What is an example of attention-seeking behavior?
Attention-seeking behavior can be defined as any action undertaken that directs focus to an individual’s own problems, achievements, or other circumstances. Although “attention-seeking” sometimes implies that the person is searching for validation, the attention does not need to validate the person’s experience; the attention can be either positive or negative. In addition, a person may not realize they are engaging in attention-seeking behavior.
Examples of attention-seeking behavior might include:
- Fishing for compliments.
- An overwhelming drive to receive admiration from others.
- Intentionally making inflammatory or aggressive remarks.
- Telling “tall tales” or other embellished stories to make achievements seem more impressive.
- Feigning helplessness or pretending to be unable to complete a task so that others offer assistance.
Is attention-seeking a mental disorder?
Attention-seeking behavior is not, by itself, a mental illness. It does not necessarily represent psychopathology but may appear alongside several mental health conditions, most notably personality disorders. For example, histrionic personality disorder (HPD) is characterized by attention-seeking behavior. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, a person must meet five or more of the following criteria to be diagnosed with HPD:
- Uncomfortable when the attention is not on them.
- Excessive seductive or provocative behavior.
- Emotional volatility.
- Uses physical appearance to attract attention.
- Dramatic or exaggerated emotions.
- Considers relationships to be deeper than they actually are.
- Easily influenced by others.
While not all criteria align closely with attention-seeking behavior, many symptoms of HPD do. Attention-seeking may also be found in borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder, although those conditions have additional features beyond attention-seeking.
What are examples of attention-seeking behavior in students?
Attention-seeking behavior in students refers to any classroom behavior initiated to get a response from another student, a teacher, or another adult in the classroom. Typically, attention-seeking behavior in students takes place only in social settings. Here are a few examples of attention-seeking behavior in students:
- Frequently out of their seat without permission.
- Excessive hand-raising, regardless of whether they have a valid contribution, question, or response.
- Excessive noisemaking or talking.
- Frequent interruptions blurted responses, or an unwillingness to yield the floor to others.
How do you deal with attention-seeking behavior?
When confronted with attention-seeking behavior, responding appropriately can sometimes be challenging. It is important to prevent both positive and negative responses. Responding positively validates attention-seeking and makes the person more likely to approach you for attention in the future. Responding negatively doesn’t offer the same degree of validation, but it still gives the person your attention.
It is likely helpful to set strong boundaries when dealing with someone displaying attention-seeking behavior. Don’t engage with the person when the attention-seeking behavior is present. You may consider either politely declining to give the person your attention (e.g., “I’m sorry, I’m focused on another task and can’t talk to you right now.”) or arranging to give the person your attention at a more appropriate time (e.g., “I’m pretty busy right now, can we talk later today?”).
What causes attention-seeking behavior?
In adults, attention-seeking tendencies are often linked to low self-esteem and loneliness. For many, attention-seeking behaviors are a way to find connections with others that may not be present in their daily life. Most humans need attention from others to support their overall well-being. When a person is chronically deprived of normal amounts of attention, they may turn to attention-seeking behavior to correct the balance.
Attention-seeking behavior may also be associated with a mental health condition, most notably cluster B personality disorders. Cluster B, also known as the “dramatic” disorder cluster, contains four personality disorders: antisocial, borderline, narcissistic, and histrionic. While each of those disorders can produce attention-seeking behavior, histrionic personality disorder, in particular, is associated with attention-seeking, and all are associated with struggling to maintain healthy relationships.
What do you call a person who needs a lot of attention?
The term “histrionic” is often used to describe someone who needs a lot of attention. The term refers to “acting out” and typically describes behaviors intended to turn the focus of others onto the person displaying them. It is seen in histrionic personality disorder, a mental condition characterized by an overwhelming need for validation and attention from others.
How do I know if I am an attention seeker?
You may be an attention-seeker if you regularly display behaviors commonly considered to be attention-seeking. Everyone seeks validation from others occasionally, and it is likely healthy to do so. However, if you become uncomfortable when attention is on another person, struggle to feel ensure when attention is not on you, or regularly adjust your behavior to get others to pay attention to you, you may be an attention-seeker.
Attention-seeking behavior can also occur alongside mental health conditions or when threats to overall well-being occur, such as excessive loneliness. If you are regularly deprived of social attention or validation from others, your attention-seeking behaviors may increase. Personality disorders like histrionic personality disorder may also play a role.
Why am I an attention seeker?
Attention-seeking behavior can emerge for several reasons. You may struggle to maintain self-esteem or self-worth. You may be deprived of social contact; those who experience excessive loneliness are more likely to exhibit attention-seeking behavior. You may also be struggling with jealousy if your attention-seeking behaviors tend to emerge when a person you don’t like is getting more attention than you.
A mental health issue may also play a direct or indirect role. For example, loneliness can both cause and be caused by depression, and loneliness is known to increase attention-seeking behavior. Depression may also lower self-esteem, further increasing the likelihood of attention-seeking.
Personality traits may also be involved. Cluster B personality disorders, characterized by difficulty maintaining healthy relationships, emotional volatility, and “dramatic” behaviors, are strongly associated with attention-seeking. One cluster B disorder in particular, histrionic personality disorder, demonstrates a powerful association with attention-seeking behavior.
How do I stop attention-seeking?
Engaging in healthy, productive social interaction is likely one of the best ways to lower attention-seeking behavior. Attention-seeking often results from being deprived of social contact or attention from other humans. Increasing socialization while deliberately minimizing attention-seeking may help reduce the need for attention in the future. You may also consider improving your self-esteem to decrease your need for validation and attention.
Because attention-seeking behavior is associated with mental health concerns, you may wish to speak to a mental health professional when attempting to stop attention-seeking. A therapist or other qualified professional can help find the root cause of your need for attention and can help you address any co-occurring mental health conditions or other factors that may be contributing. They can also help you improve self-esteem and social skills, helping you find attention in healthier ways.
How do you deal with attention-seeking behavior in children?
Attention-seeking behavior in children has been studied since at least the mid-20th century. In the 1950s, researchers utilized factor analysis to test three determinants of attention-seeking behavior in children. The results indicated that children were more likely to exhibit attention-seeking when intrinsic attention was low and that boys were more likely to attention-seek when interacting with a woman.
Peer-reviewed studies suggest that noncontingent attention is likely a powerful tool for addressing a child’s attention-seeking behavior. Noncontingent attention refers to giving positive attention when the child isn’t seeking it, and there is no “reason” for the attention to be given. When children are attention-seeking, they often don’t care if the attention is positive (praise) or negative (reprimand). This can lead to disruptive behaviors undertaken to elicit either a positive or negative response from an adult.
Noncontingent attention fulfills the child’s need for attention while decoupling the attention they receive from their behavior. For example, consider a teacher dealing with a disruptive student. The student regularly misbehaves and requires redirection from the teacher. When the student misbehaves and receives a reprimand, their need for attention is fulfilled, albeit negatively. This leads to an escalating cycle wherein the student misbehaves more frequently and severely to get more attention.
In the above example, the attention the student receives is contingent on their behavior. They must misbehave to receive attention from the teacher, and receiving attention makes it more likely they will misbehave in the future. To correct this, the teacher begins offering noncontingent attention. They regularly provide positive attention to the student at random intervals, but always when they behave appropriately.
The teacher might say things like, “Thank you for sitting quietly in your seat.” or “I didn’t call on you this time, but I appreciate you raising your hand.” The key is to offer the student attention that is not contingent on their attention-seeking behavior but is offered freely when they comply with normal classroom expectations.