Lifelong Effects of Being Bullied
Lady Gaga, Shawn Mendes, Blake Lively, Eminem, and Kate Middleton.
These are just a few celebrities who’ve shared openly about being the victims of school bullies, AND how the pain from those childhood experiences continue to impact their adult lives. If you were bullied, you understand the feelings of shame and humiliation these verbal or physical or social media assaults bring, but new research reveals the impacts do not stop. New research reveals, the damaging effects of school age bullying not only impacts the child’s psychological, emotional, social, academic, and spiritual development; harmful consequences exist for decades and even lifetimes, creating much greater risks for significant mental and even physical illness.
These revelations are causing educators and child development professionals to change their views of bullying from, “an inevitable element of growing up” to “a violation of children’s human rights.” Lousie Areseneault, a professor of developmental psychology at King’s College in London says, “People used to think that bullying was typical behavior for some children, and in some instances, it could even be a good thing because it builds character. It has taken far too long for researchers to conclude what children and families have known all along, that bullying is really harmful.”
There’s little, if any doubt, bullying poses an immediate & serious risk to children’s mental health, most notably with elevated anxiety, depression, and paranoid thinking. While many symptoms vanish when the bullying stops, large percentages of victims have a much greater risk of mental illness. According to the Harvard Review of Psychiatry, a woman who was bullied as a child is 27 times more likely to suffer from panic or anxiety disorders in adulthood. Men, who were bullied as children, are 18 times more likely to consider and/or attempt suicide. Childhood bullying victims exhibit relational struggles as adults, finding it harder to make friends even decades later because even minor relational tensions are viewed in threatening ways. Academic and economic costs are relevant because bullying lowers a victim’s academic achievement, reducing their future career/income potential and creating financial instability. And the residual effects of bullying on physical health is striking. A 50-year study revealed frequent bullying between the ages of 7 and 11 years-old was linked to significantly higher levels of inflammation at age 45, contributing to a variety of illnesses like diabetes, cardiovascular problems, and many autoimmune diseases.
Anti-bullying campaigns DO bring positive change.
Anti-bullying campaigns DO bring positive change. A recent meta-analysis examined the results of 70 anti-bullying campaigns, and concluded these campaigns not only reduce victimization, they also improve the mental health of all students while creating greater empathy for victims. Parents and caregivers should be on the lookout and proactive for any sign of the problem, in other words, don’t wait for it to just come up. ‘Check in’ with your kiddos regularly, “Hey how are things going with your friends online AND at school? Do you have any troubles or is anyone or anything bothering you?” If concerns are shared, even if they seem trivial or petty from our adult perspective, listen thoroughly, and try to understand their issues as completely as possible. Growing up, especially in our post-COVID world, is not definitely easy, so let’s help and protect our next generation by doing our part to eradicate bullies and bullying from our children’s lives.
If you or your child need help navigating this topic the following resources are a great place to start:
*Article cited Robson, David. BBC.com, The Nordic way to stop bullying, March 7 2022.
Dave Murray is the pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Georgetown and is also a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). He has clients all over Georgetown and Horry counties. He is also available to the students of Teach My People and is affectionately known there as “Coach Dave.”
Dave has been married to the most amazing woman on the planet, Kelly for the last 23 years. They have three wonderful adult children Noelle, Kala and Chase. Noelle is married to Andrew and together they have two amazing boys, Rowan and Rylan. The greatest grandsons in the universe.