The Shocking Link Between Bullying and Mental Health Disorders - Beachside Teen Treatment Center
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The Shocking Link Between Bullying and Mental Health Disorders

The Link Between Bullying and Mental Health Disorders

When you hear the word “bully,” the first images that often come to mind are those of a child being pushed around or harassed by another peer. Others may think of bullying that occurs in the form of online harassment on social media or other forms of virtual communication. Regardless of the type or form, bullying can have severe and sometimes lifelong effects on those who are on the receiving end.

While we cannot force all youth and teens to get along and like one another, there are things that parents, caretakers, and other adults can do to reduce the prevalence of bullying. The first step is knowing what bullying looks like and its effects on mental health. 

What is Bullying?

It is important to recognize or understand the difference between bullying and fighting. While both are indeed negative and can look very similar, they differ. Fighting (often) occurs between two people with relatively equal intellect, size, or strength. On the other hand, bullying occurs when the aggressor has more power and is more aggressive than their target. Bullies use their power -whether physical, phycological, or popularity- to hurt or control someone else. 

It can be difficult for adults to know someone is being bullied (or bullying someone else) because the act of bullying generally does not occur within sight of people in authoritative roles such as teachers, parents, or coaches. It typically occurs out of view, making it harder to address unless a victim or their peers choose to come forward. 

Are There Different Types of Bullying?

Research and history show bullying comes in several forms. Bullying can happen online or in person and at any time. Below are examples of the most common types of bullying. 

Physical bullying:

  • Hitting or punching someone else 
  • Kicking someone else
  • Shoving another person
  • Intentionally tripping someone, causing the individual to fall (especially if they are carrying several items)
  • Spitting on someone

Verbal or emotional bullying

  • Teasing
  • Threats of physical harm
  • Name-calling, which can include racist, homophobic, or other offensive language
  • Yelling
  • Harassment

While verbal or emotional bullying does not leave bruises, cuts, or scrapes like physical bullying, the aftermath of ongoing emotional bullying can lead to significant impacts on your teen’s mental and emotional health. 

Relationship bullying 

(bullying based on negative effects on relationships with the victim)

  • Starting rumors about someone
  • Intentionally excluding someone from an activity
  • Giving the silent treatment
  • Gossiping

A Word About Cyberbullying

The insecurities and fears often held inside by youth and teens can be easily publicized and exacerbated by peers (and strangers) through social media. Bullies can take information, photographs, stories, fears, wishes, wants, or desires and spread them online in ways that can be violent, hurtful, and humiliating with just the simple push of a button. Recent studies show that approximately thirty-four percent of students report experiencing cyberbullying at some point during their academic career. 

Of those students, sixty percent report that it had a significant impact on their ability to learn and feel safe while at school. Digital violence has tangible real-world repercussions. Many studies show that cyberbullying victims are more likely to use alcohol and drugs and skip school than people who have not been victimized. They are also more likely to receive lower grades and experience low self-esteem and health problems, including depression and anxiety.

Studies also suggest that victims of cyberbullying are two times more likely to attempt suicide. Current research indicates that suicidal ideation and suicide attempts among adolescents who have experienced cyberbullying have nearly doubled since 2008. Between 2000 and 2018, approximately twenty-five teens lost their lives to suicide after being victims of cyberbullying. Their stories are easy to find online.

There are several common types of cyberbullying, including posting embarrassing pictures, impersonating someone else, making digital threats, and spreading mean comments and false rumors. A 2018 study by the Pew Research Centers showed that 32% of teens had been the victims of false online rumors. 

Is Bullying Common?

Recent data published by The National Center for Education Statistics, The Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that bullying remains a common challenge faced by many youth and teens in the nation. A few statistics from the above sources listed below show that bullying affects thousands of our nation’s youth. However, reporting their experiences does not always provide relief or end the bullying behavior.

  • One out of every five (20%) students between the ages of 12 and 18 has experienced bullying at some point.
  • Students who reported being bullied stated their experience impacted how other students treated them.
  • Many youth and teens are bullied by others who are stronger or larger than they are.
  • Some children experience bullying because they have less money than their peers.
  • Fewer than 50% of all students who experience bullying in school report it to authorities.

The Impact of Bullying on Teen Mental Health

Adolescents and teens who are bullied by other students at school are more likely to develop depression. The most common signs of teen depression include emotional disturbances, problems sleeping, changes in appetite, and thoughts of suicide. Youth and teens who experience depression often lose interest in hobbies or activities they once enjoyed. 

Bullying can also increase your teen’s risk of developing an anxiety disorder. Anxiety and anxiety disorders may develop because one fears bullying at every turn and throughout the day. Anxiety makes it more difficult for teens to form relationships with peers, teachers, and other members of their social group.

Bullying can make it difficult for kids to succeed and feel comfortable in the classroom, making it challenging to keep up with their academic responsibilities. When someone is bullied regularly (especially at school), they may not want to attend class or participate in school-related activities, like field trips, sports, or other extracurricular activities.

Children who are bullied may believe they are less worthy than their peers. They may feel like other members of their class or school community are better than they are. They may feel or suggest they do not deserve to enjoy the same happiness and success as others their age. These emotional challenges can be devastating to academic and social development and can have life-long effects.

Loss of Self-Confidence

One of the first effects children and teens feel when bullied is reduced confidence. For example, teens may feel like they are not as good at a particular sport as the person who bullies them. Because of this, they may feel like they do not even deserve to try out for a specific activity because it is a waste of the coach’s or team’s time. This loss of self-confidence can affect other areas of life.

Increased Self-Criticism

Kids who are bullied are often harder on themselves than others. They may have heard negative words so often from their bully that they start to believe the statements are true. They may begin to feel bad about things that cannot possibly change, such as their hair color or texture, their height

, or other characteristics.

Increased Self-Isolation

Youth and teens who are bullied often feel so down or defeated that they begin to isolate themselves from their family members, peer,  and friends. They may spend a lot of time alone in their rooms when they are not outside their home. In some cases, they may not want to go to school at all.

It is worth noting that the impacts of bullying can affect not only the victim but also the perpetrator (or aggressor). Youth who bully others are at a greater risk of getting into physical fights and verbal altercations and are less likely to take responsibility for their behaviors and actions. Research also indicates that those who bully others are at a greater risk of developing antisocial behaviors, including significant academic problems, substance use disorders, and aggressive behaviors.

How to Know if Someone is Being Bullied

It’s important for parents, teachers, and other adults to know how to spot signs of bullying, cyberbullying, and mental health issues in children and teens. Signs your teen may be developing severe mental health issues due to bullying may include:

  • Random crying spells or angry outbursts that occur for no apparent reason
  • Stating they feel hopeless or empty
  • Disproportionate reactions of frustration and anger when compared to the situation
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities that used to bring happiness and pleasure
  • Feelings of guilt, low self-esteem, and worthlessness
  • Difficulty focusing and concentrating
  • Sudden or abrupt avoidance of school or other activities they used to attend

If you are worried that your teen (or another youth) is being bullied, it is essential to contact someone for help. When the mental health impacts of bullying go unaddressed or unnoticed for too long, it can have a severe and lasting impact on the teen’s mental and physical health. The effects of bullying have serious and lasting negative impacts on teens’ mental health and overall well-being. Experiencing bullying can lead to feelings of rejection, exclusion, isolation, and low self-esteem, and, in time, some teens can develop depression and anxiety. 

In some cases, it can even lead to acute stress disorder or Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Studies have shown that being a victim of bullying can lead to longer-term impacts, including interpersonal violence, substance use, sexual violence, poor social functioning, and poor performance. Even witnessing bullying can impact one’s well-being.

Suppose you are concerned that your teen is experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other effects of bullying. In that case, it is crucial to seek help from a trained mental health professional as soon as possible. Our team of experienced, compassionate treatment professionals at Beachside is here to help. Contact us today to learn more about teen-focused mental health treatment in Los Angeles, California.