Expert: Childhood Bullying Causes Lifelong Psychological Damage
Schoolyard bullies have existed for as long as schools have been around, but we have only recently begun to recognize the serious damage that abuse at the hands of a bully can produce — and not only in the short-term.
As much as 35 percent of the population will experience some form of childhood bullying in their lifetime, according to the Conversation, and of those people, about 20 percent will go on to have mental health problems later in life.
Most research has revolved around the immediate effects of bullying, along with intervention and prevention. But studies on the long-term implications and newer types of bullying — such as that opened up by the internet — are lacking.
Still, the long-term effects on mental health are relatively well-documented, the Conversation noted: “Research has shown that victims of bullying report more severe anxiety symptoms than others. Being bullied is also linked to social anxiety, which often lasts into adulthood and increases the risk of developing personality disorders.”
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one of the most severe mental health issues experienced by those who suffer childhood bullying, with research indicating that 40.5 percent of girls and 27.6 percent of boys who are bullied showing signs of PTSD when the abuse is taking place.
For some, PTSD symptoms follow through to adulthood, potentially “triggered by just remembering the bullying incident or by related stimuli, such as visiting their school as adults or by encountering their bully in a different environment.”
Childhood bullying can also result in “health problems, alcohol and drug abuse, social withdrawal and severe trust issues,” with the latter being one of the most difficult to overcome.
“It is also important to note that bullying effects are often related,” the article pointed out. “In other words, low self-esteem is related to depression, depression is related to suicidal ideation, and so on. Such relationships lead victims to experience not one, but multiple bullying effects during their victimisation period and in their adulthood.”
Therapy can be highly effective for people who experienced childhood bullying and continue to deal with the aftermath into adulthood, though even if seeking professional help is not desired or a viable option, “just identifying the negative thinking patterns and behaviour that the bullying may have triggered can ultimately help you change them and move on.”