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  • Writer's pictureDetox Foundation

The Psychological Effects of Bullying and Being Bullied

Updated: Feb 13, 2021

The topic of bullying lingers day in and day out when the discussion of school appears. There is always a group that acts as the “bullies” in a particular middle or high school setting. While bullying may have been overly instigated in movies and T.V shows, the sad reality is that bullying has all too commonly been placed in reality as well. Before we get into a great detail about this topic, we have to understand what bullying really is. First of all, bullying does not always have to take shape physically but can also be in avenues such as verbally, relationally, digitally, prejudicially, or sexually. The definition of a bully is someone who seeks to harm, intimidate, or persuade (an unwilling person) to do something by using force or threats. From this we can understand that all the different types of bullying take place under this overarching motive that is discussed in the definition. Furthermore, it is important to mention that in order for someone to be considered a bully, he/she does not necessarily have to do all three of the actions discussed in the definition. Doing one of those three actions can suffice in one being labeled as a bully.

Now, let’s talk about how bullying affects one's psychological mind. A report published by Reuters Health on Feb 4, 2013 found that bullying lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth added/contributed on to their (the victims) depression as they started to age and mature into their 20’s. A study according to JAMA Psychiatry showed that those who had been both bullies and experienced bullying faced depression and anxiety well into their mid 20’s. William Copeland, a clinical psychologist, states, “I was surprised that a decade down the road after they’ve been victimized, when they’ve kind of transitioned to adulthood, we would still see these emotional marks for the victims and also the bullies/victims.” This clearly shows that both the victims and the bullies faced emotional side effects 10 years down the line from when the events actually unfolded. Research conducted by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development showed that anybody who is involved in bullying (whether a victim or oppressor) have an increased risk of depression. Lastly, funded research by the NICHD also showed that cyber victims (those bullied from online platforms) were at a higher risk of depression than the bully-victims and the cyberbullies themselves.

Not only does bullying impact students emotionally, but can actually hurt the student's education and other short-term aspects of his/her life. A UCLA study of 2,300 students in 11 middle schools in Los Angeles found that high levels of bullying were associated with lower grades across the 3 year span of middle school. Some of the many short-term effects on the victim also include social isolation, feelings of shame, sleeping problems, changes in eating habits, low self-esteem, anxiety, bedwetting, and of course bad school performance. The short term effects for the bully include poor school performance, increased truancy risk, hard time maintaining social relationships, and increase in substance abuse. The long term effects for the victim are chronic depression, thoughts of and about suicide, anxiety, PTSD, difficulty making friends, and substance abuse. The long term effects for the bully include risk of spousal or child abuse, antisocial behavior, less education, and substance abuse. This clearly shows us that both the bully and the victim are affected by mental illness. An important thing to note is that the victims and the bullies both get involved with substance abuse. It makes more sense for a victim to do substance abuse because he/she is trying to get away from the reality and does not want to face the miseries of this life. However, the bullies might also do substance abuse because they do not really feel happy with the actions they are committing. Furthermore, those who are bullying are most likely to bully someone because they feel a compulsion to harm someone based upon what has happened to themselves and that could be a possible reason why bullies also do substance abuse.

There are a couple of things victims can do to avoid bullying and the mental health aspects that come with it. For one, victims should seek out people to talk to. This is a huge aspect of dealing with the mental aspects of being bullied because when you have someone to talk to you feel a sense of companionship and a realization that you are not the only person in the world who is a victim. When you have someone to talk to, you won’t sit in isolation and be depressed and sorry for yourself all the time. Furthermore, a victim should find a group of people he/she knows will care about him/her. This will allow the victim to feel safe and loved while also reducing the feelings of animosity and hatred that may seem to flare up between the bully and the victim.

In this article we discussed the definition of a bully. We identified the definition of a bully and the different actions they can do to be considered a bully. We also learned that both the victims and the bullied face certain short and long term effects. We identified research from a major university and multiple health institutions to show us the different studies and analytics relating to mental health issues relating to victims and bullies alike. Lastly, we uncovered some basic things that victims can do to relieve the mental burdens they face when they are bullied in their lifetime.

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