ⓘ Attention seeking

Attention seeking

ⓘ Attention seeking

Attention seeking behavior is to act in a way that is likely to elicit attention, usually to elicit 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. Most behavior that is motivated by attention seeking is considered to be driven by self-consciousness and thus an externalization of personality rather than internal and self-motivated behavior. This type of influence on behavior can result in a potential loss of a persons sense of agency, personality disorder and the behavior associated with these conditions.

Enjoying the attention of others is socially acceptable in some situations. In some instances, however, the need for attention can lead to new difficulties and may highlight underlying, preexisting ones. However, as a tactical method, it is often used in combat, theatre upstaging and it is fundamental to marketing. One strategy used to counter various types of attention-seeking behavior is planned ignoring.


1. Potential causes

Sometimes adults seek attention because of jealousy. When someone finds themselves threatened by another person who takes all the attention, they may respond with attention-seeking behavior.

Lack of self-esteem can be another cause for attention-seeking behavior. Some people think that they are overlooked and so they think that the only solution to restore their balance is to bring back the lost attention. The attention they will get in this case will provide them with reassurance and will help them think that they are worthy.

Loneliness can result in an increased urge to seek attention, even in those who would not usually do so.

Narcissists are also attention seekers. They consider this attention a good source of narcissistic supply and so they strive to get it.

Attention seeking is employed in the feeling of self-pity.


2. In different pathologies or contexts

  • "Attention seeking" is a term that can be misused in order to discredit people who are sincerely trying to reconcile themselves with past traumas - and their consequential maladaptive behaviors through others which is necessary and beneficial when the trauma affects the personality, thus giving the impression of simply "seeking attention" - this is usually a consequence of extreme abuse and neglect which impair the sufferers capacity for healthy interpersonal transaction.
  • Munchausen syndrome by proxy
  • Voluntary false confession
  • Munchausen by Internet
  • Self-destructive behavior – It is a common misconception that self-destructive behavior is inherently attention seeking, or at least that attention is a primary motive. While this is true in some cases, often the motivation runs much deeper than that. Many self-injurers are very self-conscious of their wounds and scars and feel guilty about their behavior, leading them to go to great lengths to conceal their behavior from others.
  • Personality disorders – A sustained pattern of attention seeking in adults is often associated with histrionic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder.
  • Munchausen syndrome

3. Planned ignoring

Planned ignoring is a strategy where a person gives no outward sign of recognizing a behavior, such as no eye contact, no verbal response and no physical response to the person seeking attention. The desired consequence of attention-seeking behavior is receiving attention in some form positive or negative from another person; when attention-seeking behavior no longer attracts attention, it may eventually cease.

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