If we received insufficient care as children, when we become adults we may develop an unusually powerful need to gain care from others due to deep-rooted feelings of insecurity and, also, as a kind of compensation for what we missed out on during our childhood.
In severe cases, this can lead us to develop what is known as pathological care eliciting behaviours/ pathological care eliciting syndrome.
Very often, pathological care-eliciting behaviours are motivated by unconscious needs; in other words, the individual suffering from pathological care eliciting syndrome is NOT setting out to deliberately manipulate others into providing him/her with sympathy and attention.
Examples of Possible Pathological Care Eliciting Behaviours:
These are as follows:
– some forms of depression
– conversion hysteria
– anorexia nervosa
Let’s briefly look at each of these in turn:
Parasuicde: the term ‘parasuicide’ refers to a suicide attempt that is non-fatal. Sometimes, such an act may be what the psychologist Stengel (1964) referred to as a ‘cry for help’. Whilst such an act can have a strong effect on the level of support the individual who committed it receives, from both family and professionals, IT CANNOT BE ASSUMED THAT A FAILED SUICIDE WAS INTENDED TO FAIL OR TO DELIBERATELY GAIN EXTRA EMOTIONAL SUPPORT.
Some forms of depression: the psychologists Lieberman and Raskin (1971) put forward the view that some forms of depression may, often on an unconscious level, be in part an attempt to gain concern, sympathy and emotional support from others ; they referred to such benefits as secondary gains.
Conversion hysteria: ‘conversion hysteria’, studied extensively by Sigmund Freud, refers to a condition whereby a person’s internal, psychological conflicts manifest themselves as physical conditions. In other words, the physical problem the individual develops as a result of conversion hysteria is psychosomatic (the effect of the mind upon the body). Such a condition will frequently gain the sufferer significantly increased care from others.
Hypochondria: the psychologist, Kreitman, proposed that, in some cases, a person may develop hypochondria to elicit extra care and support because s/he is unable to articulate his/her primary problem which is psychological; the motivation for this is largely unconscious in most cases.
Psychogenic Pain. : psychogenic pain is physical pain that is psychological in origin. Like symptoms of conversion hysteria, it is, therefore, psychosomatic.
Anorexia Nervosa: because a person with anorexia nervosa, as a result of the condition, becomes fragile and weak and develops a more childlike body, their physically vulnerable appearance may be especially likely to elicit an increase in care and protectiveness towards the sufferer from family, friends and professionals.
Self-harm: this can include self-cutting, self-biting, self-burning, excessive/harmful drinking, excessive/harmful use of drugs.
N.B. In conclusion, it is worth repeating that just because the conditions listed above may, on an unconscious level, to use Stengel’s phrase, develop as a ‘cry for help’, it does not follow that this is necessarily the case and it certainly does not mean that deliberate manipulation of others is involved.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).