I Can’t Stand My Friend’s Histrionic Personality!

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Reader’s Question

I have a friend who I think has histrionic personality disorder. We’ve been friends for several years. However, we live far away, so it was hard to spot a problem at first.

She’s extremely clingy and even creepy sometimes. She makes random, hurtful comments towards me. She constantly tries to undermine my intelligence in front of mutual friends.

She copies clever things I have said and repeats them later to get the credit. She’s a huge attention hog and the spotlight always has to be on her.

It’s the same with bad things. When I admitted to an eating disorder, she claimed she had one, too (even though it was obvious she didn’t). Whatever obstacles I’ve encountered in life, hers are always harder.

If we’re admiring an achievement of a mutual friend, it’s impossible for her to shut up and just listen to them! Even if the attention is supposedly on them, she will automatically make a big scene of hugging them super long in front of everybody or turning the attention to her by saying something like, “I wish I had talent!” and going off into a corner to wait for people to come and reassure her.

She also says she attempted suicide and broadcasts it all over Facebook. She refuses to get help, though. I feel like she just wants people always to be coddling her.

It’s wearing me out. Every time I see her, I can’t wait to just go home again. I can’t stand it! What should I do? I can’t leave her because we have mutual friends who are close to both of us. I’m also afraid they might not see her behavior as alarming, and I would wind up losing a bunch of friends.

Psychologist’s Reply

It seems like you’re having two problems: managing your feelings about her within your group of friends, and deciding what you can and can’t say to your friends about her. You believe this girl cannot change her ways. That is how she is. That is what a ‘personality disorder’ usually means.

I also hear you worried about your friends’ take on her. However, how your friends deal with her is their problem. Your problem is how to be a friend to them.

You’re not going to be able to write a rulebook of do vs. don’t in a situation like this. Things will eventually come up that weren’t anticipated. No matter how many scenarios you anticipate and prepare for, eventually she will hook you and get you to react. You may eventually be alarmed by her in your group, or lose your temper in your group. At that point, you just have to trust your friends to stay with you. I imagine they already know that you are a person with strong feelings. I guess they’d forgive you an occasional outburst among friends. And when you calm down, you can explain your feelings to them so they understand you.

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If you’re getting worn out worrying about this, then I encourage you to put that same energy to good use. Managing yourself in uncomfortable social settings is what Assertiveness Training is all about. This is something that is easy to learn and very effective. I recommend you read a couple of books on assertive communication and then join a class or weekend retreat. There are many programs out there. Personally, I favor the Gordon Training International programs (or for couples, Harville Hendrick’s program). You may be surprised how quickly you can learn to manage this unsolvable problem.

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