Amber Heard has “attention seeking” personality disorder

Amber Heard diagnosed with ‘attention seeking’ personality disorder

Amber Heard diagnosed with ‘attention seeking’ personality disorder Source: Twitter @realamberheard

The much publicised case that has seen Amber Heard and Johnny Depp trade accusations, was told on Friday, May 6 that Heard suffers from attention seeking personality disorders.

Officially recognised by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, attention seeking or histrionic personality are according to some mental-health professionals outdated, sexist, and stigmatising. 

For her part, Heard’s psychologist has dismissed the claims, saying that she is suffering from the mental stress of Depp’s alleged abuse.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, histrionic personality disorder is a narcissistic and antisocial personality disorder, often characterized by dramatic, excitable, erratic, or volatile behaviours.

In particular, those who suffer from the affliction, show exaggerated emotions and attention-seeking behaviours. Such behaviours are not that common, therefore a diagnosis requires patients meeting at least five of the following criteria: 

  • Uncomfortable when not the centre of attention
  • Seductive or provocative behaviour
  • Shifting and shallow emotions
  • Uses appearance to draw attention
  • Impressionistic and vague speech
  • Dramatic or exaggerated emotions
  • Suggestible
  • Considers relationships more intimate than they are  

Such characteristics need to be pervasive affecting the person’s everyday functioning, for them to be considered characteristics of histrionic personality disorder.

Dr. Erick Messias, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, told Insider: “The typical patient dresses flamboyantly, is very engaging, and at times, entertaining. Their stories are usually very interesting and told in very emotional tones.”

He added that they tend to find jobs that allow them to be the centre of attention, like acting and teaching. They’re prone to manipulation, including by cult leaders. Unlike people with narcissistic personality disorder, though, they do have empathy for others. 

He continued saying that psychotherapy can help, but most learn to live with their condition, usually not seeing their traits as problematic. 

Roxanne Khan, a Senior Lecturer in Forensic Psychology at the University of Central Lancashire, explained that around two to three per cent of the population is estimated to have histrionic personality disorder.

The disorder is diagnosed four times more often in women than in men, which is why many believe the condition to be sexist and outdated.

The higher diagnosis is, she says, due to the stigma against their so-called “seductive” behaviour. It’s unclear what causes it, but family history increases the risk, as does being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. 

Khan said: “This places women with an HPD diagnosis in a Catch-22. On one side of the HPD coin, these traits are common in survivors of childhood abuse/trauma. On the flip side of the same coin, these traits are used to label these women as disordered.” 

She finished by saying labelling women with HPD and men with psychopathy can perpetuate “the sexist notions that females are ‘mad’ and men are ‘bad.” 

Ramani Durvasula, a Clinical Psychologist who specializes in narcissism other personality disorders explained that the diagnosis is often criticised because it’s rooted in the term hysteria, historically was used to blame women’s emotions, symptoms, and behaviours on the uterus.

She added: “The name is so anti-woman and anti-feminist,” but she thinks the DSM will soon phase it out. 

“I think histrionic personality is like a light version of narcissism — not as much as of the malevolent manipulation, but rather more of the seductive attention-seeking and the shallow dramatic emotion.”

With the court case far from over, the couple continue to air their dirty laundry in public amid claims and counter-claims of personality disorders.

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Peter McLaren-Kennedy

Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at