Need Help Stopping My Attention-Seeking Behaviors

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

To whomever this may concern, I noticed over the years, that I have been engaging in attention seeking behaviors, and I desperately want to stop. I have a great home life, I come from a loving family, and I have wonderful friends. However, ever since I was a very young girl, I have always wanted attention from people. As I dig deep into my life, I remember being a very young girl, and wanting to have a scar on my face like Scar from The Lion King. I was younger then 10 years old.

As the years went on, I have been addicted to getting negative attention. I would like to tell you about my mental health issues before I continue any farther. I have a severe anxiety disorder, with many things tied into it. I have OCD, panic disorder, social anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder, anger issues as well as depression, and I also have issues with drug and alcohol addiction. I also engage in self-harm acts, cutting, burning, all of that jazz. I personally don’t understand why I have all of these issues, people would love to have the life that I do. Anyways, I am extremely embarrassed about my attention seeking issues, and I’ve been wanting to bring it up in therapy to work through it, but I am ashamed of this. I always want to be the victim, and I always want people to feel sorry for me. I can give you a few examples of my attention seeking behaviors. My liver was starting to have some issues from my heavy drinking and pill use, when I was told that, I was more happy that I could get peoples sympathy, rather then worrying about what I was doing to my body! I ended up doing cocaine because I knew I would get attention for that. I always have these really far-fetched thoughts of things I could do to get attention, I don’t ever really act on them, because some of them are dangerous. I get thoughts of trying heroin because I would get attention for that, there have been times when I wanted to get into a physical fight because if I have marks on my face, people would give me immediate attention. It’s stupid stuff like that.

I always want peoples sympathy, and by trying to get that kind of attention, sometimes there are really dangerous things that I think of in order to get that. I am honestly not sure why the heck I am this way. I have an addiction to negative attention, and I hate it!! I feel really low, and embarrassed by this, and I don’t want to be doing this for the rest of my life. I want to be a survivor, not a victim. Sometimes I feel like I will never be able to stop, because I love when people feel bad for me, and I am very ashamed about this. I’m 19 years old, and it’s time for me to grow up, and get my life in order, but I can’t do that until I work through my attention seeking behaviors. I’m not the type that makes up stories to get attention either. I know a girl who would fake pregnancy, miscarriages, and stuff like that. I also know a guy who makes things up about getting in fights, and getting hit by cars and all of that.

I don’t lie about anything to get attention, I just like it when someone feels sorry for me, and I honestly really hate that so much! I think my mental health issues play a big part in this as well, but even before I had these issues, I was doing attention seeking behavior. How on earth can I stop this? I feel like a bad person, I don’t want to be doing this anymore.

Sorry for the essay, thank you to whoever read this, it’s greatly appreciate, take care!

A. The attention-seeking behaviors you have described may fall under the broad category of factitious disorders. Factitious disorders are mental health conditions in which an individual pretends as though he or she has a physical or mental illness. Individuals with these disorders have a strong desire to be seen as injured or ill. They deliberately create a set of symptoms to gain attention and sympathy from others. Individuals with factitious disorders might create symptoms that do not exist or lie about their experiences. They may also seek out diagnoses or insist that they have an illness.

In your case, you have not feigned a physical ailment or a mental health condition but doing so has crossed your mind. You have considered acts of self-destruction (i.e. cocaine or heroin) to gain attention or sympathy. Your characterization of being “addicted” to attention and sympathy may be accurate.

The main problem, from my perspective, is your unwillingness to tell your therapist the truth. The therapist cannot assist you if he or she does not know that a problem exists.

You stated that “it’s time for me…to get my life in order.” To achieve that, an important step is being honest with your therapist. You have nothing to be ashamed of. You should not blame yourself for something that you can’t change. Your desire for attention is a symptom of a problem. It is not a sign that you are a “bad person.” The problem is correctable with therapy, if you are willing.

What I find encouraging about your situation is your level of insight. Your insight is a sign of intelligence. Share your insights with your therapist and use your intelligence to get the help that you want and deserve. I wish you the best. Write again if you have further questions. Take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 17 Sep 2011

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2014). Need Help Stopping My Attention-Seeking Behaviors. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 24, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/09/17/need-help-stopping-my-attention-seeking-behaviors/

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