attention seeking syndrome // kinan jarjous

Attention Seeking Syndrome: The Early Experiences

Warning: Long post ahead!
but I tried my best to make it human friendly…

Attention Seeking Syndrome isn’t a classified syndrome, but rather what I would call a collection of issues that can lead to the phenomena we encounter / suffer from every now and then. I will break up the argument into two posts: Early experience (not too early), self consciousness and self monitoring.



People’s early experiences in life (whether or not they are recalled) have a deep impact on the person’s character. I won’t go as far as early childhood but focus on some specific period where you’d most likely encounter people with this issue. The three age groups are School Age (7-12 years), Adolescence (12-19) and Young Adulthood (19-34). Note that the age range is hypothetical; the adolescence period can go into the early 20s and so on.

School Age: This age group basically struggles with proving themselves to the world. Obviously, as they are always bombarded by demanding parents to do well, tough exams, peer pressure and a sense of responsibility.

During these school years (as you may possibly remember) there is always a competition in class on who does well and/or better than their peers. Maintaining a balanced challenge is a healthy for development. However, this is a thin edge of a large coin with devastating extremes: One is always defeated and one always wins.

What this translates to is that school kids who are constantly failing at what they do and don’t always get their family support, couple with the fact the results of peer pressure (ridicule, low grades, not being the teacher’s favorite) end up feeling incompetent and more inferior. If the child in question is aspiring (versus nonchalant), then the child will more likely develop lower self esteem, lower self efficacy and lower confidence. An unhealthy result of this is that the child will start engaging in other things to gain superiority – and attention.

Equally unhealthy is the A-student. Constantly studying and aiming to meet the demands of parents and life will make the child more industrialized and less of a child (check my 80’s post for more). All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Constantly studying means that the child has less time for other activities that develop other cognitive skills, which may make the child feel inferior later on.

Adolescence: This is probably the age group where the phenomena is most pronounced. The major factor dominating people in this group is basically their identity and how it is perceived by others.

Peer pressure plays a different role here than the School Age. Whereas in the School Age peer pressure acts as an obstacle to one’s performance with the self, in adolescence it acts as an obstacle to one’s performance being accepted by others; ie the struggle between keeping one’s identity and pleasing others.

This forms the essence of attention seeking syndrome, which is the “me-too” symptom. You don’t like to smoke, but other people are smoking. If you don’t smoke you can’t hang out with “the cool guys”. But it is also against your own values. So what do you do?

Adolescents will make mistakes and they are destined to. If they don’t make their own decisions they could end up relying on other people constantly for decision makings. If they do make the wrong decisions (wrong relative to them) they need to learn how to recover from it and develop their own identity.

The key factor here is to differentiate what actually matters in the real world when it comes to social life and future career prospects and what doesn’t. If the person keeps “not knowing what to do” and trying many different things to conform to many different ideas and life styles, then the adolescent can very well lose contact with who they are, who they want to be, and always seek to belong somewhere. Which other people will perceive as attention seeking.

Young Adulthood: This stage can be catastrophic based on the outcome of the previous age group. The attention seeking changes in form but is still present, if it appeared in the previous age group. If it didn’t, it can possibly appear in this age group but it will be in milder form.

Anyway, what is critical in this period is drawing the line between being intimate, being social, and being alone. Intimacy is a natural process of trying to find a loved one or partner in life, and people in this group still often blend in their identities with their loved ones or with the other social group. The blending isn’t quite as pronounced or major as the previous group. Rather, the blending becomes more of sharing or supporting/adding some tweaks, bells and whistles to your stem character. Of course, complete external character changes can still happen, but the core should more or less be stable (usually what you’d get for an answer to “what kind of person is s/he?“).

Forming these lines to separate your intimate time, social time and solitude time is important because focusing on any one of them will form dependencies or total isolation. Investing all your time with a loved one will alienate you from friends and lets you form an identity dependent on the loved one. If the relationship fails, you will have little support from people around you and you’d feel completely lost because you haven’t developed “me-time”. Therefore you may end up “clinging”, either to lovers or to social groups, which could be perceived as attention seeking.

Alright, I talked a lot for now; I will leave the other two for later posts. Remember, this is just my opinion on the subject matter, nothing professional.