Why Someone Is Picking on You: The Causes of Bullying

By Stephanie Kirby|Updated April 20, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Kelly L. Burns, MA, LPC, ATR-P

No matter the so-called “reason” behind bullying, it is never okay. If you’ve been getting bullied, it may be time to reach out to someone you trust immediately. You can also 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 can shed some light on why they pursue violence and power over someone. Is someone currently bullying you at school or work? If so, here are some of the likely causes of your bully’s behavior.

  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 take the form of unhealthy use of substances or other escapist outlets. Others will choose to inflict physical and emotional harm on other people in their lives to regain a sense of control.

  1. Violence at Home

What Do You Do if Someone is Bullying You? Get Support With A Therapist

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

If you are facing or witnessing abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available for you. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or Text “START” to 88788. You can also use the online chat

  1. They View You as a Threat

People who see you as a threat to 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. They may try to make you feel so bad about yourself that you can’t thrive around them.

4. Poor Self-Esteem

Feelings of inadequacy are common in people who bully others. With low self-esteem, they may feel poorly about themselves compared to you. This will cause them to lash out and try to bring others down. If this is allowed to continue, it can create an extremely toxic dynamic that can cause serious damage to both parties.

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

People who want more attention from their peers or families will sometimes resort to negative behaviors to meet this need. In this case, bullying is almost always a cry for help. If someone is bullying because they’re desperate for attention, the best course of action is for them to be guided to alternatives. Let them know that there are plenty of people to listen and pay attention to them if they’re willing to ask for support.

  1. The Pack Mentality

Let’s imagine that you are at work and 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 it’s an appropriate reaction. If they witnessed you being bullied and saw you accept it, they may choose be more liable to join in. Some people may feel that it’s in good fun, while others may worry about the bullying turning on them. Whatever the reason for people piling on, there’s unfortunately a “mob mentality” often at work in bullying in social situations.

  1. 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 simply because of these qualities. They may also target you because certain prejudices have been passed down through their family. This type of bullying is legally considered a “hate crime” and can be reported to the authorities.

8. An Over-Sized Ego

What Do You Do if Someone is Bullying You? Get Support With A Therapist

People who believe they are more important than others or who have managed to achieve success and fame may be prone to bullying. 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.

When it comes to bullying, the most important thing to remember is that it’s never your fault. No matter what the bully tells you or why they choose to bully you, it is always a reflection on them more than on you. No one should ever have to deal with that kind of behavior. Yes, it is true that bullying may often be a direct result of mental health issues and a troubled personal life, but that’s not an excuse for bullying. Those who are bullying will be best served by getting help from a mental health expert who can help break down the underlying issues at play.

If you’re having any issues with bullying, online counseling can be a helpful option. 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.

A timeless expression states that “hurt people hurt people.” In other words, past instances of trauma, violence, abuse, neglect, or many other factors often launch a cycle of recurring behavior that echo down through the years. Both getting bullied and bullying can leave lasting psychological scars. If you have been caught up in a cycle of bullying, it can be a good idea to consult with an online counselor. According to stopbullying.gov, roughly one in five people between the ages of 12 and 18 experience bullying. The government organization recommends numerous steps to respond to instances of bullying. If certain supports do not adequately reach those being bullied, it recommends a more involved intervention, possibly involving counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This practice has shown a high rate of success in addressing numerous mental health issues. The success of this treatment has also been demonstrated with online counseling, which has opened up help to a larger community of people.

You can easily and conveniently get in touch with an online counselor via BetterHelp. The mental health platform connects people like you with licensed therapists. You will have the opportunity to choose from one of thousands of vetted mental health practitioners who have experience in the areas in which you are seeking help, such as bullying. And if you don’t like your counselor, you can switch at any time for no cost. Read what others have to say about their time with BetterHelp below.

Counselor Reviews

“James continues to be a guiding light through many recent traumatic events. He has helped me reduce my anxiety in ways I never even considered. He is relatable and I have complete trust in him.”

“I’m one of those who never thought I’d ever reach out to someone to talk to about what has been eating at my mind causing me anxiety and I never thought I would have anxiety. So I googled how to get free therapy or see a therapist. Then I found, BetterHelp app and did the trial was nervous but when I got connected to Jeffrey it was like this man knew what was wrong down to the tea. I can honestly say Jeff has helped me tremendously. Seriously If you think it is embarrassing to seek out a counselor, it’s not. If you need someone who will help you with your anxiety, depression, or anger, I recommend you to get Jeffrey Smialek, he has 15 years of experience and he will actually be there for you when you need him. He answers ASAP, if you share your journal he will give you feedback if needed, he will also give you goals and worksheets to help you strive to better understand your mind and so you can overcome the battles in your mind. I recommend Jeffrey Smialek if you really are new to this or even if you have seen a counselor before and want someone new, Jeff is the guy.”


If you’ve experienced 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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