Attention-seeking behavior can be a symptom of mental disorders. But what if I told you that it can also be a form of manipulation?
We all love a bit of drama, right? It perks up a mundane and routine life. But if your life is all dramatic ups and downs with no plateaus, it might be worth stepping back and seeing why you need all this attention.
Many of us would say that we quite like to be the center of attention. However, if we crave this attention and work to sustain with melodramatic behaviors, then it could be a form of manipulation.
Someone that is emotionally mature will receive all the validation they need for their self-confidence during their lives. Yet, those with low self-esteem will have to create situations where they get this important feedback.
So what sort of attention-seeking behavior are we talking about and how is it used as manipulation?
Below are the types of attention-seeking behavior and how it manipulates:
1. Hysterical Behavior
This sort of behavior is typified by histrionic outbursts with emotional reactions to anything and everything. The outbursts will be over-exaggerated and tend to be melodramatic, loud and over-the-top. People who are hysterical will fly off the handle at the slightest provocation and be inappropriate in social situations.
This sort of behavior is used as a manipulation technique as it immediately focusses everyone’s attention onto the hysterical person, giving them the attention they need.
2. Plays the victim
Do you know someone that just seems to have the worst luck ever? This is not a person that has actually suffered from a crime or terrible life event, but a person that uses the status of victimhood to elevate themselves above others. This person will view everything as a negative experience and believe they are being deliberately targeted. If one problem is solved then expect another to crop up pretty soon afterwards.
Used to manipulate, a person who always plays the victim will drain energy from people around them and use other’s sympathy as a barrier to the truth about them.
3. Indispensable friend
These types of people prey on the vulnerable and insert themselves into other people’s lives, becoming indispensable to the point where they bask in the glory of their special friend status. As the vulnerable person begins to lean on them more and more, so do the opportunities for exploitation. If the vulnerable manages to get themselves free, then the indispensable friend will become resentful and disrespectful.
This technique is used to manipulate as it elevates the attention-seeking person’s status above all others as they make themselves the most important person around.
4. Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSBP)
A known psychological disorder here but a frightening one. A person suffering MSBP will get attention by harming someone and then stepping in at the last moment and saving them. In this way, they get all the glory and ‘superhero’ status that is afforded after the rescue. Mothers, in particular, are susceptible as are nurses and firefighters, anyone that has a job that involves responsibility for the public.
This is a particularly worrying disorder as it can prove to be fatal. For someone with attention-seeking behavior, however, it is addictive and all-consuming. The attention they receive by being close to the action is exactly what they’ve needed all their lives.
5. Always ill
One way of getting attention is to feign illness or to play on an existing one. We learn from a very early age that as soon as we injure ourselves, we get an immediate and soothing reaction from our parents. In some extreme cases, people have been known to severely injure themselves in order to gain attention. It is completely natural to feel sorry for someone who is suffering and to comfort them, making them the focus at that time. This is a powerful feeling for some people.
Gaining sympathy is almost the same as getting attention. So for a person who is more of an introvert than an extrovert, they will employ subtler means of getting attention, no hysterics from them. Instead, they’ll feign illness so that others are always at a disadvantage.
6. Busy bee
Have you got a friend that is always the busiest person on the planet? No matter how much you have to do, she or he is always inundated with tasks? They haven’t got a moment to themselves and they wish they had an easy life like you?
This kind of attention-seeking behavior is more of a put down to others, as it clearly states, in a passive-aggressive way – ‘I’m far more important than you because I am always busier than you.’
How to stop attention-seeking behavior
If any of the above behaviors ring a bell with someone you know, then there are steps to take in order to help them:
- Find out why they need to seek attention.
- Notice when and where they are at their most attention-seeking.
- Ignore negative behavior and reinforce positive behavior.
- Get them to focus on how their attention-seeking behavior is affecting those around them.
With professional help, of course, it is possible to overcome attention-seeking behavior.
As Ramandeep Singh says: “It’s funny how loving yourself is being full of yourself, and hating yourself is being attention-seeking.”