9 Examples Of Attention-Seeking Behavior In Adults To Watch Out For

Have you ever exaggerated a situation in order to gain someone’s sympathy, help, or even just their time?

Have you said something that you don’t really mean just to provoke a reaction, even if that reaction is an angry one?

If you have, even if you’ve not been entirely conscious of it, you’ve exhibited attention-seeking behavior.

If you’re prone to attention-seeking, you probably know it deep down, but aren’t that keen to admit it.

After all, most of us can easily detect such behavior in others and know how frustrating and exasperating it can be.

Those who truly love us will put up with this behavior for longer than others, but very few people will be able to cope with it indefinitely. If you’re not careful, this trait might end up pushing the ones you love away.

Before you beat yourself up about your behavior, it’s important to remember that having a need for attention is only human.

Life is all about the connections that we forge with our fellow human beings, and we thrive off interaction with others. We all want and need a certain degree of attention.

However, there is a line in the sand that separates a healthy desire for interaction from unhealthy attention-seeking.

There are all kinds of reasons that an adult might seek attention. It might be rooted in something way back in their childhood, or it might be the result of a more recent event.

Some people go through short periods of craving attention when they’re experiencing a rough patch and are searching for validation. Others of us will always tend toward attention-seeking behavior.

Things can happen to us at any time that can alter our personalities, but developing a need for constant attention is something we ought to be particularly wary of if we want to maintain healthy relationships with loved ones, friends, or work colleagues.

Luckily, once you’re aware of the types of behavior exhibited by someone who has a need for attention, you can start to pick up on when you’re behaving that way, and take steps to remedy it.

So, do you attention-seek, or is a loved one guilty of it? Here are a few examples of telling behavior to watch out for.

1. Pretending You Can’t Do Something

You pretend that you’re incapable of doing something that you are, in fact, fully capable of, so that someone will do it for you, and focus their attention on you whilst they’re doing so.

2. Fishing For Compliments

You consistently point out your achievements, however insignificant, in a way that means that those listening have to compliment you. You do this to reassure yourself and for validation.

Whilst we all fish for compliments occasionally – if we’ve got a new haircut, outfit, or job, for example – doing it persistently is a warning sign.

3. Not Asking About Other People’s Lives And Problems

You quite happily dominate the conversation and gain the sympathy or advice of the person you’re talking to, but rarely reciprocate.

Your world revolves entirely around you.

Basic standards of politeness dictate that a conversation should be two-sided, and that when you catch up with someone, you should ask them about their life just as much as they ask about yours, rather than simply going on and on about your own problems or achievements.

You, on the other hand, can happily have a conversation that’s entirely centered on you and not even realize it. 

4. Being Controversial On Social Media

You stir up trouble on social media and are as controversial as possible just to provoke a reaction.

Some people take this to extremes, spending their days trolling celebrities on Twitter, but some of us just like to share controversial articles on Facebook and wait for the reactions to roll in.

Some may not go down the controversial route, but enjoy the drama instead. If you’ve found yourself posting a cryptic message suggesting that something’s wrong with you and then waiting for the questioning comments and concerned messages to arrive, it’s behavior to be wary of repeating.

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5. Being Promiscuous

You consistently seek sexual attention from those that you’re attracted to and change partners as often as you change your socks.

This is not to say that there’s anything wrong with partaking in and enjoying sex, with whoever you want, whenever you want.

Everyone should be able to do precisely as they choose with their own body without risk of judgment, and the majority of people engage in sexual activity just because they enjoy it.

Sometimes, however, people engage in lots of sexual activity with different partners for reasons that aren’t so empowering. 

It might be a sign of a lack of self-esteem and they might be hoping that someone close to them will notice their behavior and voice their concern about it.

Or, they might enjoy being the focus of gossip, even if it’s negative or judgmental.

6. Constantly Exaggerating

You embellish stories and like to make every bad situation sound far worse than it really is/was in order to gain sympathy.

7. …And Complaining

Hand in hand with exaggeration goes complaining. You always find something to complain about and do so constantly, failing to ever look on the bright side or see the positive in any situation.             

8. Causing Arguments

When attention is the aim, it often doesn’t matter whether that attention is positive or negative, as long as it’s there.

You consistently cause arguments for no good reason, often just for the sake of receiving attention from the person or people you’re arguing with, however negative that attention might be.

9. Doing Things Just For The Praise

The advent of social media has turned us all into attention seekers to a greater or lesser extent, but you find yourself actually doing things or going places just for the likes that the photographic evidence will get on Instagram.

But it’s not just social media. Anything you do that’s motivated chiefly by the recognition or praise you’ll receive for doing so, rather than because you genuinely want to do it or because it will have a positive effect on your life or the lives of others, also falls under this category.

Conversely, if the expected praise doesn’t come and there’s criticism in its place, this can be crippling. Whilst some people who need attention will take negative attention over none at all, for those who are particularly attached to praise, criticism can be very hard to cope with. 

What’s The Root Cause?

If any of the above sounds like you, the good news is that the first step toward quashing attention-seeking behavior is being aware of it.

But before you can start to change your behavior, you need to reflect on where it’s all coming from.

Sit down and think about which of these behaviors you’re guilty of, and be honest with yourself about why you think you act the way you do.

After all, there’s not much point in trying to change the way you behave if you do nothing to address the root of the problem.

If you feel comfortable doing so, talk to your close friends or family about your concerns and see if they have any insights into why you do the things you do.

After a bit of soul-searching, and depending on what you’ve uncovered, you might even benefit from a bit of therapy to help you work through your issues and become the confident, self-sufficient person you’ve got the potential to be.

It is worth noting that consistent attention-seeking behavior may indicate that a person has Histrionic Personality Disorder. Click the link to learn more.

About Author

Katie splits her time between writing and translation. She writes about travel and self-care and never stays in one place for too long. She’s currently based in beautiful Cornwall, England, after long stints in Brazil and Mexico. She spends her free time trail running, exploring and devouring vegan food.