An Overview of Narcissistic Personality Disorder with Histrionic Traits
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Many psychologists and psychiatrists consider the term ‘histrionic narcissist’ to reflect an individual demonstrating Narcissistic Personality Disorder along with Histrionic Traits. Often these individuals exhibit excellent, superficial social skills. Many who interact with them experience them as extroverted, dramatic, confident, and charming. As a result, they frequently establish numerous surface-level relationships.
In the Grip of Charm
Histrionic narcissists are adept at manipulating others through charm and victimhood. They often excel at eliciting empathy and compassion from others, using their charisma to persuade people to act according to their wishes. Those not directly affected by their negative behavior may mistakenly view them as virtuous and all-around nice, helpful people.
Victims of histrionic narcissists may remain unaware of the manipulation until it is too late. To those who are very close to them, such as their intimate partners, these individuals may exhibit ruthless, dramatic, competitive, envious, and shallow behavior, with an unwavering belief in their entitlement to anything they desire.
The Importance of Image
Histrionic narcissists usually present themselves as helpful, dependable, fun-loving, and trustworthy. They often consider being agreeable (e.g., nice, supportive, of service) as crucial. This is because they rely heavily on a captivated and charmed audience as their main source of attention. However, this likability usually only applies to superficial relationships, not close relationships such as their partners or families.
Power of a Positive Façade: Like most individuals with a narcissistic personality disorder, manipulation and exploitation of others is a component of their character and behaviors. Many who have strong histrionic traits tend to be skilled at deceiving people with niceness, helpfulness, and a façade of innocence. This mask often works in their favor. Intentionally or unintentionally, wearing this particular mask can make it difficult for people to trust any allegations of misconduct leveled against them.
“Jack would never do that! I don’t believe her. Mary made up those allegations for money or 15 minutes of fame!”
Gullibility: It is not uncommon for someone with the blend of narcissistic and histrionic personality disorders to be easily suggestible or easily influenced. They are particularly apt to follow the opinion of whoever appears to be the most influential. For example, when out to dinner with a group, a histrionic narcissist might support the statements of the most dominant, callous, or wealthy person sitting at the table, even if that means not supporting their partner or a belief that even they previously touted.
Histrionic narcissists may establish relationships with ulterior motives, such as gaining a social advantage or unearned privileges. They can view others as mere tools to achieve their goals, often displaying a smile while causing harm to others. For example, do you make them look good (e.g., status). Does your knowledge elevate them and can be taken?
Unfortunately, histrionic narcissists are frequently perceived as victims by people who do not know their hidden behaviors. Some survivors, who muster the courage to tell their friends or family what they have endured, may not be believed by everyone. This can be associated with the ‘nice guy’ | ‘caring mother’ facade.
Creating a virtuous public persona, however demonstrating callous, harmful, and disrespectful behaviors and emotional states consistently in private helps to allow them to escape accountability for their actions. Some may even adopt a meek demeanor to deflect suspicion from their harmful intentions.
Compared to someone demonstrating the personality disorders of malignant narcissism or psychopathy, histrionic narcissists are particularly masterful at playing a believable victim. (As an aside, jut know individuals with psychopathy can also have co-existing histrionic traits).
Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder are skilled at feigning violation and eliciting sympathy from others, often manipulating authority figures to secure favorable treatment or special privileges. The damage they leave in their wake can be extensive.
Common Characteristics or Behaviors of 'Histrionic Narcissists'
This informal list describes behaviors sometimes seen in those with the combination of narcissistic and histrionic personality disorders. However, it is not a diagnostic tool. Proper diagnosis requires extensive clinical evaluation by a licensed professional (PhD or MD). Do not use this list to self-diagnose or label others with a disorder. Exhibiting one or more behaviors here does not confirm a personality disorder.
- Ostentatious and showy, often flaunting their achievements, physique/ body, belongings, and affiliations – likely to engage in name-dropping and reminding others of their specialness or importance.
- May display disproportionately dramatic emotional responses, such as uncontrollable weeping or wailing, yelling, throwing objects, in response to relatively minor situations.
- Quick to take from others to service their goal of being perceived as the “best” or gain other privileges. They tend to believe they have a right to the ideas, work, social status, intellectual property, and accomplishments someone else worked for, without shame for the violation.
- Lack of deep emotional states (i.e., morality/compassion).
- Disrespectful, Dishonest, and Manipulative.
- May demonstrate rapid shifts in affect, transitioning abruptly from affectionate to hostile moods within a short period of time.
- Emotion dysregulation associated with anger and rage.
- Unwillingness to take responsibility for harmful behaviors, often because they see themselves as the ‘good guy’ (‘good gal’) & deserving of prestige (even if based upon theft or a con).
- Fake self-deprecation or fake virtue to gain a positive reputation, compliments, attention, status, or to groom or give the appearance of being humble.
- A desire for attention and validation from others may render those with histrionic traits vulnerable to scams, manipulative schemes, and ploys.
- May assert equivalent expertise or status to a seasoned professional such as an attorney, scientist, doctor, psychologist, military member (i.e., “stolen valor”), or researcher. Some may base their expert status merely on extensive online reading/ videos/ social media, personal experiences, and their beliefs, rather than formal education, professional experience, or supervised training. Such appropriated titles enhance their self-image, fostering feelings of importance and superiority. In some cases, these claims may be financially beneficial, for instance, through online content creation, or may help them attract partners by misrepresenting their profession (“I’m a doctor.”).
*The above is not the diagnostic criteria of these conditions; they are common behaviors individuals with these conditions may display.
Many with this combination of conditions may be drawn to occupations that allow them access to the admiration, fame, wealth, and status they desire. It would not be unusual for individuals within online self-help / abuse education, spiritual guidance, entertainment, or religion (leaders), to have these personality disorders.
Although publicly they may appear virtuous, highly moral, empathic, and compassionate. Behind the scenes, only a few will know that the main reason they are within their occupational position is for status. Insiders will see that they steal the work or ideas of others, treat a select group of people like minions, and have no genuine concern for the people who follow and believe in them.
Often they need to be considered “number one” and the “best”, a common behavior demonstrated with narcissistic personality disorder.
Their spiritual guidance, religious leadership, or abuse education, does not come from a place of compassion but rather selfishness, attempting to quell deep insecurities, and capture attention.
Be careful; many histrionic narcissists are attracted to vulnerable populations they believe are easy to exploit (e.g., abuse survivors seeking information to heal) and tend to appear likable, engaging, easy going, and comforting. They can quickly feel like your friend, igniting emotions of loyalty, protection, awe, and connection within you.
Beyond the Histrionic & Narcissistic Combination
Are there other blends of narcissistic personality disorders? Absolutely. For example, someone with malignant narcissism (narcissistic + antisocial personality disorders) can also have histrionic traits, which would be the blend of three different personality disorders. This particular combination of personality disorders presents differently from the histrionic narcissist.
Over the years I have evaluated the personality of many individuals. I have found it fairly common to see mixtures of different conditions, rather than just one.
Many with narcissistic personality disorder with histrionic traits can convincingly pull off appearing kind and often ignite feelings of empathy and compassion in others. Often, their ‘go to’ tactics use love-acts, niceness, helpful actions, cognitive empathy, or endearing language to pull puppet strings.
Individuals demonstrating a narcissistic personality disorder with pronounced histrionic traits may react strongly if their cultivated image or claimed expertise is contradicted or called into question. Having their persona challenged can be perceived as threatening by such individuals, potentially leading to unpredictable responses.
If you want to go more into the educational component of healing after narcissistic abuse – join me in Neuroinstincts Academy where you can enroll in the course: How to Use Neuropsychology in Self-Care Healing.
Best ♡ Rhonda Freeman, PhD | Neuropsychologist
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(Do not copy or translate onto your site. Read “How to avoid copyright infringement”)