This is a very good question. My response
is a qualified, yes. I say, qualified, because
some people, even if they become addicted to
being sick, do so at such a subsconscious level
that they are really unaware of it. To the
extent that they are unaware of it, I would not
say that they are consciously just trying to
draw attention to themselves. Many people who
seem to be "attention-seeking" are in actuality
trying very hard in "untraditional" ways, or
ways that are considered age-inappropriate to
cry out for help.
There can be an element of addiction to
being sick with any personality disorder
or mental illness in which a person is
able to maintain some awareness of self and
of objective reality. Whether the addiction
is truly to being sick or is more related to
being rescued and or not being expected to perform,
function, or be personally responsible for oneself
-- to the the by-products of being sick -- can be
difficult for even professionals to assess in some
There is a very interesting book that touches
on this concept that you raise here called:
"Why People Don't Heal And How They Can", by
Carolyn Myss, Ph.D. I would recommend anyone with
this question about someone they care about or about
themselves read this book. You can purchase it from
amazon.com by clicking on the picture.
In many cases a lot of the repetitive behaviour
seen with mental illness results from either
ruminating on and or being triggered by cognitively-
distored thoughts that produce certain feelings.
Those feelings are then acted upon. This can be
compared to being addicted to a substance or to
being addicted to being ill in that there are
impulses and urges to repeat "attention-seeking"
(and other behaviours) due to the distorted thoughts
and feelings as well as often just not having any
other coping mechanisms from which to choose. A big
part of healing is working on those distorted thoughts
to change the feelings at the same time as changing
So yes, people can be addicted to being sick.
People also get addicted to their coping mechanisms
no matter how dysfunctional they may be. Another
major part of healing is be willing to risk learning
about new choices.
This response is © A.J. Mahari
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This page/section was created on August 15, 2002 as part of the
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© Ms. A.J. Mahari 1996-2002 and moved to this domain December 15, 2002.
Last up-dated July 29, 2007