Attention Seeking Behavior - Causes, Examples & How To Stop

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Sarvika Aggarwal

10 August 2023

8 Mins

We have all seen attention-seeking behaviors around us and have been victims of them as well. There is nothing wrong with wanting attention, especially from your loved ones. However, if it goes to an extreme, it can deeply hinder your psyche and your personal relationships.

Attention-seeking behavior, when done in the extremities, is a sign of ego-driven validation, which is harmful and an indication of insecure patterns and emotional conflicts that need healing.

So, let’s get into the crux of attention-seeking behavior and learn how to handle it effectively.

What is Attention-Seeking Behavior?

Attention-seeking behaviour can be defined as engaging in a behavior that you wish would attract attention and make you feel validated and seen by others. A small amount of attention is normal; this is something that you wish to get from your close and loved ones.

However, if this behavior is done in extremes with the goal of solely getting attention, even if it is from a stranger, it can become problematic. This behavior is usually a reflection of wanting approval, love, and care and isn’t a true sign of a person’s real personality.

Attention-Seeking Behavior in Adults

When a child is deprived of love, care, and validation in their childhood, they look for attention outside of their household and somewhere they feel safe and secure. This behavior shapes their personalities as adults and also helps in forming their attachment style. To know what attention-seeking behavior looks like, here are some signs of attention seeking behavior in adults:

  • Looking for compliments by constantly boasting about themselves and their achievements
  • Exaggerating their stories to gain attention
  • Pretending to be someone else so people get curious and give them attention
  • Creating a ruckus so they get noticed
  • Pretending to behave like someone else who gets attention, so even they get the same attention

There are different faces of attention seeking behavior that are seen differently in every individual. However, these are some common characteristics that can help you understand if someone is looking for attention or not.

Attention-seeking in Adults

Attention-Seeking Behavior in Children

Crying or shouting is the most typical attention seeking behavior in kids to get their parent's attention. Other than this, the child may behave inappropriately; not eating their meals, not listening to their parents or teachers, not doing their homework, or doing the opposite of what is told to them are some signs of attention seeking behavior. This is usually a reflection of their wanting love, care, approval, and validation from their loved ones.

Attention seeking in Children

Causes of Attention-Seeking Behavior

The causes of attention-seeking behavior differ from individual to individual. However, some of the common causes of attention seeking behavior are:

1. Low Self-Esteem

If a person has low self-esteem and confidence, it will be difficult for them to give themselves the love and validation they deserve. They might feel that no one notices them or gives them any attention, and because of this, they may put up a facade to attract attention.

2. Jealousy

Typically, jealousy develops when someone feels threatened by someone else getting all of their loved one's attention. Hence, they might act out in a different manner to gain attention.

3. Loneliness

Loneliness consumes a person from within and makes them feel isolated or out of place. In order to get away from this feeling, even if they try to hold a normal conversation or get out of their normal stance, it might look like they are trying to gain attention from everyone when, in reality, they are just trying to make friends.

4. Histrionic personality disorder

According to DSM-5, a histrionic personality disorder can be diagnosed when the person feels uncomfortable when they are not the center of attention, shows proactive behavior when interacting with others, and uses physical appearance to attract attention.

5. Borderline personality disorder

According to the DSM-5, borderline personality disorder can be diagnosed when a person, at one end, has a pattern of engaging in unstable relationships, has disturbances and problems in empathy and intimacy, has a poor self-image, impulsivity issues, and works in extremes. On the other hand, they have narcissistic and egoistic tendencies.

6. Narcissistic personality disorder

According to DSM-5, narcissistic personality disorder can be diagnosed when a person is all about their power, brilliance, beauty, success, money, or fame. They believe that they are unique and special in an egoistic way and want exclusive admiration and validation from people.

7. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

According to the DSM-5, the symptoms of ADHD appear in childhood itself, and some of them are inattention, problems concentrating, hyperactivity, impulsivity, trouble making decisions, and friends, which make children feel lonely and call for attention.

8. Unresolved trauma

A lot of people want attention because of their childhood experiences, which haven’t been healed. Some people carry those experiences and develop a certain attachment style, like an insecure or anxious attachment style. These styles might paint a different picture altogether and make the person do things to extremes in order to gain attention from their loved ones.

9. Anxiety

If a person suffers from severe anxiety and is not able to control it at times, it might lead to them wanting attention and love whenever possible in order to calm themselves and feel safe.

10. Bipolar disorder

According to the DSM-5, bipolar disorder can be diagnosed when a person has two different behaviors acting out in extremes, where at one end of the continuum, the person is abnormally upbeat and has ecstatic and maniacal episodes, and on the other end, the person feels majorly depressed and low.

Cause of attention seeking behavior

Examples of Attention-Seeking Behavior

Attention-seeking behavior can be seen in a lot of people if you notice and observe their behavior properly. To understand what attention-seeking behavior looks like, here are some examples:

  1. Pretending to be someone else: People will sometimes act like someone they admire in order to gain acceptance and validation from others.

  2. Looking for compliments: A person might subtly hint that they are looking for compliments so they feel accepted and validated.

  3. Being dramatic: A person might act dramatically or overreact in a certain manner so that they get all the attention and feel like everyone is watching them.

  4. Obsessively posting on social media to gain attention: While it is absolutely okay to take pictures and post them on social media, it should be done within limits because if this gets out of hand, it may look like the person is solely going to places or trips because they wish to get attention on social media.

  5. Constantly voicing opinions to get attention: People who constantly want to say something just for the sake of it, even though their thoughts do not make much sense, have an innate need for attention. These are some minor examples that you can see in your day-to-day life. Attention-seeking behavior may look different for everyone, but it is important to look into this behavior before your emotions completely devour you and start controlling you.

How to Handle Attention-Seeking Behavior

It can be difficult to handle attention-seeking behavior and tell the other person how you feel when they act in a certain manner. However, when you understand that their behavior is coming from somewhere else and is the root cause of something that is unhealed, you can navigate the situation in a healthy direction. Let’s see how.

1. Talk to them

This might seem scary at first, but if you know the person well enough and are close to them, then there is no harm in sitting down with them and talking about this matter. Instead of shouting at them or making them feel bad about themselves, talk politely and ask them to consider online therapy if possible.

2. Convert attention-seeking to connection seeking

Most of the people who are seeking your attention are actually looking for comfort and connection. So instead of getting annoyed, give them that compassion and genuinely try to build a relationship with them.

3. Refrain from giving positive reinforcement

This might be a bit hard, but if you see something dramatic happening that clearly calls for attention, disassociate yourself from that situation. Try not to indulge in that particular person or situation, and remove yourself from that setting.

4. Encourage them to seek therapy

If you are close to the person who is trying to win your attention, encourage them to seek therapy, as that will help them understand the root cause of their attention-seeking behavior.

5. Set your boundaries

While you can be caring and empathetic towards the person, it is also important to look after yourself and see if you are able to give them the attention they are always looking for. So, if you feel you are not able to be on the same page with them, it is best to put your foot down and lay proper boundaries with them.

How can Now&Me help?

Our platform, Now&Me, is a safe place that helps you feel lighter by writing out whatever is weighing you down. It helps you engage with others and makes you look at your situation from a logical and solution-oriented perspective. Become a part of the larger community and seek help for your attention-seeking tendencies by taking online counseling from Now&Me.

When you do not understand the root cause of your attention-seeking behavior, sign up on Now&Me and seek professional guidance from our experts. Be a part of a non-judgmental, inclusive, and friendly community. A platform made for you to readily ask for help and let our experts help you get a wholesome mental health experience.

Download the Now&Me app for free and understand the root cause of your attention-seeking tendencies with a panel of qualified experts and a loving community.

FAQs

The symptoms of attention-seeking disorder include feeling uncomfortable when not given the center of attention, showing proactive behavior when interacting with others, and using physical appearance to attract attention.

An ESTP personality type can be the most attention-seeking as some people can confuse it with being clingy, energetic, socializing, and meeting new people.

Yes, there is a relationship between attention-seeking behavior and ADHD, as the former is a symptom of the latter.

You can stop being an attention seeker by introspecting your behavior and analyzing where it actually comes from. Moreover, if you need help, you can try out therapy from Now&Me, where you can get instant guidance and support at 1/4th the cost of traditional therapy.

There can be various reasons why you need attention so badly; instead of assuming, it is better to introspect and analyze your behavior while taking help from a professional therapist.

There are different signs of attention seeking behavior in adults and children. But in general, they tend to act dramatically, pretend like someone else, cry or shout (in kids), and try to fit in to get attention.

People usually want attention because, deep- down, they wish to be cared for, loved, and validated. This might stem from unresolved patterns, childhood trauma, or emotional conflicts, but if a person hasn’t been loved as they deserve, it starts to show up in their behavior.

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