Dr Jozelle Miller
July 7, 2020
Identifying Attention Seeking Behaviors

We all need attention and want to feel that our friends and family care about us, as such it is common for persons to position themselves to be seen or heard and have their presence felt by those around them. Attention seeking behavior is acting in a way that is likely to elicit attention and or validation from others. People are thought to engage in both positive and negative attention seeking behavior independent of the actual benefit or harm to health.
What are attention seeking behaviors?

“Fishing” For Compliments

True compliments are given freely without being asked, when an individual feels confident about his or herself and put effort into their work, relationships, and self, they are likely to get true compliments. Some people, however, feel deeply insecure about who they are; often, this insecurity causes the individual to ‘buff up’ their self-esteem by trying forcing others to point out their good qualities- rather than letting their qualities be notice them on their own.

It is common to see people fish for compliments at some point or another, and it is not always a sign of low self-esteem. It becomes a problem, however, when you need to hear how good you are from other people on a constant basis in order to feel good about yourself. If you find yourself constantly relying on others’ opinions of you; this may be worthy of investigating. It will be imperative that you do not be too hard on yourself and know that you are worthy of love and acceptance as you are. Begin your journey of building your self confidence and self-worth.

Seeking Sympathy

Sympathy seeking is an extremely common form of attention-seeking behavior. Unfortunately, it’s also a form of negative attention, because rather than receiving praise for your good qualities, you’re receiving sympathy- or even pity- for your misfortunes. This is not to say that sympathy is a bad thing, but it is unhealthy to attempt to gain sympathy from others purposefully. Intentionally looking for sympathy may play out as engaging in risky behaviors and can even lead to you causing harm to yourself. The result may look like an accident, and you may even convince yourself that it was an accident. But this can be extremely dangerous and risky, as the unintended consequences could be bigger than you’re prepared for.

Faking a lack of Ability

This behavior is often seen in children, but sometimes adults will also try to use this to their advantage when they feel neglected. Faking a lack of ability means you ask others to perform tasks for you because you tell them that you can’t. By pretending to be inadequate in certain areas, you gain the attention of others and have someone holding your hand through things- even at the risk of making yourself seem inadequate and annoying those around you.
Why do persons engage in attention seeking behaviors?

There are many different reasons why you might be tempted to seek out attention, including low self-esteem. A person could exhibit these attention-seeking behaviors out of simple jealousy. In that case, the behaviors may be temporary.

In other cases, it becomes a person’s lifestyle. Here are some of the common causes of chronic attention-seeking.

Low Self-Esteem

Many people who seek negative attention have low self-esteem, and they feel insecure about themselves. Because they do not love themselves, they are afraid that no one else will also. Signs of low self-esteem include:

• Bragging
• Being easily bossed around
• Being excessively timid or aggressive
• Showing a false self to others (highly pretentious)
• Being indecisive and uncomfortable with making decisions
• Rebelling for no apparent reason
• Putting a lot of stock in material possessions.

Psychopathology of Attention seeking behavior:

Attention-seeking can be a part of a personality disorder. Personality disorders that are often associated with attention-seeking include histrionic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder.

• Histrionic Personality Disorder

In addition to constantly seeking attention, individuals with this particular personality disorder display extreme emotional behavior. They make every effort to put themselves at the center of attention. Often, people with histrionic personality disorder utilize their sexuality to get attention and may seem to be flirtatious with many people. They also tend to have poor impulse control and seek out instant gratification, making it difficult for them to remain satisfied with their current circumstances or relationships.

• Borderline Personality Disorder

People with borderline personality disorder tend to feel empty. They fear being abandoned and are often paranoid about what others think about them. They may continuously read into other people’s behaviors, thinking that they are silently judged. Because of this, they may act out with manipulative or attention-seeking behaviors.

• Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Those with narcissistic personality disorder tend to think highly of themselves and make grand plans. They have trouble empathizing with others but react strongly to criticism against themselves. They often act with a sense of entitlement. Individuals with a narcissistic personality disorder can be very manipulative of others and seek admiration and compliments.

It’s important to note that symptoms from all three of these disorders can drastically improve with the help of a trained psychotherapist.