Being the centre of attention is something that most people enjoy, so it is understandable, then, that many wish to experience it regularly. Occasionally showing off is unlikely to be too much of a problem, but there are individuals who go to such extremes that it begins to interfere with their well-being. It is common for those trapped in addiction to use attention-seeking behaviour as a type of coping mechanism to manipulate other people. If this type of behaviour continues in recovery though, it can lead to real problems for the individual.
What is Attention Seeking Behaviour?
Attention seeking behaviour describes a way of acting whereby the individual deliberately does things in order to become noticed. This could include behaviours such as:
- making mountains out of molehills (aka catastrophizing) means the individual makes a big deal out of a small problem – this type of person is often referred to as a ‘drama queen’
- boasting about achievements, experiences, and personal qualities
- those with a bit of power (for example, a manger) may abuse it in order to get noticed
- trying to have all the say in a conversation
- lying about past achievements, experiences, and personal qualities
- lying about previous trauma
- having Munchausen syndrome, which is where the individual pretends to be sick in order to get attention – these days there is also Munchausen by Internet whereby individuals go to online support groups pretending to have some disease or disability
- instigating Munchausen by Proxy, which is where a person pretends or causes their relatives to become sick in order to get attention – an extreme example of this would be the parent that poisons a child
- going nude in a public area (aka streaking) or wearing odd clothes to get noticed
- manipulating friends in order to create drama
- going to the police station and making false confessions
- pretending to be super busy or always being the last person to leave the office.
Attention Seeking Behaviour and Addiction
Most people who fall into addiction do not engage in the extreme forms of attention seeking behaviour (for example, Munchausen Syndrome), but they can engage in lesser forms of it in order to manipulate. For example, the individual may lie about the death of a loved one in order to excuse an alcoholic binge or to encourage others to buy them a drink. The person caught up in addiction may also like to make mountains out of molehills because this gives them an excuse to drink alcohol.
Attention seeking behaviour becomes a type of coping mechanism for those trapped in addiction. It is a way for them to get what they want and to avoid the consequences. Individuals in this position know that they can get out of all types of tricky situations by pretending something awful has happened.
The Danger of Attention Seeking Behaviour in Recovery
The fact that attention-seeking behaviour can work for people trapped in addiction means that they continue to engage in it once they are sober just out of habit. The danger of using this type of negative coping strategy in sobriety include:
- it being a form of dishonesty, but in order to make progress in sobriety, the person needs to commit to a more honest way of living
- it being difficult for those dealing with the world in this way to develop meaningful relationships
- putting their own health in danger in order to get attention
- preventing the individual from developing effective coping strategies for dealing with life
- being a sign of low self-esteem
- meaning that the person becomes a source of conflict.