Today’s newsletter is a little different.
Today, we’re talking about bullying and the impact it has on us well into adulthood.
A lot of people experience bullying as children, particularly as teens.
So there’s a huge chance you experienced, or that you know someone who did.
Or you have kids who deal with bullying.
Bullying among teenagers is especially common, but it can happen anytime.
When we were growing up, our parents told us it just happened.
We just had to deal with it.
But the impact of bullying can cause long-lasting damage to victims.
Bullying is done to instill fear and self-hatred, and it’s effective.
Being bullied damages how a person sees himself.
It’s more difficult for him to see himself as a desirable, capable and worthwhile member of the world.
Bullying outcomes include teaching their victims that they are helpless and hopeless.
As you learn these things from bullies, you also learn that this is how people see you.
They see a weak, pathetic loser.
And it’s far more damaging than you realize.
Identity is a social process.
Other people help you form your self-perception.
This is one of the reasons people like to belong to groups.
Human beings are social animals who need to feel accepted by a group.
Without that group, we feel less than others.
Bullying teaches the victims that they are outcasts and outsiders.
And the wounds can last a lifetime.
Adults who dealt with bullying find it harder to believe in themselves and lack confidence.
They have a harder time coping with difficult or challenging situations.
These long-term effects lead to lost opportunities and a lack of career confidence.
Bullied teens grow up to earn less than their peers.
And they continue to feel anger, bitterness, fear, and distrust.
Worse, these victims have a high chance of continuing to be bullied and victimized as adults.
They may avoid social situations and become loners, leading to even fewer opportunities to get ahead.
So, bullying is clearly not just a “growing pain,” or something you “get over.”
We’ve all either experienced or witnessed bullying as kids.
And while we recognized that it was “mean,” I doubt we grasped the full effect it would have on everyone.
How many of us realized how much of an impact it would have on BOTH the victim and the bully?
Or even on the witnesses?
Some kids experience such severe bullying that they see suicide as their only way out of their misery.
The media spends a lot of time and attention on bullying today.
Schools enforce anti-bully rules, and law enforcement agencies now get involved, too.
And the punishment can be severe — and it needs to be.
Long after a victim survives bullying, or a person is a bully himself, the effects remain in their psyches.
The authors of the following study set out to investigate the long-term effects of bullying.
They looked at both the victims and the bullies.
And they focused on if these roles predict psychiatric problems or suicidality in young adulthood.
The researchers observed 1,420 participants.
Each of the participants experienced bullying as victims or as bullies and each was assessed 4 to 6 times between the ages of 9 and 16.
They categorized the participants as bullies only, victims only, bullies and victims, or neither.
These investigators assessed various psychiatric outcomes like depression, anxiety, and antisocial personality disorder.
They also looked for substance use disorders, and suicidality in members of each group once they reached young adulthood.
And then they reassessed the participants at ages 19, 21 and 24-26 years old.
What they found might shock some people.
There are quite a few mental disorders caused by bullying — both for the victim AND the bully.
Years after bullying ended, victims experienced a higher incidence of agoraphobia.
Agoraphobia is the fear of wide open spaces where a person perceives no means of escape.
Victims also had a higher level of generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder.
Participants in the group who both bullied and victimized others had increased risk of young adult depression, panic disorder, and suicidality.
Those who had only had the role of bully were at risk for antisocial personality disorder.
This next study occurred in Finland.
The researchers observed 2,540 boys born in 1981.
And they investigated similar psychiatric issues.
They gathered information about bullying and victimization in 1989 from these boys’ parents, teachers, and other children.
When these boys entered the army registry between the ages of 18 to 23, they received medical examinations.
So the researchers looked at this information about the participants’ eventual psychiatric disorders.
The kids identified as bullies had increased incidences of antisocial personality, substance abuse, and depressive and anxiety disorders.
And boys identified as victims had a higher number of cases of anxiety disorder.
Finally, the boys who played both roles of victim and bully had the highest number of adverse psychiatric outcomes.
These boys grew up to have a higher than normal occurrence of anxiety disorder and adult antisocial personality disorder.
The investigators concluded that any kid who is a bully or a victim during early school years are at risk.
They have an increased risk of suffering severe psychiatric disorders in early adulthood.
And we know that the long-term bullying effects last long after early adulthood.
After bullying has ended, the effects on both the bully and victim linger.
But there are ways to help both groups to heal and grow.
Helping them develop a supportive social network of family, friends, and co-workers help.
These people make a person feel in control and worthwhile again.
And this is often the best way to recovery.
What Is the Early Adulthood Outcome of Boys Who Bully or Are Bullied in Childhood? The Finnish “From a Boy to a Man” Study