Does She Have a Personality Disorder?

Reader’s Question

Although I do not find fact in the opinion that one must have a personality disorder if they experience some of the beliefs listed in the symptoms of Schizotypal Personality Disorder (“superstitiousness, belief in clairvoyance, telepathy, or “sixth sense”; in children and adolescents, “bizarre” fantasies or preoccupations”), or have a lack of close friends outside family members, I am submitting a question to gather an opinion on an individual’s behavior.

I have a 35 (could be 37: she changes her age frequently)-year-old sister (not by blood, but religion) that is a very skillful liar. In fact, she makes false statements and changes true stories into lies regularly. When anyone confronts her on the false statements made she starts cleaning the floor. Her children say that she is always cleaning the floors and walls for hours whenever she gets angry. If she is confronted by more than one person about false statements she pretends to begin bleeding from the nose, but I have yet to see blood.

She has had real seizures on a number of occasions, but has also faked these to end a conversation that she may not like. She is constantly in hospital and many times lies about going to hospital. Although she truly had cancer 20 years ago in one leg, she will make statements about her surgery which is not true.

Also, she appears to like the attention she gets from different people arguing with each other about how to best take care of her. I am beginning to think she has multiple personalities. My question is if an individual creates false statements about the simplest of daily tasks that they perform to get out of a situation they feel uncomfortable in and they do not seem to be able to stop lying, is this also an Obssessive Compulsive Disorder?

Psychologist’s Reply

This is not Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. It’s probably also not Schizotypal. However, what you describe is likely a personality disorder — Histrionic Personality. Individuals with Histrionic Personality (HP) are the “Queens of Drama”. They are very attention-seeking and often lie, create dramatic scenes, fake illnesses, and engage in dramatic/theatrical behavior to maintain themselves as the center of attention. Importantly, they only want to be the center of attention when the situation is under their control — not when confronted about their behavior. To avoid consequences of their behavior, they again revert to Histrionic behavior and have fake seizures or medical problems, fake excuses, or blame others. Individuals with HP demand attention — good or bad — and will go to extremes to gain that attention. Histrionic Personalities may have a fake seizure at a child’s birthday party because the 2-year-old child was getting all the attention!

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In younger years, Histrionic Personalities often gain attention with their behavior and their clothing — often dressing in a sexual or outlandish manner. Lots of wild makeup, that kind of thing. As they age, they become more hypochondriacal — that is, more preoccupied with physical and medical symptoms. In extreme cases, they control everyone around them with their medical complaints. They actually have schedules of when people need to come in and help them or watch over them. They use excessive guilt to keep people connected to their dramatic lifestyle.

This is not multiple personality as well. It seems like multiple personality because the Histrionic individual changes their manipulations with each individual they meet — like a manipulative chameleon. With some people, they focus on their medical complaints — with others it’s lies about relationships. Histrionic personalities always keep you guessing and amazed at what drama will be created next. Now matter what the drama that occurs, the theme will always be the same:

  1. It will direct all attention to her,
  2. It won’t be her fault,
  3. She is the victim of the experience, and
  4. Confronting her in any manner will produce a physical symptom that will make you feel guilty and hesitant to confront her again, like nose bleeding, seizures, “spells”, etc.

Your best bet is to keep your distance, emotionally and socially. This is a lifestyle and will no doubt continue as long has she has players in her game.

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