Dealing with a Compulsive Attention-Seeker

Giving attention to someone makes others feel important, loved, and valued. People who feel they are not given attention may feel less, becoming depressed, lonesome, and unimportant. On the other hand, a person who receives an incessant amount of attention can also harm them and the other in the relationship. Therefore, the amount of attention we give can either make or break people.


People who are at the receiving end of such incessant attention become too demanding, and controlling, and have developed an unstable sense of self. They become anxious, depressed, and angry once they feel that they do not get enough of it and feel jealous when attention is given to others. Attention seekers depend on their peace when their demands are met regardless of others, hence, everyone becomes exhausted and emotional. A person with such excessive attention-seeking behavior will most likely suffer a Histrionic Personality Disorder.


Histrionic Personality Disorder


From the Latin word “histriōnicus” which means “of actors”, histrionic means, theatrical, histrionic means theatrical, and overly affected and overly emotional. People with HPD are like theatre actors who need to exaggerate their actions and lines to be heard and capture the audience. People with HPD will act as the center of attention which can be annoying and bothersome to others. A person at least 18 years old and works in this pattern of excessive and highly emotionality and attention-seeking acts might have HPD.


The following are the symptoms of people with HPD, as identified by the DSM-V:


  • They do not feel comfortable when they are not the center of attention
  • They act in inappropriate ways— sexually, seductively, or provocative manner
  • Their emotions rapidly shift and are shallow
  • They utilize their physical appearance to draw attention
  • They speak in an excessively vague and unclear manner
  • Their emotions are highly and excessively dramatic, theatrical, and exaggerated
  • They are easily influenced by others or by circumstances
  • They see relationships as more intimate


Histrionic people tend to cause conflicts and trouble to the people around them because they need to accommodate their needs. In the process, people become agitated, exhausted, and frustrated and their well-being is affected.


However, we need to accept that excessive attention-seeking is not easily fixed or treated because you are dealing with patterns of habits that take much time and tremendous effort and support to be altered.


Families or group members who need to deal with a person with HPD should be supported. They need support and encouragement more than ever. Parents must be reminded that they must look after themselves, practice extreme self-care and strategize so they will not neglect the less demanding kids.


More importantly, we also need to find ways to help the person with HPD through the following ways:


  1. Remove the positive reinforcement for attention-seeking behavior. Enabling the person with HPD will not be helpful at all. No matter how hard it can be, do not engage when the drama commences. Stay emotionally neutral by paying attention to your mind as this will prevent you from being triggered. If you find yourself Remove yourself from the situation when you are about to feel angered and agitated. Do not hesitate to remove the privilege from them until the expected behavior is achieved.


  1. Teach how to calm the mind. Regular mindfulness activities and workouts can help the mind and the body to be calmer and more collected. Psychotherapists can help provide techniques and training for you and the person with HPD. You can also reinforce calm behavior from the person so they will not resort to excessive behavior or emotion when they need something.


  1. Normalize attention-seeking behavior while role-modeling appropriate behavior. Shaming the person will not help. Instead, model the proper behavior and remind them to express themselves acceptably, demonstrate and illustrate it if needed.


  1. Help the attention-seeker understand motives. Psychotherapeutic help can direct the attention-seeker to understand their reasons. Having the attention-seeker go through self-reflection questions can be a great way to manage the person. You can also pose questions that will make the person realize that they can find their self-worth and sense and importance within themself.


  1. Help the attention-seeker connect with and develop their strengths to pursue a higher goal. Make the attention-seeker realize that their strengths are for the service of others. They can shift to these activities to see that their sense of fulfillment is attained from being the center of attention and giving a piece of themself to others in need.


Real happiness comes from within us and not at the expense of other people. It also comes from making genuine connections to offer ourselves instead of operating from our egos. In this way, we find ways to understand others’ weaknesses and help them overcome them while we look after our well-being.

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