How can I talk to hysterical people

Hysteria: A life as a self-promoter

Your world is an imagined or a real stage. With theatrical productions and seductively provocative demeanor, they attract the attention of others. "Hysterics" are popularly called disparagingly, psychiatrists speak of histrionic personalities. But people with such behavior are not yet sick.

"Histrionic symptoms only become disease-related when the person or the environment suffers," says Stephan Doering, Head of the Clinic for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy at the Medical University in Vienna. As self-confident as people with a histrionic personality disorder appear outwardly, they actually feel little loved and perceived by their surroundings. Their merciless self-criticism has made them unable to cope with their own expectations or those of others. The fear of rejection is permanently present, the drama of its appearance results from the longing for affection and love. At the same time, these people are harshly judged with their appearance, are often dissatisfied with their body, even if it appears attractive to others.

The hysterical woman

"Hysteria" has fascinated mankind for thousands of years. As a women's disease, it has its origins in ancient Greece. The idea back then: the female uterus (hystera) wanders through the body in search of sexual satisfaction. The journey of the uterus upsets all organs and causes the hysterical symptoms.

In the Middle Ages, women with hysterical symptoms were considered possessed by the devil. In the patriarchal culture of the 19th century, women who rebelled against their role as the submissive sex were dismissed as hysterical and also "treated".

It was only Freud who brought hysteria into a psychoanalytic context. He assumed that the symptoms are directly related to the psychological trauma experienced. "Today we make a distinction between the histrionic personality disorder and the hysterical symptoms described by Freud, which we call conversion disorders," says Doering, explaining the approach to "hysteria" from today's psychiatric point of view. Conversion is the translation of a psychological conflict into physical symptoms.

Child development

"The core of a histrionic pathology is a pronounced self-esteem problem, or more precisely, the fear of not being lovable as a man or woman," says Doering. The psychoanalyst locates the reason for this in child development. "If a child experiences the appreciation and affection of the parents - classically especially the parent of the opposite sex - as inadequate, it develops strategies to achieve this lack of love". It is particularly flirtatious and seductive in the hope of being liked by the other person in this way.

The repressed early childhood conflicts that lie behind "hysteria" are a domain of psychoanalysis. "The therapeutic goal is to become aware of the problem and to mourn what was not there in childhood," says Doering. As part of psychoanalysis, those affected should develop new patterns of experience and behavior and learn that they are not only lovable when they are seductive, but for their own sake.

The aim is not to adapt to the social norm. "Those affected only overcome that part of their personality that is pathologically motivated and has led to their suffering," says Doering. So fellow human beings can continue to enjoy the invigorating presence of a histrionic personality, because it is practically never boring with these contemporaries. (Regina Walter,, May 21, 2013)