Attention Seeking Behavior

Have you ever said or done something in order to receive a specific kind of feedback from another person or others? If so, that could be said to be an attempt to seek attention. Sometimes, it can happen that a person feels rewarded when he or she is noticed by others and thus the attempt to seek attention from others seems to be worth it. However, if the pattern is repeated it is suggested to be defined as attention seeking behavior.

Attention can make us feel noticed, loved or understood. It is normal for humans to seek attention from time to time. The problem comes when we are making others feel obligated to give us attention when it would otherwise not be genuine attention coming from them or when the attention seeking is rooted in low self-esteem, jealousy, or loneliness. Attention seeking behavior in adults can take the form of posting excessively on social media with the goal of acquiring likes or comments from others, engaging in provocative behavior either by saying something or dressing in a certain way with the goal of obtaining attention, acting as if something that happened to you is a catastrophe when it is not, bragging about one’s wealth or making self-deprecating comments about oneself in order to receive validation from others. 

It could be said that attention seeking behavior can be unhealthy if an individual continuously attempts to “fish” for compliments, true compliments are given to people without them being asked for and when a person has high self-esteem he or she won’t feel the need to ask for compliments. Furthermore, when a person attempts to seek sympathy, the individual will most likely try to communicate in a manner that others will feel pity for them, thus they might acquire this way the attention their body is asking for. The problem of intentionally seeking sympathy can lead an individual to conduct risky behavior, where the person could easily harm himself or herself, thus leading to dangerous situations. 

There are individuals that are more likely to develop attention seeking behaviors than others. Those include people experiencing certain mental disorders such as borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, or narcissistic personality disorder. 

  • Borderline personality disorder: People diagnosed with BPD tend to feel unsatisfied, they might experience fear of abandonment, and tend to feel paranoid about others’ opinions of them. Furthermore, they might feel like they are being judged by others, thus attempting to have attention seeking behaviors.
  • Histrionic personality disorder: Individuals with this disorder tend to experience extreme emotions. They might be very flirtatious with different people. Furthermore, individuals with HPD tend to be impulsive and look for instant gratification when they feel like they need it. However, the symptoms of individuals with this disorder can vary and do not necessarily affect each individual in the same way. 
  • Narcissistic personality disorder: Individuals with narcissistic disorder tend to over-evaluate themselves and see the people around them as less important. They might acquire the tendency of seeking compliments and admiration from others. 

In conclusion, attention seeking behavior can be something that every person might have experienced at some point in their life. However, there can be a limit that when reached could lead to being unhealthy for the individual and others. If you feel like you might have attention seeking tendencies that seem to be unhealthy, please do not hesitate to contact a professional mental health provider. 

By Marta Padron Pena, Mental Health Intern