The Top Reasons Why People Bully
Dealing with someone who bullies is something many people have dealt with at least once in their life. Bullies typically aggressively assert power by intentionally targeting and intimidating a seemingly weaker person verbally, mentally, emotionally, and sometimes physically. These bullying events do not leave a person unharmed, even after the verbal or physical assaults have subsided. People, including children and adults of all ages, who have been bullied can lead to an increased risk for mental and physical health problems along with difficulty in psychosocial adjustment as well as emotional adjustment. If you have experienced bullying or someone you love has been bullied, you understand the emotional and physical repercussions of someone else’s aggressive behavior. In this article, you will learn the underlying reasons why a person bullies, which may give you the tools and strategies to handle a bully when they come your way.
Overview: Why Do Bullies Bully?
Bullying can be defined as the deliberate and repetitive use of or words or actions against a person or group of people to cause social, physical, and/or psychological harm. While bullying has existed for a very long time, it was only in the 1970s when this form of interpersonal aggression was the subject of research that was focused primarily on school bullying. However, bullying is not just something that happens to school-age children. People meet with bullies at every stage of life. Bullying is something that you can experience within your family and in the workplace. While some children who bully eventually recognize their poor behavior or are reprimanded accordingly, others become adults and continue to act in an abusive manner.
There is not a simple answer to this question, as the reasons why a person aggressively subjugates another is complex. However, some internal causes of a person bullying another include:
Needing to control
Being rewarded for this behavior
People who bully may be managing mental health conditions such as depression or anger management problems. They may be emotionally neglected at home, or worse, abused or living with bullying in other aspects of their lives. Some people may seek out the help of an online therapist to understand bullying in greater detail.
Insecurity And Feeling Powerless
For those who have experienced or witnessed bullying, it may seem impossible that the person who does the bullying is actually experiencing feelings of insecurity or powerlessness. You may wonder how someone who deals with insecurity will bully someone else, especially when thinking that this type of person is typically shy and reserved. But some people will express this insecurity by trying to overpower another person because they feel powerless. It can also mean they are not happy with themselves.
When an individual feels this way, they may engage in bullying to bring others down to their perceived level. Many people who are subjected to bullying may want to revenge their pain and humiliation to restore their own self-esteem. However, it is more beneficial to learn ways to navigate an aggressive personality by not meeting them with equal aggression, but with a sense of compassion along with clear and obvious boundaries.
Keep in mind that when an individual feels powerless in their own life, it may lead to them bullying others. Some children from dysfunctional homes engage in bullying because they feel powerless and are shown this example at home. Someone who feels insecure may be afraid of appearing weak in front of others. To hide their own weakness, they do their best to find and expose weakness in someone else. Again, this explanation (and the others below) are not meant to excuse bullying – which is inexcusable – but is meant to explain it. When we understand something, we are more equipped to change it.
Internalized Behaviors And The Need To Control
Research has shown that emotional deficits and internalizing mental health concerns in people who bully may be the root causes of bullying behavior. For example, anxiety and depression are strongly related to bullying behaviors. Other factors that can cause a person to bully is emotional reactivity, or anger management problems.
The need to control is one way in which these internalized behaviors can lead to bullying. In not being able to control their internal or external environments, their need to control may be by attempting to dominates another. Some people engage in bullying to gain control of their surroundings. For example, they may have no control over the way they are treated at home. The common theme is that there are concerns we often cannot see- there also might be cultural differences at play, race disparities, or even an unseen disability that is causing them to project onto others.
Bullying Is Rewarded
Sadly, bullying behavior is often rewarded, whether it be on the part of the bully who seems to get what they want from the interaction or by those who may witness it. In a sense, by doing nothing people reinforce bullying behavior, and, in some cases, the bullying is encouraged. For example, studies have shown that bullies are often rewarded, especially in the workplace. In a study published in the Journal of Managerial Psychology, bullies on the job get rewarded for their behavior, achieving higher levels of career success and positive evaluations from their supervisors.
Any time a person who bullies wins and succeeds in getting what they want, it reinforces their behavior. When they control and intimidate others, they usually achieve what they set out to do: intimidate and control. Bullies can also have their behavior rewarded if others encourage them and join in. This gives them the attention they desire. These facts are important to notice, as it shows what is included in the incentive to bully.
How To Stop Bullying
The top reasons why people bully may not seem like good enough reasons for intimidating and controlling others, but they are the main underlying causes for this type of behavior. The only way to stop others from bullying you is to learn how to deal with it effectively. Here are some ways you can put an end to bullying.
Take A Stand - This advice works regardless of your age. People who bully tend to prey on people who are perceived as weaker than they are. When you show them that you are confident and that their tactics are not working, you steal their power and cause them to lose control. Because the person who bullies may already be self-conscious, they are likely to become angry as you become more empowered. Eventually, they will be forced to give up once you show them that you are not going to allow their behavior to impact you.
Have A Support Group - This is another tip that helps at any age. Bullies often act alone, and they do not want to take on an entire group. If you have a solid group of friends who you can lean on for support, it might cause the person who is bullying you to think twice. This is effective on the playground with young children and it works well with adults in an office setting as well.
Stay Emotionally Neutral - This can be hard to do when you are trying not to show emotion while you are being bullied. Remember, if you get angry or confrontational, you will only encourage their behavior. Many bullies are encouraged by someone else’s emotional response and want to see a strong reaction. If you remain neutral and do your best to ignore the behavior, they are more likely to give up.
Deal With It Quickly - The longer they get away with bullying you, the harder it can be to get them to stop. If you take immediate action when you first experience bullying, it will send the bully a message that you are not going to stand for their behavior. They are likely to look for another target.
Do Not Keep Secrets - How you address this one depends on your age. If you are being bullied in school, you need to find a trusted adult with whom to talk. This could be a teacher, a parent, or a mentor. If you are in the workplace, then you should address the issue with your Human Resources department. Secrets have power and may allow others to also be impacted. If you do not tell anyone you are being bullied, the effects of bullying are likely to multiply, especially impacting your mental and physical health.
You Can Overcome The Effects Of Bullying
Bullying can affect several aspects of a person’s life, impacting their physical and mental health, social functioning, and work or school performance. People who are bullied often experience negative health and social consequences from the abuse, including the following:
Poor academic and/ or work performance
Negative self-perceptions, including low self-worth and self-esteem
Internalizing mental health disorders, such as emotional dysregulation, depression, and anxiety
Bullying can lead to feelings of loneliness and social anxiety due to how poorly you were treated by a bully. Depression and teen suicide are also significantly higher among those who experience bullying. Finding the right counselor or therapist is the best way to learn how to navigate the effects of this poor treatment by peers and the distress that may follow.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, seek immediate guidance by calling 911 or the national hotline. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255. You can also text “START” to 741741 for the Crisis Text Line, which will connect you to a trained volunteer within five minutes
While the psychological and physical effects of bullying can impact a person subjected to it throughout their lives, one approach to stopping the cycle of this interpersonal aggression is to treat the mental health of the bully as well. Research has shown that children exposed to violence in the home tend to participate in higher levels of physical bullying than those who have not been subjected to abuse. A mental health therapist can address the reasons behind this behavior, helping them to change their destructive habits and give tips on how to take responsibility for their actions. There are many reasons for bullying and many have roots in mental health, trauma, or families. Early intervention and therapy make a big difference in bullying behavior, especially for teens. Along the way, a bully can learn to better relate socially to others and heal the wounds withing that may be precipitating the behavior.
When A Professional Can Help
As mentioned above, bullying can seriously impact your mental health, including your self-esteem, confidence, and ability to manage anxiety. If you are dealing with someone who bullies and do not know how to manage the continued aggressive behavior directed at you, do not hesitate to reach out for help. Bullying should not be taken lightly. It can have serious consequences as you have read throughout this article, including changes in self-perception and increased anxiety and depressive symptoms.
A highly effective form of therapy for helping people who are managing anxiety and depression symptoms is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a form of talk therapy where the client learns to change negative behavior and thought process to positive behavioral patterns and a new way to approach life’s challenges, including when faced with bullying. Many people seeking therapy face barriers to in-person treatment, such as limited availabilty to professionally trained therapists, delayed treatment due to waiting lists, and accessibility obstacles due to living in a rural location or inability to travel. In all these cases, online therapy is a beneficial and research-backed form of delivery of services that removes these barriers to treatment. Research also supports the effectiveness of online therapy as shown in this review study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research. In this review, a total of 19 studies were compared to assess the efficacy of internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy, or iCBT. The report writers concluded that is a highly successful application of CBT for people managing anxiety and depression.
An in-person or online counselor can help you to navigate through the effects of bullying in your life and help you develop strategies to stop a bully from targeting you from here on. They can guide you as you learn to address bullying and help you to recover healthily.
How BetterHelp Can Support You
If you have been bullied yourself, a therapist can help you learn why and how to use healthy coping tools instead. Read the reviews below to see how BetterHelp counselors have helped others experiencing similar issues.
"Dr. Anstadt is one of the best counselors I've ever worked with. I was working with him for almost a year and the amount of progress I made was wonderful. I made significant steps toward learning about myself and gaining confidence about myself, learning how to stand up for myself when it was right, and knowing my own limits while still striving to be better."
"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 the 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 for a year!!!"
Bullying of any form is a serious issue that needs to be addressed to stop the cycle of intimidation and abuse in whatever environment it is found. Informing yourself about bullying and acting against this aggressive problem is a first step in breaking this cycle. Whether you are beginning to recognize bullying behaviors in yourself or you have been the victim of bullying, a therapist can help. If you are aware you may be bullying someone else, you can learn to change your behavior and recover from the troubling effects of bullying by taking the first step. Learn more about the topics of this page below, through our menu and title.
Commonly Asked Questions
Why do people pick on me?
If people are exhibiting bullying behavior towards you, there are many reasons why they might be doing it. In many cases, the bullying behavior stems from problems or issues within the bully themselves. For example, research shows people who bully have experienced or witnessed physical and emotional violence in the home.
Another reason that people tend to bully is because they see and dislike differences in your lifestyle, personality, and/or beliefs. These are often things that you cannot nor should you change about yourself, but may result in you being bullied. In this case, people bully others because they cannot reconcile such differences in their own perspective or psyche. They may be unable to accept that others are different – or hold different opinions and/or beliefs – than them. They have an unjustified sense of superiority, and this helps them to justify such conduct as name calling, cyberbullying, or even physical harm. This mentality impacts kids and adults alike and can lead both kids and adults to bully others.
How do you start a bullying essay?
To write an essay on bullying for school, you should first define what bullying is. You should provide a content accurate definition of bullying, and you might even give a few examples of different types of bullying. For example, you can start by identifying bullying that kids face at school, then identifying bullying that adults face at site work or other daily settings, and even explaining cyberbullying.
Then, you can lay out the cause of bullying. Make sure that you incorporate only high-quality sources and offer latest evidence-based reviews to support your claims about the different causes of bullying.
Next, explain the different solutions to the problem of bullying. Make sure that you explain your solutions in terms of the specific contexts where you witness bullying. For example, solutions for kids at school could be totally different than solutions for the family at home. And solutions for cyberbullying will be in a completely different context altogether. Talking about the many solutions for bullying – as well as the contexts in which they can be applied – is a great way to give your essay a well-rounded approach before heading into the conclusion.
Finally, you should include a conclusion paragraph. This paragraph summarizes the points that you made throughout the essay, and it highlights the most import things that the research shows on bullying. You can also end with a call to action that encourages your readers to do something about the problem of bullying in their daily lives.
Is there research on bullying?
Many peer-reviewed studies and high-quality sources have looked into the causes and effects of bullying. Research shows that the causes of bullying are usually due to problems with the psychology of the bully themselves.
For instance, one of the common reasons that people bully others is because they have a low sense of self-worth and putting others down makes them feel better. They feel that their identity or self-worth is in danger, so they respond by lashing out with harmful words and abuse towards the people around them. They may also lack empathy; they might not have the willingness or ability to consider the thoughts and feelings of those around them. They may not consider how their own actions can harm the people around them.
In the case of young people specifically, research shows that exposure to violent or bullying behavior in the home or at school can also prompt them to bully others. In short, when people witness bullying – especially if they see it frequently in their developmental years – they are more likely to be bullies. According to school staff, seeing how kids interact with and are treated by their parents can be a huge indicator and predictor of bullying behavior.
Medical reviewers confirm that for many kids, their family life and past can lead them to become bullies. As kids develop, their mental health – including their sense of self-esteem, self-worth, and ability and willingness to empathize with others – is shaped dramatically by the experiences they have with their parents and/or caregivers when the kids are very young.
What are the causes and consequences of cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying occurs when someone uses the internet to harass or bully someone else. It can be as simple as demeaning someone in the comments section of a website, or as serious as threatening someone’s life or health by exposing information online. They can do it unidentified or they can do it with their name and profile in full display. Cyberbullying is particularly easy for someone who does it unknown, since pinning the insults on them is inaccurate hard and they usually don’t have to face the consequences of their bullying behavior.
How do you deal with people who picks you?
Your default settings when it comes to dealing with someone who picks on you is to be calm. According to teachers and school staff who see bullying among kids all the time, the main reason that kids pick on each other is to get a reaction. This same pattern in seen in adults, as well.
Research shows that responding to bullying with a calm and measured reaction will also diffuse the situation. If you explode with anger or an extreme response, this most likely is the precise reaction the bully is looking for. Imagine the comment section on a popular website, or even a discussion on a social media website. When all the comments are positive, there are not many comments. But when someone starts picking on others in the discussion, the comment section explodes. The website becomes a hostile place, and the more that people reply to the bully – even if they are disagreeing or admonishing them – then the more the bullying continues.
What is the meaning of anti-bullying law?
An anti-bullying law is a codified law that is meant to prevent bullying. Usually, these laws are enacted at the local or state level with prompting from local parents and school staff. In fact, parents are the most active group of people advocating for anti-bullying laws in the United States.
Anti-bullying laws are usually written with input from medical reviewers and their professional medical advice, so that the policies are beneficial to all. As the law is being drafted, board certified physicians and medical reviewers confirm the efficacy of the proposed policies, while also proposing substantial updates to make the laws and policies more effective.
Usually, anti-bullying laws are hard to enforce. Most of the policy change created by anti-bullying laws focuses on prevention and education, building a website and other online sources for people dealing with bullying, and implementing anti-bullying training in schools.
What does picking on someone mean?
To “pick on someone” is an inseparable phrasal verb that means to be mean to someone. It can signify teasing, agitating, or annoying someone. Usually, the goal of picking on someone is to get a rise or reaction out of them. This behavior is most seen among children, when one child picks on another child.
People can also use a social media website or other web-based app to pick on others. This is known as “cyberbullying”.
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