Published On: August 24, 2022
Reviewed On: August 24, 2022
Updated On: November 3, 2023
Histrionic personality disorder (HPD) and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are both mental health conditions impacting how someone thinks and behaves. They also significantly alter people’s perceptions of the world around them. Both conditions are classified as cluster B personality disorders, which means you’ll find some similarities when comparing histrionic personality disorder vs narcissistic personality disorder.
Yet while you can find several common traits between them, the conditions are actually fairly distinct. Specifically, the motivations behind thought patterns and behaviors can vary widely.
Read on to learn more about what separates HPD from NPD and why these differences are important.
It’s estimated that an astounding 15% of adults in the United States are living with at least 1 of the ten identified types of personality disorders we know of.
Classifying the major differences between these conditions is essential. It allows us to diagnose someone accurately. Beyond that, these classifications help us find appropriate and effective plans so that with treatment, someone can live a productive, rewarding life with stable relationships and a healthy sense of self-worth.
There are three major clusters that personality disorders are broken down into (A, B, and C). Both HPD and NPD fall into cluster B.
Disorders in the same cluster share some symptoms and behaviors. HPD and NPD are cluster B personality disorders, which are known for dramatic, erratic, and emotional thoughts and behaviors.
In contrast, cluster A personality disorders are associated with unusual and abnormal thought patterns or behaviors, while cluster C personality disorders are marked by high levels of fear and anxiety. Other cluster B personality disorders include borderline personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder.
There are some clear identifiable differences that distinguish between histrionic and narcissistic personality disorders. Some of the main ones include the traits below.
One of the primary traits of narcissistic personality disorder is limited empathy. This can make it challenging for someone with NPD to connect with others or take anyone else’s feelings into consideration. A major distinction between HPD and NPD is that low empathy isn’t a part of the diagnostic criteria for histrionic personality disorder. Many people with HPD tend to be quite sensitive to other people’s feelings.
When comparing histrionic vs narcissistic traits, you’ll find that people with either have a strong desire for attention from others. However, they crave different types of attention and want to be the center of attention for different reasons.
For example, NPD causes someone to crave positive feedback, admiration, and validation from others. People with NPD actually fear negative attention and criticism and may avoid or hide behaviors that others might view in a negative light. Most people with HPD, however, welcome all types of attention, regardless of whether it’s positive or negative.
The desire for attention can cause people with HPD to become overly dependent on others. On the other hand, NPD causes someone to see themselves as superior to others. They feel entitled to special treatment and tend to only surround themselves with others they deem “worthy” of their company. Those with HPD want to fit in and be part of a group.
While emotional regulation can be an issue for people with NPD, research shows that HPD has a stronger link to emotional volatility and attention-seeking behavior.
HPD is relatively rare when compared to personality disorders overall. An estimated 1.8% of the population is thought to be affected by it. People with histrionic personality disorder desperately want attention, which can lead to unpredictable and dramatic behavior.
Other traits associated with HPD include:
Expert Insight“Individuals with histrionic personality disorder tend to behave in a way that makes them the center of attention. The depths of what they’ll do to get the attention on them does not appear to have bounds.”
Narcissistic personality disorder might affect an estimated 6.2% of the population. People with NPD have an inflated view of themselves and believe they’re better than most others.
Additional traits associated with NPD may include:
Expert Insight“While individuals with narcissistic personality disorder also want the attention on them, they are far less dramatic and way more egotistical. They demonstrate low empathy, care, and concern for others, which enables them to manipulate people to get what they want.”
It’s common for people with personality disorders to have comorbid conditions (meaning other mental health conditions, including other personality disorders, occurring simultaneously). Narcissistic personality disorder is most likely to co-occur with antisocial, borderline, or histrionic personality disorder. Histrionic narcissism can be difficult to diagnose, making the symptoms of both conditions more severe.
People with symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder are often referred to as having narcissistic personality disorder with histrionic traits. While people with histrionic narcissism are often charming and charismatic, their relationships with others are typically superficial. They often perceive themselves as victims and frequently engage in manipulative behavior.
The truth is, like most mental health conditions, we just don’t yet know for sure what exactly causes either histrionic or narcissistic personality disorder. That said, it’s clear that neither condition is caused by a single factor. Instead, it’s generally accepted that a combination of several things — including environment, genetics, and biology — leads to the development of these personality disorders.
Certain factors can increase the risk for both HPD and NPD, but it’s unlikely that any one event or experience would be the sole cause of a condition. Personality disorders are highly complex, and there are many factors that can influence whether a person develops a condition.
While the precise cause of histrionic personality disorder is unknown, the condition is linked to certain risk factors, such as:
As with histrionic personality disorder, it’s likely that people who develop narcissistic personality disorder are exposed to a number of risk factors. Some of the potential causes of narcissistic personality disorder include:
There’s no cure for HPD or NPD, and while it can be difficult to treat these personality disorders, you should know that treatment is possible.
When comparing treatments for histrionic personality disorder vs narcissistic personality disorder, you’ll find that options vary, even though the conditions share some symptoms and similarities.
It can be difficult to distinguish between histrionic vs narcissistic traits, especially when you’re unfamiliar with personality disorders. If you or a loved one struggles with symptoms of HPD or NPD, you should seek help. An HPD or NPD diagnosis can help you understand symptoms better and develop a suitable treatment plan.
If you need help or are ready to start therapy, but feel the process is daunting, check out Talkspace. We’re an online therapy platform with licensed, trained, experienced mental health professionals who understand treatment and care for HPD and NPD. Talkspace makes getting therapy simple, affordable, and convenient. You can be on the path toward healing and managing your condition as soon as today when you reach out to Talkspace.
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Meaghan Rice is a mental health consultant specializing in professionals who are looking to close the gap between where they are and where they envision themselves being. With a decade of experience in the mental health field, working in a variety of different capacities, Dr. Rice has found her niche amidst the therapist, consultant, and trainer roles.