Bullying: Where And Why It Can Happen

Updated December 14, 2022by BetterHelp Editorial Team

While most people think of school-aged children when they think of bullying, elementary school may not be the only place where bullying occurs. Bullying can also occur at work, home, or online and is often the result of the bully feeling inadequate, jealous, or having a need to control others. You may cope with bullying by reaching out to someone in a position of authority or connecting with a licensed therapist in person or online.

Why Do People Bully?

Bullying can happen in a variety of contexts and for various reasons.

  • Feelings of inadequacy and shame: Bullies often feel insecure and inadequate, and they may push other people around to hide how they feel and prove to themselves that they’re strong.

  • Needing to control others: Since bullies often feel insecure, they may have a greater need than most to control those around them. Forcing other people to do what they want or manipulating others’ emotions by causing fear and humiliation can give the bully a sense of control.

  • It can get the bully what they want: Unfortunately, bullying often results in the bully getting what they want; a person targeted by a bully may give in so that the bullying will end.

  • Jealousy: The bully may feel threatened by their target’s abilities, attitudes, or achievements, and use these as an excuse to be mean.

  • Having been bullied: Sometimes, people who have been the targets of bullying become bullies themselves. Experiencing a loss of power due to a bully may lead a person to try to regain that power through bullying someone else.

Five Types Of Bullying

Bullying In School

Among school-aged children, bullying can be a way to get attention from other students or gain social power over others, especially those seen as weaker or more vulnerable. This dynamic may continue into middle school and high school, where the pressure to fit in may become more intense. Children who begin bullying others in elementary school tend to continue that behavior through high school and college if nothing is done to change the behavior in the early school years.

Bullying in schools may happen on the playground, in the lunchroom, on the school bus, or in the classroom. At the high school and college level, bullying may happen within athletic teams.

Sometimes, bullying in schools doesn’t just happen among students, but can also be perpetrated by teachers. Teachers may bully other teachers or staff, or they may bully their own students.

Bullying In The Workplace

Has Bullying Affected You?

For some people who started bullying others as children, growing into adulthood may not stop their bullying behavior. Examples of bullying by adults in the workplace can include manipulating someone to do a job that they don’t want to do or withholding raises or promotions unless demands are met. Belittling employees or coworkers, making threats, taking credit for the efforts of others, or stealing work equipment can be other examples of workplace bullying. One of the most extreme cases of bullying among adults may be sexual harassment.

Workplace bullying may be perpetrated by a single person or group of coworkers against another individual or group, and it may seriously affect the target’s mental health and work performance. It may also have a negative effect on the organization’s ability to get business done, and it may even affect the way customers view the business.

Prejudicial Bullying

Prejudicial bullying can refer to a type of harassment focusing on things that make the target different from the bully. Prejudicial bullying may occur when a person is singled out and mistreated based on factors such as ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental disabilities, or gender identity. In extreme cases, prejudicial bullying can lead to the bully being accused of or charged with a hate crime.

Bullying In The Home

Bullying behavior in the home can be perpetrated by an adult on a child or by one adult on another. Bullying can also happen between siblings. Bullying in the home may take the form of physical violence or emotional, financial, or verbal abuse.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive situation, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-700-SAFE (7233) for help, resources, and information.


While technological advances may have created great opportunities for people to advance their careers or degrees, connect with friends and family who live far away, or launch a business, technology doesn’t always come without risk. 

Today, bullying can happen via email, text message, or social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and Twitter. This type of abusive conduct is known as cyberbullying. Examples of cyberbullying can include:

  • Sending threatening or hurtful messages through email or text

  • Gossiping about someone on social media

  • Creating fake email or social media accounts to trick someone

  • Taking photos of someone without their permission and posting them on social media

Overcoming Bullying

If you or someone you know is being bullied, it can be important to report the behavior and seek help. If you are in school, you might talk to a teacher, a school counselor, or other school staff. If you are experiencing bullying at work, you might report the incident to your supervisor. If your supervisor is the one committing the bullying, you might follow your chain of command and talk to the next person in a supervisory position or speak to someone in your human resources office.

If you’re experiencing cyberbullying, you can report it to the platform administrators. In some cases, especially in situations where the bully is threatening physical harm or death, you may also wish to involve your local law enforcement. There may also be other resources specific to the country that you live in; you may be able to find these by doing an Internet search on reporting cyberbullying.

Seeking help with bullying behavior can be a sign of strength, not weakness, as some bullies may lead you to believe. If a bully’s abusive behavior is interfering with your life, talking to a counselor could be a way to learn coping mechanisms and healthy ways to put a stop to the situation. A therapist may also help you with parenting strategies if your child is being bullied or if they are the ones doing the bullying.

If you live in an area where there is a counseling center nearby, making an appointment for a consultation could be the first step in gaining control over the situation. Alternatively, if you would like to talk to someone but are not comfortable with meeting in person, online therapy could be an option for you.

Has Bullying Affected You?

As online therapy has become more common, researchers have become more interested in its efficacy compared to in-person counseling. For common therapy treatments, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, studies have shown that online treatment can be as effective as in-person treatment.

Online therapy can come with plenty of practical benefits as well. It may be less expensive than traditional in-person treatment, for example. In addition, you can attend your online therapy sessions from home, removing the need to travel to and from your therapist’s office.


Bullying can occur in many situations. Bullies are often insecure individuals with a need to control other people. Without proper intervention, bullying may result in a cycle of continued behavior where targets may later bully others or where bullies continue to do so. This is why getting help and reporting the bullying to the proper authorities can be important. If you are the target of bullying and it is interfering with your day-to-day activities, or if your child is being bullied or bullying others, you can seek help from a licensed therapist, who may give you strategies to handle and cope with the situation.

For additional help & support with your concerns

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get The Support You Need From One Of Our TherapistsGet Started