This method is based upon behavior psychology. It treats hysteria as a learned behavior pattern, which can be changed to a healthier one.

The 7Spsy behavior modification course is designed to be taken remotely. You can achieve results in 2-6 weeks. The length of the course will depend on the severity of the issue and on the patient’s condition.

You can choose the time and place to take this course yourself. If you have any questions or wish to discuss your current state, you will always be able to contact your personal psychologist.

This course takes less time than traditional treatment, while you don’t even have to meet your therapist in person. You won’t have to discuss your personal problems or retell specific events in order to solve the problem. Diagnosis will be performed by online testing.

After completing the course, you will learn to react calmly to provocative situations, express your emotions honestly and develop a strong faith in yourself.

Let’s summarize. Hysterical personality disorder is a learned mode of behavior which can, and should, be treated. If you notice that you or your friends or relatives display clear signs of hysteria, not just excessive emotion, you need to take action. Remember that inaction can severely affect the person’s health, while treatment can bring peace, love and serenity back into your home.

Information from this website cannot be used for self-therapy and self-diagnostics. 

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