Bullying and the Psychological Effect of Bullying

Bullying is a significant challenge among children, which carries well-known risks for society and the individual. Besides the immediate trauma like bullying, victims also experience a high likelihood of suffering emotional and physical disorders. Bullies cause their victims to experience trauma but are also affected by their participation in the act. Also, bystanders are significantly affected by bullying. Although most bullying cases happen in schools, it is the responsibility of pediatric clinicians to identify and help victims of bullying. They should be at the forefront to help schools and society implement anti-bullying measures. It is thus crucial to focus on the signs, symptoms, and risks of bullying to help identify and meet the needs of bullying victims.

Bullying leads to adverse long-term effects for both victims and bullies. According to Arseneault (2017), involvement in bullying causes significant health problems and poor psychosocial adjustment and hinders proper social and emotional adjustment. The probability of being diagnosed with a personality disorder during early adulthood is higher among individuals who have been victims of bullying as children. Victims tend to get more depressed, have frequent psychosomatic complaints, have suicidal thoughts, and use medication. Psychiatric diseases experienced by individuals exposed to bullying are usually anxiety disorders. Victims are also likely to experience poor self-esteem, abusive relationships, depression, and psychosis.

Perpetrators who acknowledge their actions tend to experience psychological distress and depression, unlike their counterparts who deny their actions. It is also worth noting that bullies dislike school and are likely to drop out. Therefore, bullies experience more social problems, externalizing behaviors, and aggression due to their actions. They often engage in harmful behavior, such as alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. By early adulthood, bullies have an increased rate of criminal behavior and have problems with employment and stable romantic relationships. However, this cannot be compared to the amount of torture that bullies put their victims through. According to Zarate-Garza et al. (2017), some victims experience depression, poor relationships with their peers, weapon-carrying behavior, drug use, and loneliness. Bullying acts as their justification for bringing weapons to school. It is also important to note that more than two-thirds of school shooting perpetrators in the US were victims of bullying. Research shows that bullying leaves individuals with mixed feelings, which turn into anger against oneself. When bullied for a long time, they often begin blaming themselves. They begin to think of themselves as the cause of their misfortune, and such thoughts have long-term psychological effects.

It is thus justifiable to conclude that bullying and self-esteem are closely related. Low self–esteem leads to repeated victimization. According to a study in the US, maltreatment by other individuals impairs one’s self-esteem as time passes. Studies also reveal that children who face frequent victimization develop an aversion to their environment. In other words, they are more likely to develop a dislike for environments such as school if that is where they were victimized. According to a study in America, victimized children expressed more dislike for school than their counterparts who had not been victimized. Further studies in Australia revealed that victimized individuals are more prone to absenteeism than other children (Delprato et al., 2017). The more severe the victimization, the higher the rate of absenteeism.

Sex differences also play a crucial role in determining the psychological impacts of bullying. Various studies indicate a causal relationship between long-term adjustment and bullying at school. For example, in a survey done on more than 200 undergraduates in the US, individuals who were victimized at school expressed more loneliness compared to others (Baier et al., 2018). Statistics further reveal that men victimized at school usually fear intimacy, experience shyness, and have difficult relationships with the opposite sex.

The psychological distress associated with bullying leads to fear and chronic anxiety. According to a Swedish study called “whipping boys,” children victimized by their peers are significantly more insecure and anxious than others. Further studies reveal that children aged between 7 to 10 years are more likely to experience poor sleep and bed wetting. Such children also depict behaviors such as irritability, panicking, and nervousness (Baier et., 2018). They also experience recurring memories of their victimization and may find it difficult to concentrate. It is also important to note that such children may exhibit symptoms of clinical depression. A study in England also drew similar conclusions noting that frequently bullied children were more prone to depression than others. Parents and caregivers must realize that such children often have mixed reactions and may exhibit numerous distress symptoms. Therefore, emotions such as anger, self-pity, and vengefulness are common among victims.

There is also a close relationship between poor physical health and bullying. A study in England revealed that victimized children are likelier to experience ailments such as tummy aches and headaches. Bullying is also linked to coughs, colds, and sore throats. Although not many studies focus on the link between physical health and bullying, it is justifiable to conclude that victimized individuals are more likely to have more physical complaints than non-victims. In cases where bullying is conspicuously damaging and aggressive, it is likely for legal consequences to follow (Moore et al., 2017). Studies reveal that children identified as bullies at a young age are likely to face courts as delinquents. Other studies in the UK reveal similar results, thus indicating that bullying affects not only the victims but also the perpetrators. Bullying affects numerous children and forms the foundation for many physical, psychological, and psychosomatic effects. It is a common occurrence in schools across the globe. During their early years, children usually get to know who they are while developing their personalities. Therefore, when one is bullied at a young age, they can develop trouble trusting others, low self-esteem, and anger problems. Such individuals find it challenging to develop long-term relationships with their peers at an older age. Bullying makes individuals develop a poor self-image of themselves.

Thus, parents must spend more time with their children and be mindful of their online activities. Parents can create rules for their children’s internet use and screen time. Although it can be challenging to set such rules, it is essential to acknowledge that the rules help create a balance between healthy social time and participating in other activities. In addition, parents should encourage their children to engage positively with their peers. Such connections are necessary for their growth and development. Also, parents should ensure that they have open communication with their children in that children know that they can talk to their parents about anything.

Individuals can identify a time during which they were bullied and felt. Bullying happens in numerous spaces, including workplaces, schools, and, most recently, online. Advancement in technology has led to a significant increase in bullying. Cyberbullying entails being bullied through digital devices. It often happens through social media, text messages, and many other online platforms where people view and share content. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics show that around 15 percent of high school students experienced online bullying in 2019 (Arseneault, 2017). The COVID-19 pandemic led to a significant rise in the rates of online bullying, as many people were working from home and relied on digital devices for connectivity. In just a few months, cyberbullying increased by more than 70%.

In conclusion, the effects of bullying have long-term negative impacts on individuals’ mental and overall health. Bullying can lead to harmful feelings such as isolation, rejection, low self-esteem, and, in some cases, anxiety and depression. Some cases of bullying can develop into post-traumatic stress disorder or acute stress disorder, depending on the severity of the bullying. Further research has revealed that being victimized can lead to long-lasting harmful impacts such as substance use, poor performance and social functioning, sexual violence, and frequent interpersonal violence. It is also crucial that even witnessing bullying, without necessarily being a victim, may have numerous harmful psychological impacts. Bullying is prevalent and affects individuals across the world. Its risks are also identifiable in practice. The impacts of bullying are both long-term and immediate. It is thus crucial to take all the necessary proactive measures to ensure that children do not suffer severe psychological problems due to bullying.


Arseneault, L. (2017). undefined. World Psychiatry16(1), 27-28. https://doi.org/10.1002/wps.20399

Baier, D., Hong, J. S., Kliem, S., & Bergmann, M. C. (2018). Consequences of bullying on adolescents’ mental health in Germany: Comparing face-to-face bullying and cyberbullying. Journal of Child and Family Studies28(9), 2347-2357. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-018-1181-6

Delprato, M., Akyeampong, K., & Dunne, M. (2017). The impact of bullying on students’ learning in Latin America: A matching approach for 15 countries. International Journal of Educational Development52, 37-57. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijedudev.2016.10.002

Moore, S. E., Norman, R. E., Suetani, S., Thomas, H. J., Sly, P. D., & Scott, J. G. (2017). Consequences of bullying victimization in childhood and adolescence: A systematic review and meta-analysis. World Journal of Psychiatry7(1), 60. https://doi.org/10.5498/wjp.v7.i1.60

Zarate-Garza, P. P., Biggs, B. K., Croarkin, P., Morath, B., Leffler, J., Cuellar-Barboza, A., & Tye, S. J. (2017). How well do we understand the long-term health implications of childhood bullying? Harvard Review of Psychiatry25(2), 89-95. https://doi.org/10.1097/hrp.0000000000000137

Author: Jeffery Allen
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