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Why 'Attention-Seeking' Behavior May Not Be as Bad as We Think It Is

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Attention-seeking behavior. I say that and negative connotations come up, yes? Why?

Because we have been told it’s bad. But, why? If you ask for attention, and are not given it, and ask again, and are still not given it, and then resort to maladaptive behaviors to ask for attention —behaviors that might include screaming for attention in harmful ways — and then are labeled as “attention-seeking,” who is wrong? If this happens over and over again and someone learns they will not be given attention unless they resort to maladaptive behaviors, who is wrong? If the person then begins with those behaviors, skipping the drawn-out process of asking for help, who is wrong?

If you are asked for attention, perhaps it would just be easier to just provide attention in any way you are capable. If you are a therapist, psychiatrist or general doctor, etc. and a client requests your attention, and you are unable to provide it then or at all, give them a way to get that attention in some form. Whether that be with a referral to someone or place that can provide that attention, or a number to call, or a time when you will be able to provide that attention.

Attention-seeking behavior doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Isn’t it good to finally say you need help? I think people end up resorting to what professionals consider to be “poor behavior done to draw attention” when a person has tried the conventional methods over and over and found them to be lacking.

Most of us start out simple, like putting a “children at play” sign on your street because you want your kids to be safe from speeding cars and having it be ignored over and over again. Eventually you might go to the city and demand a stop sign or speed bump. The problem lies in how you do it. If you were simply to ask for a stop sign and were ignored, you might up the ante and CC someone when you send the next email. Then you might put it in a more formal request before eventually starting a petition or asking for a vote. With mental issues, sometimes we can’t think clearly enough to go through the proper channels or we have and have been ignored time and time again when asking for attention in the proper ways. Finally we resort to lying in the middle street to get people to slow down because cars are still speeding and we can’t get the attention we tried nicely to ask for.

Unsplash photo via Velizar Ivanov

Originally published: April 18, 2018
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