For adults, attention-seeking behavior is a conscious or unconscious attempt to become the center of attention, sometimes to gain validation or admiration. It may be driven by jealousy or loneliness.

Attention-seeking behavior can include saying or doing something with the goal of getting the attention of a person or a group of people.

Examples of this behavior include:

  • fishing for compliments by pointing out achievements and seeking validation
  • being controversial to provoke a reaction
  • exaggerating and embellishing stories to gain praise or sympathy
  • pretending to be unable to do something so someone will teach, help, or watch the attempt to do it

Attention-seeking behavior may be driven by:

  • jealousy
  • low self-esteem
  • loneliness

Sometimes attention-seeking behavior is the result of cluster B personality disorders, such as:


Jealousy may come about when someone feels threatened by another person currently getting all the attention.

This, in turn, can lead to attention-seeking behavior to change the focus.


Self-esteem is a broad term covering a variety of complex mental states involving how you view yourself.

When some people believe that they’re being overlooked, bringing back the lost attention is may feel like the only way to restore their balance.

The attention that they get from this behavior may help provide them with the feeling of reassurance that they are worthy.


According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, 1 in 5 Americans say they feel lonely or socially isolated.

Loneliness can result in an urge to seek attention, even in people who don’t normally exhibit attention-seeking behavior.

Histrionic personality disorder

According to the National Library of Medicine, histrionic personality disorder is characterized by feeling underappreciated when not the center of attention.

For someone to receive a diagnosis of histrionic personality disorder, they need to meet at least 5 of the following criteria:

  • uncomfortable when not the center of attention
  • provocative or seductive behavior
  • shallow and shifting emotions
  • using appearance to draw attention
  • vague or impressionistic speech
  • exaggerated or dramatic emotions
  • is suggestible
  • treating relationships as more intimate than they are

Borderline personality disorder

Borderline personality disorder is a continuing pattern of instability in self-image, interpersonal relationships, emotion, and impulsivity.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, for someone to receive a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, they need to display at least 5 of the following criteria:

  • frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment
  • a pattern of intense and unstable interpersonal relationships with extremes between devaluation and idealization
  • a decidedly or persistently unstable self-image or sense of self
  • engaging in potentially self-damaging, impulsive behavior
  • recurring self-harm or suicidal behavior, including threats or gestures
  • emotionally instability in daily reactions, such as through irritability, anxiety, or intense sadness
  • chronic feelings of emptiness
  • inappropriately intense anger that’s often difficult to control
  • transient, stress-related paranoia or disassociation

Narcissistic personality disorder

Those with narcissistic personality disorder typically have a need for admiration with a lack of empathy.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, for someone to receive a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder, they need to display at least 5 of the following criteria:

  • a grandiose sense of self-importance
  • a preoccupation with fantasies of power, unlimited success, brilliance, ideal love, beauty
  • a belief in their own uniqueness, especially that they should only associate with, and will only be understood by, high-status institutions and high-status people
  • demand for excessive admiration
  • a sense of entitlement and unreasonable expectation of favorable treatment or automatic compliance with their expectations
  • taking advantage of others to achieve their own ends
  • unwillingness to identify with or recognize the needs and feelings of others
  • envy of others and belief that others are envious of them
  • haughty, arrogant attitudes or behaviors

If you notice this behavior is constantly recurring, it’s probably best for the person display the behavior to visit an experienced mental health professional.

If left unchecked, attention-seeking behavior can often become manipulative or otherwise harmful.

Attention-seeking behavior may stem from jealousy, low self-esteem, loneliness, or as a result of a personality disorder.

If you notice this behavior in you or someone else, a mental health professional can provide diagnosis and treatment options.