Bullying and depression may be linked in some cases. Although bullying may be seen as an action that only affects children or a childish pastime, bullying can occur in anyone's life, regardless of age, and can have lasting impacts, such as PTSD from bullying. Studies show that it can also cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Because bullying can lead to adult or adolescent depression, anxiety, and other mental health consequences, it may be valuable to learn how to combat bullying, identify examples of bullying, and implement strategies to stop bullying on a global scale.
What Is Bullying?
You may see bullying behavior depicted in media as occuring in a school-yard setting or only to those under 18. For example, you might have seen depictions of bullying through the TV show 13 Reasons Why or the movie Mean Girls, which documents teenage bullying. You might have also experienced bullying as a teen or child yourself.
Whether you were a bully, a survivor, or a bystander, bullying may have been a factor in your childhood. However, bullying is not necessarily limited to a school setting. Adults can bully other adults, and the effects of bullying in adulthood can be as severe as the ones experienced during childhood bullying.
Bullying might target intelligence, appearance, or behaviors in a school setting. A child or adult might be bullied for being "different" or having a disability or mental health condition. Additionally, people might be bullied because of their race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. All forms of bullying can also be seen in adulthood; many people may experience bullying or hate crimes in the workplace or in their personal lives. The internet can make bullying more prevalent. Even if you avoid individuals at work, school, or in person, they might post about you, send messages, or harass you through wide-scale "canceling campaigns."
This behavior isn't necessarily limited to physical bullying. Bullying occurs when an individual is targeted, picked on, or ridiculed for any reason. It might be an isolated incident or happen habitually over time.
Why Do People Bully?
There are many reasons why people might choose to bully others. Causes of bullying can be insecurity, low self-esteem, or jealousy of the person they are targeting. They might participate in bullying because their friends are or because they see it happening online or around them daily.
Individuals who bully or act unhealthily toward others might boost their self-esteem by seeing another person feel hurt. They could feel powerful when their actions have made someone else feel sad or anxious. Bullies might act out by spreading rumors, encouraging others to ostracize their target, or employing a combination of gossip and intimidation. Group bullying may occur through "canceling" or long-term digital campaigns against an individual online. Or it may occur in group settings like a workplace or school.
People might also feel uncomfortable with what they do not understand. For example, bullying based on a disability or mental health condition can be common in school settings. If children and adolescents notice that someone looks different than them or acts differently, they might react to their fear, unease, or social pressure by bullying or being unkind.
Regardless of the cause of bullying, it can have a significant impact on the individual who is targeted.
Links Between Depression And Bullying
Symptoms of depression include:
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Feeling unable to sleep or sleeping more often
- Feeling worthless, hopeless, or down often
- Not enjoying previously enjoyed hobbies
- Physical symptoms like headaches or chronic pain
- Lack of concentration or difficulty focusing at work or school
- Substance use, in some cases
- Thoughts of suicide*
*If you are experiencing thoughts or urges of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text 988 to talk to someone over SMS. They are available 24/7 to offer support.
Being bullied carries a risk of suicide. It is so prevalent that the CDC has released information on how to prevent suicide caused by bullying. In these cases, suicide prevention can be necessary. However, there is hope. In 2020, 11 million individuals considering suicide did not attempt or create a plan. Another recent study showed that those who had suicidal ideation were more likely to seek support than those who didn't.
How To Get Outside Support
Bullying and depression may require outside support. Standing up to a bully or attempting to stop it alone may carry a greater risk than other options. If a bully is in a position of power, it could cause consequences on your school or job performance. You might choose to reach out for support through the following methods:
- A helpline
- Your parents
- Peer bullying prevention groups
- In-person or online counseling
- A school counselor
- A work-provided mental health professional
Individuals experiencing bullying and depression may also require medical or therapeutic attention. Depression is a mental health condition that impacts a person's brain chemistry and can affect how they function. Depression is treatable with the correct treatment strategy. Reach out to a counselor, doctor, or psychiatrist to learn more.
Counseling Support For Bullying and Depression
If you are experiencing symptoms of depression or have been experiencing bullying, you're not alone. Support is available through many types of professional counseling, including in-person, online, and school and workplace therapy. You can have an open conversation with a licensed therapist through a variety of mediums, including phone, video, and live chat sessions.
Additionally, studies indicate that online therapy is as effective as in-person therapy and that it can be incredibly effective in treating symptoms of depression, PTSD, or stress in those who have been bullied in the past.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Below are a few commonly asked questions on bullying and depression.
Is Bullying In Adolescence Associated With The Development Of Depressive Symptoms In Adulthood?
Childhood bullying is often associated with several mental health conditions. A prospective study on the connections between bullying and health-related effects on children aged nine to 11 found that bullied children were at an increased risk of psychosomatic and psychosocial problems.
However, the mental and physical impacts of childhood bullying don't only impact childhood. Childhood bullying increases the likelihood of depression and anxiety in adults. A longitudinal, population-based cohort study also found a link to symptoms of psychosis. Another survey examining bullying in teenage individuals across 28 countries concluded that mental and physical impacts were connected with bullying.
How Does Cyberbullying Affect Mental Health?
When bullying takes place online, it may be referred to as "cyberbullying." One study on undergraduate-level college students found that cyberbullying was linked to adverse social, emotional, and academic impacts. Another study suggests that mental health interventions like therapy are most effective in targeting cyberbullying.
Is Cyberbullying Linked To Depression?
Studies show that cyberbullying is common in teens. However, it can happen in adulthood as well. Cyberbullying and other forms of bullying are linked to several mental health conditions and short and long-term consequences. The mental health risks of cyberbullying behavior can include the following:
- Anxiety disorders
- Suicidal ideation
Those who engage in bullying behavior may also have mental health symptoms. It may be possible for someone who engages in bullying behavior to experience bullying themselves.
What Is Bullying?
Bullying is an action intended to harm, intimidate, or coerce another person. Bullying can be perpetrated by one person or by a group. It may involve physical or sexual assault, words, messages, rumors, or other behaviors. Additionally, bullying can be carried out in person or online.
Who Can Experience Bullying?
Anyone can experience bullying for any reason at any time. Children and adults can be bullied. Anyone of any age, gender, ability, race, sexuality, ethnicity, or background may experience bullying for various reasons.
What Is Depression?
Depression is a mental health condition that affects over 280 million individuals worldwide. It can affect anyone of any gender, age, and background. Depression is often characterized by a pervasive and overwhelming feeling of sadness that may or may not have a cause. Depression is highly treatable.
What Are The Signs Of Depression?
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America explains that depression is diagnosed when an individual meets at least five out of nine symptoms in the DSM-5. These symptoms include the following:
- An overwhelming and pervasive sense of sadness that doesn't go away
- Feelings of worthlessness, fatigue, and recurrent thoughts of suicidal ideation
- A lack of interest in activities one used to enjoy
- A pronounced change in appetite
- Cognitive impairments, such as significant memory loss
When these symptoms persist for more than two weeks, they may meet the criteria for major depressive disorder (MDD).
What Are The Signs Of Bullying?
If you believe someone you love is experiencing bullying, Stop Bullying recommends looking out for a few warning signs. These warning signs can include:
- Unexplained injuries
- Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
- Frequent headaches or stomach aches
- Feeling sick or faking illness
- Changes in eating habits
- Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
- A sudden decline in grades
- A loss of interest in schoolwork
- Not wanting to go to school or work
- A sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
How Can I Get Help For Bullying?
The type of help you require may depend on the circumstances. If you or someone you love is experiencing bullying or discrimination in the workplace, you might want to speak to your Human Resources department or pursue legal action.
If bullying occurs at school, speak to a teacher, a school counselor, or other administrative officials. You can also seek help for bullying by finding a qualified mental health professional.
Below are a few bullying resources you can check out in addition to other forms of support:
Resources For Children
- Olweus Bullying Prevention Program
- Schools in Transition (Discrimination, Harassment & Bullying of Transgender Students)
- "Be Someone's Hero" Video
- KnowBullying App
- Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce
Resources For Adults
- Workplace Bullying Article
- The Trevor Project
- National Association of Scholars
- FBI: Report a Cyber Crime
- Bullying Resources for College Students
If you are an adult facing emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 for support. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text "START" to 88788. You can also use the online chat.
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