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Attention Seeking Behavior(s)🤳🏽

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I have a profound fascination with attention-seeking behavior(s). I’m also profoundly astute at capturing the attention of peers, family, and friends. Please make no mistake about it.

I am no stranger to these histrionic red flags into a possible personality disorder.

Let us be completely honest. People spend a great deal of time fixated on getting attention. Conversely, some people can’t get the attention of others if their life depended on it.

The level and intensity of attention-seeking behavior begin and ends with the ability, tenacity, and creativity of the person seeking attention. Attention seeking actions cited in the DSM 5 are parts of larger issues to a clinical picture. In cases using the DSM-5 for clinical work, the ‘issue’ is a mere abstraction.

The DSM-5 transformed the conversion of a neutral and non-threatening term like ‘issue’ and into something that needs further attention and concern: problem. In the end, the problem is the ‘diagnosis’. The illness’ something that needs treatment.

Patient reporting in a clinic or therapy office is under the psychiatrist’s lens—psychiatric assessment of your behavior based on reporting. The informal–yet–unassailable remarks of the psychiatrist about you become an archival record—the point of departure from symptom to medical illness.

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, choices, and the general goals of anyone seeking attention should be the primary indicators that someone is seeking attention to make up for or satisfy a character-logical deficit or ‘personality disorder.’

I am suggesting that if the motive is clear, the intention purposeful, and the aim is to gain others’ attention. Quenching an individual’s thirst and making up for their shorting comings or lack of insight into an interpersonal situation gone awry, then beware.

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 to create hysteria to mask whatever set of bad decisions or personal choices occur or require 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 aiming at splitting and causing such chaos around. The ability to take ownership or accountability takes a backseat to the clinician focusing primarily on the week’s crisis.

These diagnoses are not the only ones in which the patients enact attention-seeking behavior. I focus on patients with personality disorders who pass off attention-seeking actions as a necessity or an undisputed life requirement in this essay.

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 connect with other people fundamentally. While this should be a given axiom in mental health, it is not!

Only when these behaviors create extreme distress, for the person exhibiting or displaying the action, and the people in their social world is truly diagnosable and problematic. As stated before, mastering grabbing the attention of peers and other colleagues is simple. After going through such extreme lengths to capture attention and experiencing the police show up at the door.

Rigor, persistence, and aim were so alarming and off the mark in terms of purpose that everyone was puzzled. Again, this is when attention-seeking goes awry. Over the years, this writer has been in mental health and learning to scale back and generally decrease the intensity and viability of behaviors.

This writer is very good at gaining a peers’ attention without making it clear as day from when I began to enter the social scene.

As a society, we have begun to truly mark, identify those seeking attention, and shame them for such behaviors. Not entirely sure this is the right path or the best way to handle such actions.

Collectively, we need to make it clear that such behavior is unwelcome, unwarranted, and not necessarily appropriate. We give the person seeking such action precisely what they are looking for when displaying such untoward or visibly obnoxious scenes.

I believe people need to take a more psychologically sound and driven approach when putting the blinders up. Actively ignoring and minimizing or, better yet, making it clear through our body language and words, these sorts of displays are ineffective in capturing our attention and keeping it.

About the Author

J. Peters

Max Guttman '08, MSW '12, is the owner of Recovery Now, a private mental health practice. Through his work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, therapist and disability rights advocate, Max fights for those without a voice in various New York City care systems. He received a 2020 Bearcats of the Last Decade 10 Under 10 award from the Binghamton University Alumni Association.

Guttman treats clients with anxiety and depression, but specializes in issues related to psychosis or schizoaffective spectrum disorders. He frequently writes on his lived experiences with schizophrenia.

"I knew my illness was so complex that I’d need a professional understanding of its treatment to gain any real momentum in recovery," Guttman says. "After undergraduate school and the onset of my illness, I evaluated different graduate programs that could serve as a career and mechanism to guide and direct my self-care. After experiencing the helping hand of my social worker and therapist right after my 'break,' I chose social work education because of its robust skill set and foundation of knowledge I needed to heal and help others."

"In a world of increasing tragedy, we should help people learn from our lived experiences. My experience brings humility, authenticity and candidness to my practice. People genuinely appreciate candidness when it comes to their health and recovery. Humility provides space for mistakes and appraisal of progress. I thank my lived experience for contributing to a more egalitarian therapeutic experience for my clients."

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