Trigger Warning: Mention of suicide, self-harm.
When I think of attention nowadays, the first thought that pops into my mind is Charlie Puth singing “you just want attention” from his appropriately titled song “Attention.”
Attention is defined, by Google, as the notice of someone or something and the regarding of someone or something as interesting or important. Attention seeking, similarly, is described as intending to make people notice.
Now, we all seek attention in healthy ways in our lives: that Facebook post about your cute dog, saying hello to someone you pass in the hallway, and so on. Sometimes though, seeking attention can come at an unhealthy cost such as deviant behavior that endangers your life or the lives around you, vandalism and other such examples.
I don’t believe the problem of attention seeking is innately a problem on whether it’s “good” or “bad”, I think it just is what it is. And when it does become problematic, then that’s a time to reconsider how a person is handling their life’s situation and how they can redefine how they seek out attention.
Attention seeking is a particularly delicate and complicated subject matter in the realm of mental health. The misinformed general public, and even some people who struggle with mental health conditions, see attention seeking as “bad” and act dismissive towards another individual whom is engaging in such behavior.
For this, I disagree. If someone is self-harming for attention that is still as serious and concerning as someone who is self-harming as a way to cope in a maladaptive manner with their mood changes, just as one example. More people than not have ways to cope adaptively with their mood changes and do not resort to self-harming, so the idea that someone would engage in self-harm for attention is still out of the norm and concerning.
I also believe attention seeking gets a bad reputation because misinformed or ignorant people about the topic of mental health will insinuate attention seeking as an insult. Again, I do not believe attention seeking can be split up so dichotomously to either “all good” or “all bad” and I don’t think attention seeking is as simple as the general public likes to pinpoint it as. I think there are many avenues towards attention seeking and there may be some aspects of it often involved, even in the smallest increments, with a person’s behavior.
As someone very openly involved in mental health advocacy and lived experience with mental health conditions this viewpoint of mine on attention seeking behaviors may either come as a surprise or understandable. If it is a surprise, it won’t be for long, because there are times where I, in particular, engage in maladaptive behaviors in order to seek attention.
I would say that my attention seeking, when I *do* do it, accounts for only about two to five percent of my behavior. Although, it is ironic that I say that as though I have to justify my own attention seeking as though admitting to it is insulting or demeaning to others in case my experience reflects or does not reflect my genuine issues of harm and emotional pain. By this, I mean to say that attention seeking behaviors are often considered to be disingenuous from more genuine suicidal or self-harming intent. Again, this places attention seeking behavior into the category of “not serious” and more easily dismissed, which I disagree with.
I believe that my attention seeking inherently comes from the core belief that I do not want to die by suicide or harm myself. Back when the issue was simply Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I was told that recovery is possible, that there is hope and that the crises, though incredibly painful, would not last forever. It is this hope and the help I got early on that has shaped how open I have become about my struggles and, in a way, how I seek some more adaptive attention such as writing these articles.
My therapist recently told me that I can receive attention for when I’m doing well, rather than just when I’m unwell. And, that’s very true. In fact, the attention I receive when I’m doing well, when people are recognizing my strengths, feels much better and much more satisfying than when I’m being noticed for the struggles that I’m facing.
Besides, my brain always offers the BS logic that feeling unwell is so “great” and “awesome” and “I enjoy it so much” but when it actually rolls around, it’s everything opposite. Some of what I covered here in this article actually contributes in part to the phrase crying out for help, which I will be discussing next. Until then, stay safe.
Written 9.8, 9.11, 9.16/2017.
Fast approaching newer articles to be submitted, which goes along with the good news I’ve still managed to refrain from telling you all about (I’ll correct that soon). This is one of the newer ones. I just finished up writing and editing it yesterday 🙂 I think it could be interesting to add to the discussion of mental health. :B
That’s about it! 🙂 Hope you get something out of it!