Histrionic Personality Disorder

I’m building believable antagonists using Sean Mactire’s book  Malicious Intent: A Writer’s Guide to How Murderers, Robbers, Rapists, and Other Criminal Think. In it, Mactire offers three factors in creating a great antagonist: the Four Basics (irresponsibility, self-indulgence, interpersonal intrusiveness, and social rule-breaking), a mental illness, and one or more characteristics from the list I posted on June 22, 2012. So far, I’ve covered a bunch of the thirteen mental illnesses Mactire covers. Today is the Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD).

Mactire says, “These individuals are fickle and overreactive and tend to be overly dramatic in social situations. At least four of the following factors must be evident:”

  • Constantly seeks or demands reassurance
  • Inappropriately sexually seductive
  • Is overly concerned with physical attractiveness
  • Expresses emotion with inappropriate exaggeration
  • In uncomfortable when not the center of attention
  • Has rapidly shifting and shallow emotions
  • Is self-centered and is easily frustrated
  • Has a style of speech that is excessively impressionistic and lacks detail

This disorder reminds me of Jenna Mahoney from 30 Rock. Keep in mind, to make an antagonist, you combine the disorder with the four basics listed above and some sort of catalyst from childhood (physical or drug abuse, poverty, etc). Jenna isn’t a violent person even though she suffers from a personality disorder, and your antagonist won’t be, either, unless you fill in the other parameters. I looked at wiki.answers.com to find a long list of celebrities who may have HPD, including Princess Diana, Paris Hilton, and Pamela Anderson. This disorder is much more common in women (every name on the wiki list was female), and an extremely high percentage of them were actresses. Keep that in mind, if you want to use this disorder.

I’ll apply HPD to ESFP, “The Performer,” as that seems to be a natural fit. She’s fun, friendly, outgoing, adaptable, and can’t resist putting on a good show. She wants to stimulate everyone around her, arousing their senses, offering pleasure, and creating a feeling of well-being. With her contagious good humor and irrepressible joy of living, everyone wants to be around her. When she walks into the room, everyone gathers. Her tolerance for anxiety is the lowest of all the personality types, and she will avoid it by simply ignoring it for as long as possible. “Always look on the bright side” is her motto, and if forced to endure a tense situation (at work, in a relationship) she won’t make waves or put up a show of resistance. She’ll simply walk away. This personality trait is ultra fun to play with in fiction because of their intense dislike of anxiety or confrontation of any kind. 

Now throw in a big dose of HPD, and you’ve got an interesting mix of non-confrontational bright-side thinking, shallow emotions, and a deep desire to be the center of attention. How do they deal with a situation when they are not the center of attention? What would this woman do when her sister’s having a baby, and there are complications, and everyone is gathered at the hospital to await news of the mother/baby’s health? Someone better post a guard on that nursery, because the HPD antagonist might just remove that little attention-stealing bundle of madness. The HPD antagonist could also become a serial killer with a visionary bent: remove all people who criticize her, or make fun of her “shallow” lifestyle, or don’t show the proper adoration at all times. She would also make an interesting sexual predator (which I did not cover in my posts, due to the “ick” factor, but you can check out Mactire’s book from the library if you need more info), in which she targets men who should be worshipping her but instead ignore her, or worse, scorn her advances. She’d seduce those who worship her appropriately, and kill those who don’t.

Did I miss something? If you can think of another way to make add this personality disorder to an antagonist, please share.


2 thoughts on “Histrionic Personality Disorder

  1. I had a relationship with such a person – you need to add in manipulative, deceitful, work shy, unfaithful, sense of entitlement, very femme fatale and great earthy passion! They leave you for the next victim broken hearted and a lighter bank account!

  2. Pingback: Top 10 Posts for 2013 (and a contest) | For What It's Worth

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