The Link Between Childhood Bullying, Depression, and Well-Being

According to the CDC, one in five high school students report being a bully victim. Bullied kids are susceptible to physical, social, emotional, academic, and mental health problems. They can experience fear, anxiety, loneliness, depression, and long-term damage to self-esteem. These effects can carry it into adulthood; some may even seek revenge through violent measures. A case study of shootings found all but two cases studied between 1995 and 2001 involved ostracism, romantic rejection, or classic bullying.

Bullying isn’t just harmful to the victims; 60% of middle school boys who were bullies had at least one criminal conviction between the ages of 24 and 35. Bullying is incredibly pervasive and toxic for everyone involved. But it’s preventable. As kids have been back in school for a few months, you must watch out for signs of bullying and remain vigilant to protect your children’s mental and physical health.

What Is Bullying?

The definition of bullying varies, but it’s ultimately a power imbalance between individuals or groups, whether perceived or actual. Bullying behaviors can include:

  • Spreading Rumors
  • Teasing, Name Calling, or Insulting
  • Threatening or Physical Intimidation
  • Physical Harm: Tripping, Hitting, Pushing, or Spitting
  • Stealing or Destruction of Personal Property
  • Coercing Victims To Do Things They Don’t Want To Do

Bullying doesn’t have to occur in person; one in six high school students reported cyberbullying. An unfortunate development in this digital age, cyberbullying victims can experience anything from direct offensive or abusive comments to harmful rumors circulating about them all from their supposed safe place in their own room.

How Bullying Leads To Depression

Bullying in any form takes a psychological toll. Anyone on the receiving end of bullying can experience powerlessness, worthlessness, and isolation–all hallmarks of depression. These feelings of isolation can cause children to withdraw from future social interactions, fearing further ridicule or mistreatment. As social creatures, we all crave social connection and support. This somewhat forced isolation can contribute to depression or the development of another mental health issue.

Bullying will also distort your self-image. If someone repeatedly makes you feel unworthy and unlikeable, you will start to believe it’s true. This low self-esteem can create long-lasting emotional wounds that sometimes never fully heal, contributing to depression at any point in your life.

Bullying And Depression Are A Vicious Cycle

Bullying isn’t only overt and obvious toxic behaviors. It’s all about how the victim perceives and copes with specific interactions. For example, a person known for their obnoxious teasing affects people differently. When they interact with a confident individual with healthy coping mechanisms, this person can easily shake it off. When they mistreat a person lacking the emotional tools to manage the teasing effectively, the teasing creates stress and trauma for that individual. Whether that was the intent or not, it’s bullying.

This is how depression and bullying feed into each other. Children struggling with depression, self-worth, and other mental health problems can lack the coping mechanisms to deal with bullying. They are often perceived as easier targets if the bullying is also purposeful, subjecting them to further run-ins. This trauma can perpetuate and worsen depressive feelings, leading to a vicious cycle. Here are some steps to help:

  1. Recognize The Signs
  2. Watch out for obvious signs of bullying like unexplainable injuries, repeated accidents, maimed belongings, or frequently losing personal belongings. Other symptoms include frequent headaches or stomach aches, avoiding friends or social situations, declining in grades, skipping school, or faking illnesses to stay home. Skipping meals or binging; kids may come home hungry as they skip school lunch, a popular time to be a bully target.

  3. Foster A Supportive Environment
  4. A strong support network of friends, parents, and teachers acts as a protective factor against bullying. They can act as a buffer or provide intervention or backup when bullying occurs.

  5. Maintain Open Communication
  6. When children do not feel safe enough to open up about what’s happening to them, it’s very likely the bullying will culminate in depression. Encouraging children to communicate their experiences and feelings well before any bullying occurs provides a healthy coping mechanism that will lessen the effects and help you identify bullying behavior earlier. You can help and intervene earlier and more effectively.

  7. Seek Professional Help
  8. Bullying and depression can become so bad that children consider and attempt self-harm or suicide. If you notice signs of bullying or depression, seek professional help before it gets that bad. Children will always benefit from having an outlet to express themselves, learning healthy coping skills, and learning tactics to deal with bullying behaviors. Talk therapy is one way to help.

Alternative depression treatment options are another way to break the cycle of bullying and depression if it’s reached a clinical level. Remember, it’s never too late to deal with your depression due to bullying, even if you’re an adult. TMS brain stimulation is an excellent option that can target depression, anxiety, and PTSD from bullying in your childhood.