October is National Bullying Awareness Month. In the past, the main venue for bullying was on the playground or in the hall at school. Now, thanks to social media and instant access to the internet, victimization can happen 24/7 without any escape.
I am sure many of us can think of our own experience of bullying as either a victim or a witness to taunts and kids picking on each other. Bullying does not just stop on the playground. Bullying continues in our adult lives. It is important to know that the psychological effects can continue weigh on us as adults.
According to Forbes, roughly 37% of adults report getting bullied in the workplace. It might look like someone spreading rumors about inter-office relationships, negative comments about how someone dresses, or even belittling someone’s work. Even witnessing someone bullied at work can be harmful by creating an environment of tolerance for this behavior. People may miss work to avoid the situation. It can cause a victim to feel stress and anxiety about being a victim again and feeling alienated from others. It can cause someone to even eventually leave a job which could significantly impact their income and ability to provide for their family.
Many perpetrators of work place bullying were actually identified as perpetrators as kids too. When this behavior is not addressed in kids and teens it can have lasting effects. Let’s look at where this starts….
One common characteristic of “schoolyard” bullies is they have their own insecurities and are often trying to control more vulnerable peers. The bullies are often more likely to develop problems later in life, such as acting out violently and aggressively toward others. They are more likely to use substances and more likely to become abusive toward others. Intervening and getting a bullying kid help to change their behavior is important. Ignoring this behavior or just assuming “kids will work it out” can lead to more problems down the road.
There are some risk factors identified in kids who are bullied. These include being perceived as different from their peers, such as teens who are starting to identify as LGBTQ, teens who have few friends, teens who are perceived as week or unable to defend themselves, or kids with special needs. Just because kids might have these risk factors it does not mean they will be bullied. However, keep an eye out for these warning signs: changes in eating habits, nightmares or difficulty sleeping, anxiety about going to school, sudden change in friends, loss of interest in social activities, declining grades, headaches/stomach aches, or even self-destructive behaviors. Don’t wait for a kid to ask for help because many times they are embarrassed, fear retaliation, or think no one will believe them. Let kids and teens know that bullying is not okay.
Kids who are bullied are more likely to have health complaints and miss school, feel anxious or depressed, or act out aggressively toward others in response to being bullied. Keep in mind the kids that witness bullying are also impacted.
Social media has created a whole new platform for online bullying which can have the most drastic impact on us. This is a mechanism for bullying that is widespread and constant.
Do you want to learn more about how to combat bullying in your community or school? Visit www.stopbullying.gov for more information and tips to raise awareness.
To find ways to get help for anxiety, depression or the psychological impact of being bullied visit www.insightactiontherapy.com
Angie Harris, MA, MSW, is a therapist with Insight Into Action Therapy. She enjoys working with adolescents and young adults to support their journey through mental wellness and resiliency. Through her years of clinical experience she has learned that early awareness and intervention is essential. She has experience working with specialty populations and understands the unique needs of the LGBTQ community and their families. She provides individual, family and group therapy at the practice. She is currently offering a teen girls group, Empower, to help address self-esteem and bullying-related issues. If you are interested in seeking services, give her a call at (703) 646-7664.