I have a profound fascination with attention seeking behavior(s). I am also profoundly clever at capturing the attention of my peers, family, and friends. Let’s be completely honest, some of know, without too much consideration and thought, exactly how to gain the attention of our peers, friends, and family. Some of us, conversely, couldn’t get the attention they were seeking if their life depended on it. The level and intensity of attention seeking behavior begins and ends with the ability, tenacity, and creativity of the person seeking attention. Attention seeking behaviors can be attributed to various mental health diagnoses. To identify, correctly, which diagnosis, the clinician will need to closely evaluate the behavior very carefully.
For most personality disorders, including, but not limited to Narcissistic Personality disorder, Histrionic, and Borderline, the clinician will need to evaluate the intentions or motives of the person seeking attention. Motives, intentions, and the general goals of anyone seeking attention should be the primary indicators that someone is seeking attention is trying make up for, or satisfy a character-logical deficit. I am suggesting that if the motive is clear, the intention purposeful, and the aim to gain the attention of other simply to satisfy an individuals thirst and make up for their own shorting comings or lack of insight into a interpersonal situation gone awry then beware. You are probably working with a personality disorder.
In terms of NPD the reason or rationale for seeking attention is probably, first and foremost to satisfy a personal deficit in self-worth or self-esteem. For people carrying a diagnosis of Histrionic personality disorder, the aim is usually rooted into creating hysteria to mask whatever set of bad decisions or personal choices are occurring or are in need of concealing and hiding to shift the focus to something more benign and innocuous. In terms of patients carrying a borderline diagnosis, the attention seeking behaviors are aimed at splitting, and causing such chaos around them, that the ability to take ownership or accountability takes a backseat to the clinician focusing primarily on the week’s crisis.
But these diagnoses aren’t the only ones in which attention seeking behavior is displayed by clients. This is why, although personality disorders primarily are attributed to attention seeking behavior, we as clinicians and friends of people carrying a mental health diagnosis need to remember why? From an epidemiological standpoint, diagnoses are merely the markers of the incidence and distribution of symptoms in patients. From a mental health perspective, we clinicians and friends need to remember all humans seek behavior at different levels, even at cross-purposes, and always to fundamentally connect with other people. This is totally normal. Only when these behaviors create extreme distress, for the person exhibiting or displaying the behavior, and the people in their social world is it truly diagnosable and a problem.
Like I said in the introduction, I am a master at grabbing the attention of my peers. I have gone through such extreme lengths to capture attention that I have had the police show up at my door because the level of rigor, persistence, and aim was so alarming to my peers. Again, this is when attention seeking goes awry. I have learned over my years to scale back, and generally, decrease the intensity and viability of my behaviors. This is to say, Im very good at gaining the attention of my peers without making it clear as day that was my intention from the very moment I began to enter the social scene.
We as a society have begun to truly mark, identify those seeking attention, and shame them for such behaviors. I am not completely sure this is the right path or the best way to handle such behaviors. When we collectively make it clear such behavior is unwelcome, unwarranted, and not necessarily appropriate we give the the person seeking such behavior exactly what they are looking for when they set out to display such untoward or visibly obnoxious scenes. I do believe, without question, we need to take a more psychologically sound, and driven approach, which includes, putting the blinders up, actively ignoring, and minimizing or better yet, making it clear through our body language and words, these sort of displays are an ineffective way of capturing our attention and keeping it.