[Trigger Warning: Discussion of suicide, self harm, bullying, depression, anxiety and other mental health issues]
I thought I would update this post with a summary of some of the responses I’ve had to it, because nearly 300 people and counting have reacted to the post in some way, and their stories and opinions need a platform.
So my original post read:
Half of those with lifetime mental health problems first experience symptoms by the age of 14.
Think twice before you write someone off as an ‘attention-seeking teenager’
My friend responded on Facebook:
I also had the following responses on tumblr:
viscapoum: yep. always thought it was ridiculous to call someone out for being an ‘attention seeker’… if someone is seeking attention in whatever way, then surely there are issues that need to be addressed, rather than behaviour to be condemned.
cicada-san: I remember the many times I tried to talk with my friends on high school about how hard and depressing was to live with every day verbal abuse and bullying from siblings they just kept brushing it off as me just exaggerating to gain pity, just awful
freemints: Maybe I wouldn’t be a neurotic mess if I could have gotten help in high school.
Could you direct me to a source that gives the number of “those with lifetime mental health problems” so I could have a legitimate, numerical comparison of these with the attention-seeking teenagers?
Kessler RC, Chiu WT, Demler O, Merikangas KR, Walters EE. Prevalence, severity, and comorbidity of 12-month DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2005 Jun;62(6):617-27.
Good luck tryin’ to hate.
I dont fucking understand this negativity around “attention seeking.” Should someone be vilified for trying to bring attention in whatever way they can to something they are struggling with in their life?
I don’t really know what exactly you use to define “attention seeking teenagers” but my first thought goes to self-harm, and if someone is self-harming in order to get attention, that goes to show they either don’t have someone who is available to help them or they don’t know how to ask for help.
And if “attention seeking” means faking having a mental illness or faking certain symptoms, it is also a problem, because it just shows that someone is not getting their needs met, whatever they are, either because they can’t express them or someone isn’t listening.
AND if someone truly is just faking shit left and right despite having all the support and healthy capabilities they need, then perhaps they have Munchausens, narcissistic PD or histrionic PD. So.
Absofuckin’lutely. SPOT ON.
Here’s the difference though
If you have an actual disorder, seek help
But when people fake a disorder for the attention, it diminishes the disorder in the eyes of the world and can make treatment for those with the disorder more difficult to find
I understand that and agree, but there’s definitely weight to socialentrapment’s assertion that sometimes ‘faking’ mental illness can be symptomatic of mental illness in itself, so there’s always that to bear in mind too. I’d say the general rule of thumb is: ‘Take people seriously when they express distress to you’.
clumsyoctopus: so if any of you are looking for a really good tumblr on mental health i recommend mindovermatterzine?? because swooooon.
whirlerdog: FOR FUCKING REAL and also like, can I just say, as someone who is actually PROFOUNDLY MENTALLY ILL, I went through high school self-harming and daydreaming about suicide and doing other self-destructive things just to keep myself functioning for four years and one of the most fucking DAMAGING things that happened to me was having friends who mimed cutting their wrists and saying things like “cheer up emo kid!” and talking about how everyone who claims they’re depressed is just an attention-seeking angsty teen, not a REALLY depressed person. so basically: next time you want to write someone off as an “attention-seeking teen”? shut the fuck up, because YOU ARE THE PROBLEM.
purlsbeforewine: “attention seeking,” jesus christ. also, anecdata: i began exhibiting symptoms of depression and social anxiety in the sixth grade, when i was eleven. these were, of course, merely the front-runners for my obsessive-compulsive disorder, which manifested when i was twelve. i’ll spare you the grotty deets — the quiet, suffocating breakdowns, the psychotic episodes, the disassociative episodes, the simultaneous and unending panic and terror and self-loathing and hopelessness, and apparent social apathy that was me shutting down unnecessary functions (like socializing) in order to survive — but suffice to say, i’ve little interest in romanticizing middle or high school. i was diagnosed with ocd when i was 23. eleven years. eleven years without a diagnosis, without any confirmation that i had a disorder, anything to suggest that my obsessive speculations aside, i was not a human pestilence — that is, that i had a disorder; i was not a disorder. i went undiagnosed for so long because i was afraid to talk to anyone — literally ANYONE — i was afraid to tell this stuff to my dog — because a) i thought if i voiced it, that made it real, and b) if it was real, i would be taken from my family and put in a cell, or, even worse, c) no one would believe me. because i was a kid. i was just a melodramatic teenager. there was nothing wrong with me. i was just complaining. i was lazy. i hung out with kids who were a ~bad influence~ on me. a) was a coping mechanism; if i don’t acknowledge it, then it isn’t there. b) was a nightmare, a fear that haunted me at night. c) was reality, or reality as i perceived it. and that’s not okay, you know? i was treated off and on for depression, which i do have separate from my ocd, but it’s the ocd that wrecked me. i should have been on meds for it years ago. i should have been in therapy for it years ago. i’m still unlearning all these coping mechanisms i learned as a teenager just to survive the landmines lodged in my own brain, coping mechanisms that kept me alive but at the expense of other skills. what if i had told someone? what if i had reached out? what if i had sought attention? would anyone have listened?
birdbitch: Hey guess what I actually started to manifest symptoms of mental illness at the age of 11 when I had my first panic attack. There isn’t enough research done on mental illness in the young and that’s why we can’t adequately diagnose kids who might be suffering and you know it is really bullshit if you don’t think that’s a huge issue. there are kids who are written off as attention seeking when they have problems because of this bullshit and I’m not okay with that and you shouldn’t be either. so if someone is asking for attention, then pay the fuck attention to them. Even if you think that they might be “faking” symptoms, there’s usually something else going on alright?? so just shut the fuck up if you’re being a dismissive asshole
sinchronize: i am still young, 19 to be exact and i only managed to get help this year. i have been mentally ill since i was like 13. my first symptom was my tiredness and i started missing school a lot, at least one day a week and i couldn’t explain myself. i thought it would go away, but it didn’t. i was basically known for missing so much school and that didn’t really make the teachers like me. i always felt so uncomfortable going back to school after i missed a day or more. when i was in school i have heard several people talking about people who self-harm and yes they were called “attention-seeking” by them. at that time i didn’t self-harm, but i have been now for 2/3 years. but i never cut myself in places you could see, never the arms. and i didn’t only cut myself as there are also other ways to harm yourself. i myself was super afraid of being called attention seeking. i constantly put myself down, telling myself over and over again that my life could be worse (bc it could) and that maybe i was overreacting. and it just took me a while to realize that i was even mentally ill and then even more time to seek help. because i too thought i would be called an attention seeking person. i thought it would be something to be ashamed of. but being mentally ill is not your own fault. and everyone needs to realize that, because this is fucking dangerous.
trixxt: It’s called parasuicide, and just because some idiots are so stuck up their own privilege that they consider it annoying rather than concerning, doesn’t diminish how serious it is. If someone is cutting themselves, it’s a big fucking issue. Simple as. Fuck the presumed motivation. A person is wilfully hurting their own body. Parasuicide IS calling out for attention, it’s a fucking cry for help. To ignore it is blasé, to mock it is downright cruel.
draggle: The teen years are when a lot of things usually develop (if they’re going to develop).
karalianne: I guarantee you I was depressed as a child and a teen and nobody knew except that my parents knew I was sad most of the time and very lonely.
seedlingstrange: I had issues long before fourteen but symptoms did become more severe in ninth grade…
murmur-sound: LOL IT’S ALL FOR ATTENTION!! i HATE it when people say that. It’s so lame, yes let me tell you the attention I get for being bipolar is so FUN! The mood swings, the mania, the depression, the confusion and the utter helplessness of losing my personality? I do it for fun and attention, that’s why when i’m in my cycles I stay inside away from people, which i LOVE just sitting at home doing nothing but sitting and staring at the wall due to not feeling ANYTHING. F off.
ravensrose: my panic attacks started at age 8, after my aunt died. i spent at least a year and a half sobbing every night, calling my parents into my room to ask them what happens when you die and failing to be soothed by any answer they gave me. they stopped from about age 10 to 14, when they started happening during the day. depression started at 12 when i first got my period, as did hearing people in my head. none of these things have faltered since. so yeah. fuck you if you think that mentally-ill teens are just “attention whores.” i will beat you over the head with my case file, which dates back to when i was 16.
vicieuse: I was too afraid to “come out” about my self-harm because I was sure it would be seem as attention-seeking. I started in the first grade.
queenofattolia: For a flip-side perspective, I was first diagnosed with an anxiety disorder when I was eight. I had been having emotional meltdowns, depression symptoms, and telling my parents I didn’t want to be alive anymore. I got help, and life got better and I lived mentally healthy through the rest of my school years. And then when similar symptoms surfaced again when I was in college, I knew that I had a history of mental health problems, so I knew I could ask for help and I did so. I had the tools I needed (a recognition of what was going on, a lack of shame that came from my problems being taken seriously, etc.) to reach out. Again, got them back under control until shortly after I graduated when they popped up again, and again when I recognized what was going on with me, I could ask for help. The fact that someone (my parents and then my therapist) took my symptoms seriously the first time they showed up has made my life better since then. I know that it really freaked my mama out because I was soyoung to be acting the way I was, so I can only imagine how many people start showing symptoms in their adolescent years and they get dismissed as teenage angst or something. It breaks my heart to think about. If someone takes you seriously when you first start to have problems, that will make whole life better. It will.
This may be the longest post ever to hit tumblr. No fucks given though: I hope your words are read far and wide. As ever, thank you so much for contributing your thoughts and experiences. I’m absolutely convinced that by talking about these issues we can make each other think and hopefully reduce the risk of a future generation being failed in the same way that we were. Keep safe, xo
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