Adolescent bullying is a global concern because of the debilitating effect of this violent behavior on one’s mental and physical health. Today, children and youth are more susceptible to bullying due to technology and social media. Bullying occurs in person and virtually, leaving children more vulnerable than ever.
What Is Bullying?
Bullying is an aggressive behavior directed toward someone with the intent of causing physical and mental harm and discomfort. Although bullying predominantly happens in childhood, its effects can last a lifetime. Bullying may include physical assault, verbal abuse, and neglect.
The Effects of Bullying on Mental Health
There is a sufficient amount of evidence in research showing a correlation between bullying and mental health conditions. Repeated exposure to bullying impairs a child’s physical, mental, and social functioning. Bullying causes emotional and thought dysregulation leading to mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, panic disorder, agoraphobia, and eating disorders.
Bullying and Depression
Research shows bullying survivors develop depression in adulthood. Depression gets reinforced by social, biological, and psychological factors. Socially the bullying recipient of abuse is struggling to fit in. Bullying worsens their resilience, leading to isolation.
Getting ostracized lowers the victim’s self-esteem, and sense of worth, making them believe they are deserving of abuse. Stress and fear can push children and youth into a vicious cycle of rumination, suicidal ideation, and attempts. In adulthood, a bully survivor becomes susceptible to depression because the neuronal pathway mediating the depressive mood was already hyper-aroused during childhood bullying incidences.
Bullying and Anxiety
The impact of bullying triggers anxiety disorders. Bullying evokes intense and uncontrollable fear and persistent worry. The victim keeps thinking about encountering the bully and the resulting hurt. Worse still, children spend more time in school.
Therefore, they are under constant stress exposure for long periods. They can develop anxiety and panic attacks, generalized stress disorder, social anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder from the ordeal.
The impact of bullying on children and youth may include:
- Increased aggression directed at oneself or others
- Lowered self-esteem because they can’t fit in with peers
- Visibly worsened academic performance due to pre-occupation with bullying
- Increased insecurities and negative worldview
- Avoidant behaviors even after bullying has ended
- The physical impact such as headaches, stomach aches, skin conditions, and sleep disruptions
- Feelings of powerlessness and loneliness
Bullying Can Manifest Itself in Different Forms:
Verbal: teasing, name-calling
Physical: hitting, punching, kicking
Social: gossiping, being a passive by-stander, exclusion
Virtual: sending threats, posting false, offensive information online
Creating a positive environment in a learning institution is crucial for children and young adults. School administrators should have rules that discourage bullying. Enforcing consequences for bullies will reduce such incidences on school grounds.
Caregivers can also prevent bullying at school by supporting and implementing anti-bullying rules at home. Let the bully know they still have to deal with the repercussion of their action at home.
Schools and communities should also promote the importance of kindness and reward such efforts with positive reinforcement. Children can also learn empathy from caregivers at home. Positive reinforcement is equally beneficial for young people.
Cyberspace regulation is another vital aspect of creating a safe environment for children and young adults. Cyberbullying is becoming increasingly more rampant. Caregivers need to monitor their children’s activity online to ensure they are not victims of bullying or bullies. Control the time and sites. Monitor behavior and teach children how to handle interactions online in a safe manner.
Below are some bullying prevention tips:
- Empower your kids
- Promote communication and connection
- Teach coping strategies
- Learn the warning signs
- Instill healthy habits
- Be an advocate for bullying prevention
- Partner with other parents and teachers
- Encourage extracurricular activities
As parents and caregivers of children and young adults, it is fundamental we teach them effective coping skills. Together, we can prevent bullying of young people and promote kindness, inclusion, and acceptance. Bullying can have significant negative consequences. It may affect a child’s learning, social interactions, and physical and mental health. Everyone can do something to help prevent bullying. Learn how to identify it, stand up and stop t bullying safely.
Let’s talk about mental health and support one another. At My Psychiatrist we are here to help. We specialize in providing a safe, authentic, and compassionate clinical setting with an individualized therapy experience. Taking the first step to signing up for therapy can take courage and My Psychiatrist is proud of you for getting started!