Bullying Stories: A History Of Bullying

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated May 27, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Many believe that bullying has been an area of concern since the very dawn of human existence. Bullies can exist across many different contexts and settings—creating a possibly lasting impact on many. Learning how to address the behavior and identify it for oneself can be a helpful first step in preserving one’s confidence and resilience in the face of bullying. 

Below we explore the prevalence of bullying, unpack a few true-to-life stories and experiences, and identify steps you can take to prevent bullying—possibly supporting both yourself and those around you.

What constitutes bullying?

Is someone bullying you?

When we imagine bullying, we may think of a bigger kid pushing a smaller kid around on the playground. However, this is not the only exclusive “form” that bullying can take on. There are many different forms of bullying behavior—and bullying can happen at any age and in any location. 

While bullying can differ depending on the situation, there are two factors that most bullying situations may have in common.

  • Intent. Accidentally offending someone is generally not considered to be bullying. Those who bully might instead know what they are doing, possibly intending harm to another person. 

  • Power Imbalance. In many cases of bullying, the bully may be more powerful than the bullied. This doesn't mean that the bully is necessarily bigger, older or stronger than the other person. The bully can be in a higher position of authority, such as a superior at work. They can also be someone who comes from a wealthy family with the means to sue maliciously if the victim fights back.

Why do people bully?

Figuring out why people bully can be an important step in guarding one’s peace. The answer to this question can be entirely individual and dependent on the context of one’s situation. 

Possible reasons for why people bully include:

  • Family Concerns. If someone's parents are mistreating them, or if the bully is experiencing ongoing familial strain, they may develop bullying tactics. Picking on someone weaker than them can make a bully feel satisfied and can help them cope with their troubles at home.

  • Power.  When a person has power over someone, some do not know how to control their power—and may use what they know for negative purposes rather than positive purposes.

  • Personality Or Illness. A mental health condition could be behind the bullying, such as a personality or psychiatric disorder.

  • Insecurity. People may bully to cover up an insecurity of their own.

If you or a loved one is experiencing abuse, contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Support is available 24/7. If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.

Regardless of the cause, online therapy can help those being bullied and those engaging in bullying behavior—supporting many in finding healthier methods of expression. 

“Traditional” bullying: Fact or fiction?

Name-calling, excluding people, and spreading rumors are just a few examples of bullying. Truthfully, many may not find a “traditional” bullying experience. Bullying can be incredibly personal, and can occur on a case-by-case basis. 

Below, we explore some of the most common types of bullying that survivors may encounter: 


Cyberbullying is considered by many to be a growing problem, especially in the digital age. Before the internet, bullying generally required some strength and power to take effect. However, in the cyber world, it is generally easier to do so. 

Why? While reasons can vary across contexts, many people believe that the prevalence of bullying can be due to the fact that people can remain unnamed—saying things that they wouldn’t otherwise say to someone in person. The effects of cyberbullying can be as harmful as traditional bullying.

Is someone bullying you?

We do want to clarify: Trolling, which is defined by many as saying something provocative to get a reaction, can be bullying. However, depending on the context, it can also be harmless. 

For example: Going into a forum dedicated to basketball and posting a comment that says "basketball sucks" is probably not cyberbullying by many peoples’ definition, but may be instead considered “trolling.” Conversely, constantly targeting one individual with harassing comments can instead be considered cyberbullying.

Online therapy can be useful for survivors of bullying and those engaging in bullying behaviors, offering additional support and resources for healthier patterns of communication.

Workplace bullying

Bullying might not end once school ends. The workplace can be a breeding ground for bullying. 

There can be many situations across industries when one worker might not fit in with the rest—and they may be picked on as a result. The working world also has many power imbalances that might make it more likely for people to bully. 

Despite this, workplace bullying is not generally recognized by law in the U.S. at the time of this publication. However, many states have gone on record noting that they wish to introduce state-level prohibitive bills. 

Workplace bullying, if left unaddressed, can lead to overwhelm, burnout, and mental health crises. Online therapy can be a useful resource for employees who wish to seek support. 

Seeking help: Where should I start? 

If you're being bullied, it may be difficult to figure out what to do. You may feel overwhelmed, or that you are not in a position to fight back. 

One way to resist bullies and the effects of bullying behavior is to get training to help you be able to ignore their tactics and stay positive. Talking to a therapist or a counselor can be a helpful first step for many who wish to learn techniques that stop bullying in its tracks.

Is online therapy effective? 

Online therapy is considered by many to be a convenient alternative to traditional in-person counseling—and research suggests that it can be equally effective. For example, one study found that online therapy was even more effective than traditional in-person sessions, with 100 percent of participants in the online group showing continued symptom reduction three months after treatment. Additionally, other studies have shown that counseling can help students reduce psychological distress.

How can online therapy help

If you or someone you know has experienced bullying, signing up for online therapy with one of the thousands of certified BetterHelp counselors can make a difference. Online therapy can also allow people to seek help without traveling or meeting in an office, making it a convenient option for many.


Bullying is thought by many to have been around for quite some time. Generally speaking, anyone can be a survivor of bullying—whether they are a child or adult—and being bullied is not a sign of weakness or a failure of character. It can happen in the most controlled and well-intentioned settings and circumstances—however, this doesn’t make it okay. 

 Online therapy can be a helpful place for many to find empowerment and support that aligns with their unique needs, possibly increasing the quality of life for both survivors and those engaging in bully-related behaviors. BetterHelp can connect you with an online therapist in your area of need.

Is bullying impacting your life?
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