Jerry Sandusky Brings HPD to the Spotlight

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Former Penn State Assistant Football coach, Jerry Sandusky, was recently brought into the spotlight when charges were filed alleging  that  he  abused at least ten boys over a span of many years.  In the court, his defense attorneys stated that he possessed a mental illness called Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD), which was related to his behavioral and mood swings and used a psychologist who is an expert in the field as a defense witness. HPD is defined as a personality disorder characterized by excessive emotionality, including a constant need for approval; often along with these signs comes inappropriate sexual behavior.  Although the inappropriate sexual behavior is not always linked to abuse of children, it is more often a provocative behavior that is intended to draw attention from others.

Histrionic Personality Disorder is said to exist in 2% to 3% of the population, and although, many individuals posses one or more of the signs of HPD, it is when the symptoms combine and make daily functioning difficult that the diagnosis can be made. Without knowing a direct cause of the illness, besides assumptions of nature and nurture, experts believe that there is a chance that it is hereditary or runs in families due to children recreating the dramatizations or attention craving actions of their parents. Psychotherapy is the standard treatment for this personality disorder, where experts are able to help the individuals discover what is causing their negative thoughts/ behaviors and how to focus them in a more positive direction.

With sentencing expected in the month of October, 68 year old Jerry Sandusky is reported to have regrets for not taking the stand in his own defense and his continued stance of innocence. Mr. Sandusky’s case can help bring histrionic personality disorder into focus, and encourage others that posses the behaviors to seek help before it could possibly turn their life, and the lives of others, into turmoil as it has done to the formerly successful coach and his many victims.

Histrionic Personality Disorder can be treated through Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and other strategies. It is sad to see how Mr. Sandusky’s personality disorder went untreated and as a result the lives of many young boys were affected by his behavioral excesses and his inability to control his sexual behavior.

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