Exploring The Different Types Of Bullying In Society

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated May 14, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include suicide, substance use, or abuse which could be triggering to the reader.
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Bullying is a worldwide challenge that has occurred for generations. With various disguises, detecting and recognizing what bullying is or who bullies are can be difficult. In some cases, bullying is overlooked. To understand what bullying looks like, it can be crucial to examine the impacts and signs of physical, verbal, and sexual bullying and cyberbullying to better understand the various forms of bullying. 

Feeling the weight of bullying?

Understanding the different types of bullying

Bullying is a serious challenge that affects millions of people every year. It comes in different forms, each with unique characteristics. Understanding the different types of bullying can often be the first step to addressing and preventing it. A few of the types of bullying include the following: 

  • Physical bullying 

  • Verbal bullying 

  • Social bullying 

  • Sexual harassment 

  • Cyberbullying 

Together, parents, educators, and young people can act to prevent these forms of bullying and create healthier and safer environments. Below are further explanations of what these types may encompass. 

Physical bullying

Physical bullying is a form of aggressive behavior involving physical contact with someone to cause harm. This type of bullying can happen in various settings, such as schools, homes, and workplaces. 

Physical bullying may take many forms, including but not limited to hitting, pushing, shoving, and kicking. Physical bullying can be particularly distressing for the survivor, as it can leave them with bruises, cuts, and other injuries. Long-term effects include psychological and physiological distress, so it can be crucial to spot the warning signs of this type of bullying and intervene quickly to safeguard the survivors. 

Verbal bullying

Verbal bullying can have a profound impact on those subjected to it. The words people use and the tone they deliver can be as hurtful as physical violence. In addition, verbal bullying can take many forms, from name-calling and insults to intimidation and threats. In some cases, it may escalate into physical violence. 

Survivors of verbal bullying often experience decreased self-esteem, a sense of isolation, and depression. Those affected by verbal bullying may benefit from resources and peer support to understand what they've gone through. Being mindful of your words and building positive relationships with those around you is one way to prevent unkindness in any social setting. 

Getty/MoMo Productions


Cyberbullying is a form of digital harassment that can have severe consequences for survivors. In the 21st century, the widespread use of social media and online platforms leads more people to become targets of cyberbullying. This type of harassment can take various forms, such as sending threatening messages or spreading false rumors online. It is often group-oriented and can lead to severe consequences. 

Often, the perceived inconspicuousness of the internet gives people who bully more confidence, making it challenging to spot and stop them. Cyberbullying can be devastating, often leading to depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. Because of the impacts of mass cyberbullying, it can be essential to spot the signs. When online, don't partake in large-scale "canceling" of others, and be kind when you comment or interact with someone's posts. You may not be able to know what they're going through, and accusations online can often be made up to cause social ostracization and further isolate the survivor. 

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or urges, call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or text 988 to talk to a crisis provider over SMS. They are available 24/7 to offer support. 988 also offers an online chat for those with an internet connection.

Social bullying

Social bullying, also known as relational aggression, is a type of bullying that involves hurting others by damaging their relationships or social reputation. Unlike physical bullying, which leaves visible marks, social bullying is more subtle and often goes unnoticed by adults. Bullying can happen anywhere people get together, like schools, workplaces, or online communities. 

People who social bully hurt survivors by spreading rumors, excluding them, and using social power over them. It's a subtle harassment that can cause melancholy, anxiety, and social isolation. As a result, recognizing the indicators of social bullying is critical to intervene and support the survivors. 

Prejudicial bullying

Prejudicial bullying is characterized by harmful behavior based solely on the survivor's race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, language, immigration status, gender, or guarded identity.  

This form of bullying can show up as physical violence, verbal abuse, and being left out of groups. People bullied for their identity may be more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. In addition, this type of bullying is often regarded as a hate crime, which is illegal. If you see a hate crime occurring, report it to the authorities. However, ensure the safety of the individual involved and provide peer advocacy along the way, as some minorities may not feel safe in the presence of authorities. 

Sexual bullying

Sexual bullying is also referred to as sexual harassment. This type of bullying involves using sexual language, innuendos, gestures, and touch to demean, control, or intimidate someone. Survivors of sexual bullying can experience various emotions, from embarrassment and humiliation to fear and anxiety. 

Sexual harassment can have long-term consequences for the survivor's mental health, self-esteem, and well-being. It can be critical for schools, parents, and communities to educate themselves about sexual bullying and to adopt preventative and corrective measures. 

If you are experiencing sexual abuse or have experienced assault, note that the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) has a hotline dedicated to supporting individuals experiencing sexual assault, harassment, or intimate partner violence. You can contact them anytime by calling 800-656-HOPE (4673) or using the online chat. 

How the majority can influence bullying

Bullying is common, and popular people can have a significant impact. In addition, the "majority voice" or the people with the most power in a situation can immediately change the reality for a survivor. When one is part of the "popular group," they have power over an individual, regardless of what that individual has or hasn't done.  

The power dynamics in schools, workplaces, and social groups can make it challenging for survivors to stand up for themselves, and the support of their peers may embolden bullies. If an individual tries to stand up for themselves or report bullying, the power dynamic of the "in group" may cause them further bullying and abuse. 

In these cases, people within popular groups have the authority to stop bullying. Popular figures can inspire others to follow their lead and create a safer, more inclusive environment by publicly condemning bullying and standing up for survivors. If you are bullying someone or spreading rumors because your friends or other people in your community are doing so, consider the implications of your actions. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you know with 100% certainty that the reasons they are bullying this person are true? 

  • Do you believe in your actions in this scenario? 

  • Why do you believe you have the authority to harm another person, even if they have made a mistake? 

  • How might you feel if your group turned against you similarly? 

  • What power dynamics exist in this situation, and how do you contribute? 

  • How can you convince others in your group that bullying is wrong? 

  • How can you surround yourself with healthier friends and acquaintances in the future? 

Although it may not be your responsibility to save another person, it can be your responsibility to think critically about your actions and lack of actions and how they may impact another person's physical, mental, and emotional health. 

Who are survivors of bullying, and who are bullies?

Bullying can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, or background. Bullying survivors range from children in elementary school to adults in the workplace. Anyone perceived as different or vulnerable can become a target. Bullying is often targeted more toward people in sensitive groups, such as individuals with physical or mental disabilities, those who identify as LGBTQ+, and those who belong to a minority group. 

People who bully can come from all walks of life. They may be popular students, coworkers, or family relatives. All those who bully may attempt to have authority and control over others. In some cases, they may not know they are bullying, as they may hide the fact through claims of "justice" or attempting to "gain accountability" from another person. However, bullying involves a significant power imbalance and social ostracization, which can be present in these scenarios. Bullying is not okay, regardless of the "reason" behind it. 

Ways to overcome and stand up against bullies

There are ways to overcome and stand up against people who bully, which may start with being aware of your self-worth and confidence. Being comfortable standing up against the grain and being open about right and wrong can slowly change the minds of others who may be partaking in bullying unwillingly or willingly. 

In addition, it can be essential to surround yourself with positive people who don't give you the impression that they may turn the harm on you if you stand up against them. Instead of making friendships with people who use power dynamics to control others, find people who understand humanity's complexity, empathy's importance, and the benefit of speaking up when bullying occurs. 

Feeling the weight of bullying?

Professional support options 

Support is available if you have experienced bullying or have bullied someone and want to better your behavior. However, bullying can be sensitive, and some people may prefer to receive support discreetly. In these cases, online therapy through a platform like BetterHelp may be a practical choice. Teens can also have online therapy through platforms like TeenCounseling for those aged 13 to 19. 

From the comfort of their homes, clients can have therapy sessions on their devices, attend live chat sessions, or make a phone call with a therapist. Additionally, online therapy can be more convenient, allowing individuals to have therapeutic support from any location with an internet connection. You can also sign up with a nickname if you don't want your therapist to know who you are.  

Research shows online therapy can significantly improve mental health and overall quality of life. With support, individuals can heal from the trauma of bullying and move forward healthily. 


Bullying is a common challenge that crosses boundaries worldwide. It affects each survivor uniquely, regardless of age or background. Individuals can do their part to reduce bullying and create a better world by learning the different types, supporting those affected, being aware of the influence popular people can wield, and standing up for survivors. 

In addition, schools and other public locations can work to provide an environment that is safe from bullying by educating others and not partaking in the social isolation of any students. When everyone works together to create a culture that embraces respect and clear communication, it may make a difference in the lives of survivors worldwide.  

Options are available to support survivors of bullying. If you or your dependent has been impacted, consider contacting a provider online or in your area for further support and guidance. You are not alone.

Is bullying impacting your life?
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