Written by Apurva Sapra under Dr. Anu Goel for merinews.com – 17 July, 2013
Humans are social creatures. Everyone likes to be looked at, talked to, and listened to. They like validation of worth. But not many would go out of their way to make this happen. The ones that do, however, are called attention seekers.
Attention seekers indulge in behaviors, either voluntarily, or involuntarily, which would make them the centre of attention. The way of grabbing attention varies, with a total of four different styles of seeking attention. These are – extroverted positive overt style, extroverted positive subdued style, extroverted negative overt style, and extroverted negative subdued style.
An extroverted positive overt style can be immediately observed, such as with behavior like bragging and boasting to draw attention. It is also associated with narcissism. Such people may also show exhibitionist behavior. An extroverted positive subdued style is more subtle, yet still displayed through designer clothes, dominating conversation, etc. An extroverted negative overt style is the display of behaviors to gain pity, or reassurance. And an extroverted negative subdued style is the subtle expression of a negative statement, such as wearing unusual clothing.
Why they may engage in these behaviors also varies. It may arise out of neglect in childhood, and a consequent low self worth and insecurity, with the person in need of constant attention with feedback and validation.
Or it may be a situational factor, with jealousy as the driving force of the action. It may even be a personality factor, with arrogant and overconfident people believing they deserve any attention they can get.
Certain personality disorders can account for attention seeking, such as histrionic personality disorder (HPD), narcissist personality disorder (NPD), and borderline personality disorder. Attention seeking in adults, and particularly the phrase ‘drama queen’, is associated with HPD.
In children, neglect can cause a child to feel a survival threat, and they may misbehave to make sure they cannot be ignored. It can also be a case of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
The Munchausen syndrome is a perfect example of how people gain attention by feigning or exaggerating illnesses and playing the sufferer to get sympathy and pity. Another related disorder is the Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP), whereby a caretaker intentionally creates an illness, or hurts those in their care to assume the sick role by proxy. Sometimes, they may play the saviour to garner more positive attention, and acting as a hero.
Some might not go as far as creating illnesses to act as a saviour, but would grab any and every opportunity to act as a rescuer in situations where others suffer. He or she preys on the misfortune, or vulnerability, of others, and gain gratification from helping them.
Some may go as far as to feign victim-hood to get out of situations in which they are outwitted, so that people can tend to them. This victim-playing may be on-line, or offline, and may relate to harassment, abuse, etc., and may even produce evidence.
Exaggeration is often also a sign of attention seeking, as many normal day-to-day events take on epic proportions, and a person gains attention through story telling. The person may act as a drama queen, or use such events to show how busy he or she is.
Manipulation and mind-poisoning are also used as weapons to garner attention. Guilt is used to create emotional injury. This can also be seen in a school setting with bullies, and their way of causing trouble.
Voluntary false confessions are a common ploy to gain the attention of the media and police, as is exhibitionism, such as mooning, flashing and streaking, to gain the attention of the surrounding crowd.
Even a person, who is always in charge of things, and volunteering to help, isn’t an innocent organizer. By portraying themselves as reliable and dependable, they get to be the centre of attention. But in some cases, attention seeking might not be such a bad thing at all. It makes a person feel secure and confident, even if these feelings might be temporary.