the user-led self-injury organisation.

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Attention seekers

Self-injury is often seen as attention seeking behaviour. Sometimes it’s not; it’s hidden and secretive, the opposite of attention seeking. And sometimes it is attention seeking. But what’s wrong with that? If you view attention seeking self-injury as a bad thing, then read on.

Imagine you’re visiting a friend in hospital. Perhaps they’ve had an operation, or they may have a life threatening illness. Whatever the reason, they are in a great deal of pain. Their analgesia was due some time ago, but the nurses were dealing with an emergency and they’re having to wait. Their pain is uncontrollable and they’re becoming increasingly distressed. They ring their call-bell but it’s unanswered. They cry and call out in pain. Other visitors are looking at them. What do you do?

a) Find a nurse and ask that your friend receives help immediately.

b) Hold their hand and reassure them that if they just hold on, help will be with them soon.

c) Call them an attention seeker and walk away.

Now imagine the pain is emotional; just as painful, just as difficult to cope with, and harder to control. Would your answer be the same?

Photo: Chris Blakeley


  • I wear many hats – LifeSIGNS

    […] am a person that is passionate about seeing self-injury for what it is. Not manipulation, not attention-seeking… But rather a means of communication, a method of coping and surviving, an aspect of behaviours […]

  • Helene

    I totally agree. Once a nurse had classified me as attention seeker and let me hurt me for more than an hour in an A&E when I was very distressed. Normally I am supported through my crisis.


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