Why Someone Is Picking on You: The Causes of Bullying

By: Stephanie Kirby

Updated February 03, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Kelly L. Burns, MA, LPC, ATR-P

No matter what the reason behind bullying is, it is never okay. If you're being bullied, you should reach out to someone you trust immediately, and try these tips. Believe it or not, there are often serious underlying issues that cause a bully to target someone. While these causes are not justification for a bully's actions, they do shed some light on why these people pursue violence and power over someone. Is someone currently bullying you at school or work? If so, here are some of the causes of your bully's behavior.

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1. Helplessness and a Lack of Control

People who feel helpless and out of control in their personal lives often search for other ways to express their frustration, especially if they don't have healthy coping mechanisms. For some, this may be drinking or self-harm. Others will choose to inflict physical and emotional harm on the people in their lives to regain a sense of control.

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2. Violence at Home

People who choose to bully others often experience violence at home. Because these people are constantly being abused, they feel as though victimizing someone else is the only way to express their anger and pain. Bullies will often bully because this is what they are taught to do in their household. To address this cause of bullying, the abuse happening at home needs to be stopped first.

3. They View You as a Threat

People who see you as a threat in any aspect of their life will try to remove you at any cost. If you are more successful, more attractive, or causing unwanted changes in their life, they may bully you to make you go away or to make you feel so bad about yourself that you can't thrive around them.

4. Poor Self-Esteem

Similarly, people who choose to bully others may suffer from low self-esteem. When they see someone who appears more confident or better looking, they feel poorly about themselves. Then they decide that the best course of action is to bring the other person down to their level. If this is allowed to continue, it can create an extremely toxic dynamic that can cause serious damage to both parties.

5. A Need for Attention (Even the Negative Kind)

Bullies who want more attention from their peers or families will resort to negative behaviors to get this need met. In this case, bullying is almost always a cry for help. If someone is bullying you because they need attention, then the best course of action is to help them find alternatives. Let them know that there are plenty of people willing to listen and pay attention to them if they're willing to ask for support.

6. The Pack Mentality

Let's imagine that you are at work or at school, and your class or your co-workers are picking on you. Take a second to think about how this behavior started. Who was the first one to say something negative to you? Did the bullying get worse after that first incident? Did others join in after someone threw the first metaphorical punch? Some people will simply participate in bullying because they feel as though that is an appropriate reaction. If they witnessed you being bullied and saw you accept it, they may choose to side with the bully and to make the bully happy. Some people feel it's fun, and others don't want the bully to turn on them, so they join the pack.

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7. They Don't Tolerate Some Part of Your Personality

People who aren't comfortable in their own skin usually can't stand to be around people who are. If you're of a different race, sexual orientation, or religion, they may choose to bully you because of these qualities. They may also target you because certain prejudices have been passed down through their family. Luckily, this type of bullying is considered a "hate crime" and can be reported to the authorities.

8. An Over-sized Ego

People who believe they are more important than others or who have managed to achieve success and fame may be more likely to become bullies. They've learned from experience that they're allowed to say whatever they want to whomever they want because they are popular and successful. They may also love to exercise power over others. Unfortunately, it's difficult to fight this type of bullying unless the bully realizes that they are not as important as they think they are or that they need to treat others better to get ahead.

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When it comes to bullying, the most important thing to remember is that it's never your fault. No matter why the bully tells you or why they choose to bully you, it is always on them, and you should never have to deal with that kind of behavior. Yes, it is true that some of their behavior is a direct result of mental health issues and troubling situations that have occurred in their lives, but that's not an excuse for bullying. They must seek help and fix this behavior on their own.

Are you having problems with bullying? Has it left you anxious or feeling bad about yourself? If so, online counseling can help. BetterHelp is an online counseling platform dedicated to providing affordable, convenient counseling to those who are new to therapy or who do not have the right counselor near them. You can read some reviews of our therapists below, from people experiencing similar issues.

Counselor Reviews

"Sharon Valentino has helped me through so much! Since we started working together, just a few months ago, I already feel like I have more power and control over my life. I have let go of some very painful things, I have moved away from abusive relationships and really gaining skills and tools I need to keep myself safe and happy. She has taught me that I have the power to control my thoughts, my anxiety, and most of all my company. I really like how direct she is, it helps me get grounded and connect to myself. I can't wait to see where I am after working with her a year!!!"

"Steve is amazing and does a good job at making this seem like less of a counseling session and more of a conversation between friends. He helped me talk through my anger issues and road rage and gave me lots of problem solving tools. I highly recommend him!"


If you've been the victim of bullying as a child or an adult, you don't have to stand for it. If you find yourself bullying others, you can find ways to move forward to fulfilling relationships. Get the help you need, so you can learn how to stop the bullying and heal those wounds. Take the first step today.

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