By Stella Vasileiadou,
Bullying is a very stressful ordeal, one that many people find it hard to speak about.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), bullying affects 20% of high school students, while cyberbullying affects 16% of high school students. Recent studies have shown that nearly two in three people have experienced cyberbullying throughout their life. What’s worst is that just because cyberbullying can be 24/7 and public, victims may feel they can never get away from it.
So, how does it affect us?
In short, there is no doubt that bullying cultivates a culture of fear and insecurity, while its impact, unless appropriate action is taken, could cause an irreparable damage to someone’s personality and life. It is no surprise that children who get bullied are more likely to deal with depression, low performance at school, lack of sleep, and loss of interest in things and activities that used to be fulfilling to them. Being bullied can affect the way you see yourself as a human being throughout your whole life. It can be responsible for not believing in yourself and not having self-esteem, or having difficulties finding friends or a partner. Also, people that had to deal with bullying, are said to struggle even with work relationships.
A “permanent” wound:
Imagine living a life full of fear and self-doubt. Waking up and feeling worthless and helpless all day long. Lonely and depressed, without a motivation to do anything. That is what happens if you happen to be a victim of bullying.
When people are called: “fat, ugly, stupid etc.” at a young age, they will most likely eventually end up believing that such statements are true. They also may engage in self-blame, meaning that maybe they deserved to be called and treated that way and that it is not the bully’s fault of course. Some people claim to hate themselves, let alone that in the worst case- scenario, bullying has driven children and young people to self-harm and even suicide.
Not trusting anyone becomes a way of life
It is a fact that people that have went through bullying, did not speak up to anyone about that awful experience and that they had to deal with it on their own. The truth is that we tend to think that if we speak up to someone else about the problem, the odds are that it will get even worse, or that no one would understand us or help us. Therefore, we choose to keep it to ourselves. So, I think it now makes sense why bullying victims are called quite often: “loners”. No one wants to be alone. But unfortunately, it is a learned behavior.
The so-called “empathy gap”:
Most adults that have not experienced bullying are not able to understand how much it hurts and therefore its impact on someone’s behavior. This lack of understanding is often called the “empathy gap.” Working to close this empathy gap is one of the best ways to improve bullying policies and put an end or at least limit bullying.
The learned helplessness:
Unfortunately, if no intervention takes place, eventually kids can develop what is known as “learned helplessness”. Learned helplessness means that the targets of bullying believe that they cannot do anything to change the situation. As a result, they stop trying. Then, the cycle down into depression becomes more severe. This leads to a feeling of hopelessness and the belief that there is no escape.
Bullying can have devastating effects on a person which can last into adulthood or even take place in adulthood.
One small advice: The bullying you may have experienced does not define who you are. Instead, rediscover who you are and close the door on the past.
- VeryWellFamily, The Long-Lasting Effects of Bullying, Available here.