This article was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp.
Bullying is a serious issue for children all around the world. Bullies everywhere can cause significant harm to their targets that can last for years or even decades. In essence, bullying is a form of abuse and can be physical, emotional, or verbal. However, no matter the form, bullying is often significantly detrimental to mental health.
It’s essential to understand this issue as it can affect the mental well-being of millions of children. Here are some of the adverse effects that bullying has on mental health.
Getting bullied is quite a stressful occurrence. There is no way to experience harassment, confrontation, or physical abuse at school without feeling distressed in some way.
However, the stress rarely disappears after the bullying episode is over. As with other forms of abuse, survivors often experience stress long after because they do not feel safe in their environment and worry about the bullying happening again. In addition, the bullied child will consistently feel stressed if they share the same classes or activities as the bully since the probability of being bullied again is very high.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Though people don’t realize it, bullying is a form of abuse and is classified as a traumatic event. That means that survivors can live with the distress and anxiety caused by bullying long after the trauma is over. If a child remains in fight or flight mode, even if they are safe and the bully is no longer in their life, they may have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
PTSD is diagnosed when the distress does not heal and interferes with daily life. Children with PTSD may struggle in school, experience apathy, and isolate themselves from friends and loved ones. They may be a shell of their former selves, struggling to feel joy and happiness again.
Some common symptoms of PTSD to look out for include:
- Upsetting dreams or nightmares about the trauma
- Avoiding discussing or thinking about the event
- Consistent negative thoughts and moods
- Difficulty connecting with others
- Feeling hopeless
- Low self-esteem
- Feeling detached
- Easily startled
- Always on guard for danger
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty sleeping
Survivors of bullying will often feel intense feelings of low self-esteem, despair, and hopelessness. If this continues for weeks, months, or longer, then they probably are experiencing depression. Many parents may dismiss these feelings as psychological changes that come with adolescent development. However, persistent feelings of depression and despair are not typical and should be treated as soon as possible.
Some signs that your child may be experiencing depression include:
- Persistent feelings of hopelessness or despair
- Increased anger and irritability
- Social withdrawal
- Appetite changes
- Trouble sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Thoughts of suicide**
**If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 and is available 24/7.
A bully can take away their target’s sense of self-esteem and self-worth with just a few threatening or manipulative remarks. Bullies often work to make their targets feel small and insignificant as a way to feel more powerful and confident themselves.
Since children often internalize what they are told, very few have the resilience or healthy confidence to realize when the bullies are wrong. As a result, their self-esteem will take a nosedive, and they may become more critical of themselves. In severe cases, they may no longer feel worthy of enjoying certain activities or will feel like they are inferior in some way.
Isolation And Loneliness
Due to the effects already mentioned, children will often isolate themselves after experiencing bullying. The distress and depression, not to mention the potential embarrassment, will make a child want to hide from the world. They may begin to feel they aren’t worthy of friends or love, so they will keep themselves away from others.
Bullying can have detrimental effects on mental health that can last for years. This is why bullying is such a severe issue. Millions of children around the world experience bullying, and the effects can last for years or a lifetime if untreated. For more advice on the effects of bullying, you can find more resources at the link below: