Are You Guilty Of Attention-Seeking Behavior? Spotting Habits Of This Behavior

Updated January 15, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Attention-Seeking Behavior Often Stems From Childhood Trauma

Why Adults Exhibit Attention-Seeking Behavior

There are many different reasons you might be tempted to seek out attention, including low self-esteem or a fear of being neglected. A person could also exhibit these attention-seeking behaviors because of heightened emotions. When a person feels intense emotions of rage, jealousy, or abandonment, they may react irrationally. In that case, the behaviors may be temporary or due to poor impulse control.

When this behavior happens repeatedly, it can become habitual. In these cases, people utilize unhealthy attention-seeking behaviors consistently. 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. They may be afraid that others can't feel genuine love for them or feel inadequate. As a result, some people with low self-esteem may overcompensate to disguise their feelings or act in ways that give them a temporary sense of power. Signs of low self-esteem include:

  • Bragging

  • Allowing others to boss them around

  • Showing excessive timidity or aggression

  • Conveying a false self to others

  • Acting indecisive and/or uncomfortable with making decisions

  • Rebelling for no apparent reason

  • Putting a lot of stock in material possessions.

Attention-Seeking Behavior And Its Relation To Personality Disorders

Attention-seeking can be a symptom of a personality disorder. Personality disorders often associated with attention-seeking include narcissistic personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and borderline personality disorder. All three personality disorders are part of a cluster known as dramatic personality disorders or cluster B personality disorders.

Histrionic Personality Disorder

In addition to constantly seeking attention, individuals with this particular personality disorder often display extreme emotional behavior. They may go out of their way to put themselves at the center of attention. People with a  often utilize their sexuality to get attention and may seem flirtatious with many people. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Edition), they may also tend to have poor impulse control and seek instant gratification, making it difficult to remain satisfied with their current circumstances or relationships. It's important to note that people with histrionic personality disorder may differ in their symptoms. As with all mental health disorders, individuals should be diagnosed by a mental health professional.

Borderline Personality Disorder

People with borderline personality disorder tend to feel empty or unsatisfied. They fear being abandoned and are often paranoid about what others think about them. Many people with borderline personality disorder struggle to maintain long-lasting personal relationships if they go without proper treatment. 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 may also see the people around them as less important. Thus, people with narcissistic personality disorder may be seen as performing attention-seeking behaviors. They often have trouble empathizing with others but react strongly to criticism against themselves. They often act with a sense of entitlement. Individuals with 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 licensed therapist.

Other Causes Of Attention-Seeking Behaviors

Experiencing and creating drama can release hormones that make you feel good, though those hormones only work for a short period. As a result, people sometimes find themselves continuously seeking out dramatic situations, regardless of how damaging they may be long term.

You don't need drama to feel good, and drama can damage your social life. Many people who seek out drama, or chaotic relationships, do so due to  Though everyone needs acknowledgment and attention from those around them, some people who seek it out can create a cycle of unhealthy behaviors.

Drama can be addicting, especially if it gets you the attention you are craving. The brain is wired to become stuck on behaviors that bring emotional rewards. Over time, people feel may feel compelled to go to greater lengths and cause more drama to get the same attention. Eventually, the people affected by these behaviors may begin to distance themselves or stop giving the person's attention to their mental well-being.

Attention-Seeking Behavior Often Stems From Childhood Trauma

Other potential causes of chronic attention-seeking include the following:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

  • Trauma

  • Anxiety

  • Bipolar disorder

  • Other mental disorders

Does Social Media Increase Attention-Seeking Issues And Mental Health Problems?

Social media is not necessarily a cause of attention-seeking behavior, but it does provide additional outlets for people prone to seeking out negative attention. Because social media puts you in front of a larger audience than you would encounter face-to-face on a given day, it increases the likelihood that someone will pay attention to you. Social media also allows people to curate how they are represented to those who engage with them.

Though social media can be a great way to connect with the people you love, it's important to pay attention to your habits when using it. Seeking out emotional fulfillment online can isolate you from the world around you.

What Is The Treatment For Attention-Seeking Behavior?

People tend to learn attention-seeking behaviors out of fear. In fact, you may not even realize that what you are doing is attention-seeking behavior. If you crave attention and fall into using unhealthy behaviors to get it, you can get help. You don't have to rely on others for your confidence and self-esteem. The best source of self-esteem is feeling confident about yourself. Otherwise, the love of others may never feel sincere to you.

On the other hand, when you notice that someone you care about is engaging in this toxic behavior, you can help them move away from this destructive pattern of attention-seeking. Approach them to express concern and reassure them that you are there for them. If they are receptive, direct them to a mental health professional with experience treating the causes of attention-seeking.

Some individuals who engage in these behaviors can be manipulative and abusive. It’s important to ensure that you are not getting into a situation that allows them to damage your mental or physical health. Regardless of a person’s mental health disorder, abuse in any relationship is not okay. If you have found yourself in an unsafe relationship, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is a free resource available to you. With the right support, you can improve your mental and physical health. We’ve included a few suggestions for getting started below.

Acknowledge Your Behavior?

If you want to change your behavior, the first thing you need to do is learn to acknowledge it. Focus on identifying times when you're engaging in these behaviors and look for the underlying reason why you do it. Journaling or keeping a written record is a great way to track what triggers these behaviors and how they affect your relationships.

Build Your Self-Esteem 

Growing your confidence and self-esteem can help you learn to feel good about yourself so you won't look to others to do validate you. An easy way to start improving your confidence is to start tracking your moments of success, no matter how insignificant they may appear to others. Start by celebrating really small tasks and then build up to bigger ones. When you start to see the success you're having, it will grow even more and boost your self-esteem.

Do More Listening Than Talking

If you're used to seeking attention, there's a good chance that you do a lot more talking than listening. Start working on putting the focus on others instead of trying to shine it all on yourself. This might feel uncomfortable to you at first because you aren't used to it, but it will get easier as you continue to do it. Making an effort to shift your attention from yourself to the people around you can help them feel closer to you. As a result, it can be rewarding to focus your attention outside of yourself actively.

Give Therapy A Try

Talking with a mental health professional is an effective way to work on changing your behavior. Like those at BetterHelp, a therapist can work with you to help you identify where your craving for attention is coming from and what changes you can make to stop engaging in these behaviors. Online therapy may be beneficial for people who engage in attention-seeking behaviors as it removes a potential audience, which may serve as a distraction. The ability to schedule an appointment from any location and at a convenient time makes online therapy more appealing to many people who maintain busy schedules.

Perhaps you’re concerned about online therapy’s effectiveness in helping people who exhibit attention-seeking behaviors like you might. For those who may seek attention from others due to experiences of childhood trauma, online therapy has been found equally efficacious as in-person modes of therapy. You can read reviews of our therapists below from people experiencing similar issues.

Counselor Reviews

"Kristi is a fantastic counselor who can pull on a variety of experiences and resources to present patients with definitive guides on how to best tackle problems. She is also great at reinforcing positive behavior while also pointing out where errors have been made. Great overall!"

"Nancy is a professional, intelligent, and personable therapist and was a pleasure to work with. I would recommend her to anyone interested in challenging their negative thoughts."


Attention is good if you're getting it in healthy ways. If you're not, making changes and even going to therapy can help improve many areas of your life. With the right support, you can learn tools to help you have a healthier relationship with yourself and the people you care about. You can build your self-esteem, develop healthier habits, and enjoy fulfilling, rewarding relationships. Take the first step today.

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