Overdose + ED = Attention seeking?

I’ve read at least three blogs by people with mental illness who are of the opinion that overdosing and presenting at the Emergency Department is ‘attention seeking’ and they condemn taking this action. Okay yeah, I guess I can sort of see where they’re coming from. But being someone who has done this a couple of times, it is also really hurtful for me to hear this. Especially coming from people who are meant to be understanding of mental health issues, people who deal with a mental illness themselves. If people with mental health issues have this perspective, then what do the professionals think?

And so, I try to refrain from being this ‘attention seeking’ person. I overdose but I don’t present at the ED. The problem with this is that it perpetuates the loneliness I feel, the thought that I’m alone in my pain and that no one cares. I get tempted to overdose again. As ‘attention seeking’ as it is to seek medical advice after an OD, situations like ending up in a hospital ward overnight with a drip, being admitted to a psychiatric ward, it serves as a bit of a wake up call to put me off doing it again, at least for a while. In April 2010 when an ambulance came, in August 2010 when I ended up in the ED with a drip in my arm, in December 2010 when I ended up in a psych ward…they all served as pretty major ordeals which stopped me from taking another OD until a few months later. When that doesn’t happen, well… in December 2010 I OD’d without telling a soul, and three weeks later I OD’d again, ending up in a psych ward…

16 thoughts on “Overdose + ED = Attention seeking?

  1. I do not OD for attention. I OD to die. Infact, when I have tried and woken up in hospital I was pissed it didn’t work and embarrassed that people would now know what i tried to do. Attention is NOT what I was looking for.

  2. When you get treatment – apparently being admitted involuntarily – in a psychiatric unit, is there an aftercare plan developed for you for when you’re discharged? Or are you just left on your own? It seems to me that a gap exists in the care you are receiving…

  3. I agree with Indigo Rose. My ODs have been unsuccessful suicide attempts (having carefully researched toxicity and potentiating effects). I’m never going to expect my psych team to agree this, but the ‘plus’ for OD over other forms of suicide attempt is that it takes so long; even just getting tablets down you takes a lot of time and effort (my body’s developed a gag reflex to starch, accursed wretch!). Whereas you can decide to jump out a window and have met the deceleration force in all its glory in less than a minute (OK, there aren’t so many tall buildings in Oz!). I simply can’t imagine ODing for anything less than genuine suicide attempt so you are clearly a bit fucked up to want that (saying this in the nicest possible way, mind! :P)
    But this points to the problem- where does suicidality end and parasuicidality begin? Would you rather one of your attempts had ‘taken’? Have you been able to articulate your parasuicidality to your carers? Yuh, I can see it might be called attention seeking, but this is why others could be getting vicious- because rather than getting appropriate treatment, we all end up getting lumped into ‘one size fits all’ treatment models. It’s like when poor white folk turn to racism rather than attack the actual systems that keep them in chains.

  4. If it is my blog, I’ll take the heat. Any comments I made were not about you, but were in general about people who take meager overdoses. I know I’m probably in the wrong, but it is so hard to hear people who make a big fuss about a small overdose when you’ve taken a huge one and still survived. It makes you feel like they didn’t really mean what they were doing. Does that make sense? For example, someone takes 30 pills and I’ve taken over a 100 of the same, I get a little judgmental and accusatory.

    I have such an attitude about it. I’m trying to change it. The whole experience is so individual that we shouldn’t be judging each other, but I can’t seem to stop it. I don’t know where my problem lies, so anyone who can see it can freely share it!

    Honestly though, it was never about you. Anything like this that I comment/blog about are about people outside our blogosphere. I wouldn’t be so rude as to openly judge someone that I know like that. That doesn’t make it any better I suppose. Gotta vent somewhere though, but I know I’m not exactly doing the mental health area any favours.

    I’m sorry. 😦

  5. What I don’t get is why, even if it is attention-seeking (and I don’t think it is in most cases) – why is that so terrible? If someone is in so much mental anguish that they need someone to take care of them for a bit, isn’t that OK? People don’t seek attention for fun. Something’s wrong, somewhere.

    Of course, positive reactions to attention seeming behaviour can be seen as ‘rewarding’ and perpetuating the actions. OK, but the only way to stop it is to work out and resolve the cause of it (through therapy), rather than condemning it.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t think you’ve been attention-seeking. You’d be ODing much more frequently if so in my view. You’re in pain, that’s all, and harming yourself is one way you cope.

    Gah, that sounded terribly patronising, sorry. It’s 4.45am here and I haven’t slept, so I can’t articulate myself well. Sorry.

    Take care

    Pan x

  6. Hope you have read my stuff on attention seeking then, because that is ridiculous. People need to look at the definition of attention seeking and stop seeing it as something we should actively ignore and comdemn people for. People hurting themselves physically, to a point that could be accidentally fatal, because they want to express pain so bad that it can’t be spoken in words? And some people might be doing that because they want or need someone to help them cope. Oh dear god, what terrible people. Hang them all.
    its shocking how ignorant people can be.especially when they have enough knowledge of it themselves that they should really be more understanding. Xx

  7. I wonder why it matters what someone else thinks of your actions. It does not change the action. I had a disscussion with someone about the validity of DID, whether someone believes it or not does not change my experience of it. If it is/ was your experience of overdosing, in the end does it matter what the reason was, you still experienced it. If more people took care of their own realities and stopped passing judgement on people who experience life differently, the cause for mental health care would be greatly uplifted. I am sad that anyone would feel the need to overdose regardless of why. Peace.

  8. Hi I hope my blog post that I wrote about my client overdosing didn’t make you worry about this… I hate that they called it attention seeking behaviour. They tend to call people with borderline personality disorder attention seekers too. It’s not a bad thing that you go to the hospital after you overdose, eventually you will have the coping mechanisms to deal with shit without the urges to OD and maybe one day you will get help first before overdosing. Do you think a few days in an inpatient ward would help?

  9. I used to read people’s comments about depression and suicide and get so angry and hurt. Comments on how people who are depressed should just get over it, because there are other people with real problems out there. I ended up realizing I had to ignore those ignorant comments, because they were eating me up inside. At the end of the day, you are the one who knows how you feel, and nobody deserves to devalue the amount of pain you feel. Don’t listen anyone who dismisses your actions just as a cry for attention.

  10. I overdose and take myself to hospital. It’s always so awkward because I know people must think I’m just attention seeking. But I really don’t think it is. For me I overdose as self harm (rather than suicide). I spend months with my head screaming at me to overdose (I don’t know why) and eventually I can’t fight it anymore and I take the pills. It gives me a few days peace. I’m sure there are other reasons people OD and present too. But yes I think there are a lot of reasons other than attention that someone might do it.

    • I can relate so much to what you have said here, I too, (even after I have just left hospital from overdosing), hurt my entire family, alienated everyone around me and not to mention damaged myself, there is a part of me that will urge on and on getting me to do it again. I often think I deserve the pain, so I give in easily, and the cycle begins once more. For me, It is a compulsion, make no bones about it.
      I have frequently been on the receiving end of imbecilic advice, directed at me from an array of people along the way, not excluding doctors, psychiatrists, family and friends. I have been told “to pull myself together” (by a friend who claims to suffer from depression, yet literally scoffs at all forms of self harm), needless to say, I refrain from talking to her nowadays…

  11. Ay up. Just thought I’d chip in with summat a decent source (a patient who was a medic in her past life) told me on Friday.
    The problem with overdosing is unpredictability (I’ve already known it was a bit uncertain- I’ve been far more successful with 70 tablets than I have been with 150+, and although I thought it was down to predictable factors beyond just the vomit issue), but it’s actually incredibly complex. A dose you could tolerate easily at one point (and maybe able to do so later) on the ‘wrong’ day could have completely different to expected consequences. And then, you’ve got 10 days hoping a liver transplant is available. Now for those of us hoping to die, that’s kinda good news . But if your sole intention is to self harm, then DO NOT OVERDOSE.
    Do you need the action to realise the expression? (ie, do you only realise how shit you’re feeling once you’re into OD mode, or do you know beforehand that you’re going to overdose? in which case, there *should* be support available- if you access it saying “this is where I’m thinking of going but I don’t want that” will that have the required affect? ) Or do you need the action to give you a holiday from yourself/experience of being looked after (as the hospital ward can yield (in which case, check into a spa! surely a student can afford that and if not Medicare probably covers it -NOT!). Start having that discussion with yourself/others. (Sorry, this *is* therapy speaking; I’ve realised a lot about my SH -if not reasons why not to- this week because of a few questions from C)

  12. If we start from the theory that everyone is doing his/her best at self-care at any given moment (but leave aside all that “That was my best? That was horrible! I’m such a failure!” junk that I always get into), then ODs, as suicide or SI, are the best attempt at seeking help and health by people who have no other viable means of such seeking at the time. This is “seeking attention” in the sense of (forgive me, not trying to trivialize) child running to mommy with a skinned and bleeding knee, not child screaming for attention when mommy’s trying to talk with another grownup. The language is the problem, not the act. My ex-wife #2 OD’d on klonipin once to “get my attention,” and I took her to the ER where we found out she hadn’t even swallowed enough to necessitate medical intervention, no charcoal, no pump, nothing. This says nothing about what she thought she was doing at the time, or how much genuine pain she was in.

    The games of “I can OD on more pills than you can” remind me of alcoholic pissing contests in AA (“I drank so much I almost died!” “Well, I drank so much I did die, and was reincarnated as pickle!”). None of that matters, so anyone who’s still stuck on that should get over it.

    As a nurse, I do want to say to all the folks who OD on Tylenol, consider this. (Requires a password, but just ask and I’ll give it to you, if you’re interested.)

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