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How Bullying Can Lead To Addiction


For people growing up in today’s society, it can be virtually impossible to not be somehow connected with bullying.  Either you are the victim, the bully or an innocent bystander.  Children and young teenagers engage in this type of behaviour often and it can affect anyone, no matter their gender, race or economic status.  For those who are bullied, it can cause major psychological issues that can affect the victim for the rest of their lives.  Some children who are bullied show signs of depression, including withdrawal from friends and family, and reluctance to attend school, when previously this was something they enjoyed.  Many adults who suffer from depression and anxiety report having been a victim of bullying while growing up, and though years have passed, the memory of the bullying incidents can be very clear.  It is important to tackle the issue of bullying at all levels, and to help the victims deal with the psychological effects before they have more dire consequences.

Schoolyard Bullying Can Take Many Forms

Bullying can take many forms, and it can happen at the primary or secondary level of school.  There is no way of predicting who might be bullied or why they could become a target. Often times, the child being bullied will have one small thing that could be seen as different, which causes others to make fun of them.  For example, a child who is tall could be picked on simply because they are “bigger” than others, and this type of teasing can quickly evolve into bullying.  If the child is teased every day by the same person or group of people, the teasing itself can be considered bullying, since the child is subjected to the cruel behaviour on a regular basis.  Bullying can also take the form of name calling, or social exclusion of the victim.

When Bullying Gets Physical

Some children become victims of regular violence at school, being physically targeted on a daily basis. The physicality of this type of bullying is very worrisome: there can be serious consequences if the violence goes unchecked.  Violent incidents in schools have become the norm, especially at secondary school level, and the escalation of this violence can be quite shocking.  In recent years, there have been deaths on school property resulting from bullying, and questions about child safety have arisen.  The answer to these issues has not been found, but for those who are being bullied, it can be a very difficult situation to get out of. It can result in lasting trauma.

A New Epidemic: Cyberbullying

Another common form of bullying is cyberbullying, where the bully spreads lies, rumours or embarrassing content about the victim on social media. Others react by filling their social media accounts with hateful comments about the victim.  This can be particularly hard to deal with: the victim is unable to escape this form of bullying, since they able to access these accounts even while at home.  The inescapability of cyberbullying can make it incredibly hard to recover from.  The child or teenager can feel trapped by social media, which can be very distressing as this is the main form of communication for this generation.

The Toll On Mental Health

It can be debilitating to be on the receiving end of this sort of cruel treatment on a regular basis, no matter what form it takes.  Victims of bullying have a higher incidence of depression and anxiety due to the unrelenting nature of the bullying.  The brains of children and young teenagers are still developing, and experiencing daily attacks can cause a lot of emotional distress.  Not being able to handle these difficult emotions, some victims of bullying can turn to drugs or alcohol to find relief from their internal struggles.  When looking at addictions, there is a correlation between drug and alcohol use as young teenagers and a higher incidence of substance abuse as an adult.  So if a young teenager is bullied and seeks solace in alcohol or drugs, they are more likely to have an addiction disorder not only in their teen years, but later in life as an adult. It is hard not to see the connection between being a victim of bullying and experiencing substance abuse.

What About The Bullies?

Something interesting to note, however, is that those who do the bullying often have a higher incidence of drug or alcohol abuse.  This suggests that no matter what side of the coin you end up on, not being able to express your emotions may be the actual cause of addiction issues. It is also worth noting that many bullies are themselves victims or survivors of abuse. Being treated in a harmful way is damaging to anyone, and when this harm is done on a regular basis, it can be impossible not to escape without some sort of psychological damage.  And often, where there is psychological damage, there are addiction issues.

What Can Be Done?

Schools and school boards are increasingly attempting to formulate and implement formal policies relating to bullying. While this is important, scientific studies and empirical evidence overwhelmingly point to the importance of ensuring proper mental health services for children and teenagers – those who are being bullied, and those who are the perpetrators.