Psychological bullying can be defined as any kind of intentional and purposeful mental abuse. Sometimes people may feel as though they've been abused because something happened that hurt them emotionally, but it would generally only qualify as bullying if it were done purposefully, especially with malicious intent. People have many reasons for bullying others, including personal gain, vengeance, and self-esteem issues. Those who endure psychological bullying often have emotional problems that can linger for many years after the abuse happens.
One of the most common tactics used during psychological bullying is to personally attack people. When this happens, the bully may make jokes about some weakness or physical flaw in an individual. This is often done in front of other people for comedic purposes, or as a way to elevate the bully above his victim in the eyes of his peers.
Another thing that bullies often do is purposely make a big issue out of differences between people. For example, the bully might make jokes about a person's religious beliefs or race. Usually, the bully will only rely on these tactics if he can find some obvious way in which the victim is different from most of his peers.
Some bullies take a more indirect route to harming victims. They may rely on rumor and innuendo, and often may even spread intentional lies about someone. In some cases, this may be done without the victim's knowledge, with the bully going out of his way to keep his identity secret.
Children are generally well known for problems with both physical and psychological bullying. Among adults, physical bullying still happens, but the psychological type is usually more common. This is partly because the punishments for physical abuse often become much more severe for people as they mature, with jail being a possibility.
Physical and mental abuse often go hand in hand. In fact, physical abuse can almost be seen as a kind of psychological bullying because it has a traumatic psychological effect as well. In addition, most physical bullies rely on the same tactics as psychological bullies to further torment their victims in addition to their physical assaults. what generally separates the two is that while physical bullying almost always includes a mental component, psychological bullying can potentially happen without any physical component at all, and in many situations, it does.
Who Becomes a Bully?
People are not born to become bullies, but the characteristics can develop early. Children as young as two can show bullying characteristics, so caregivers should help them learn restraint. Unfortunately, caregivers tend to give in to young bullies, and bullies realize they can get what they want when they behave accordingly.
Researchers found that most bullies have similar psychological qualities. They fail to understand how others feel, and they do not struggle with anxiety.
Bullies often misunderstand social cues, so they see hostility when others see neutrality. They see themselves as positive and helpful, while others do not like their antisocial qualities. Although, some bullies have low self-esteem, which is why they act out against others. Bullies and their caregivers often have troubled relationships.
As bullies age, their behaviors change. Young bullies in elementary and middle school are aggressive and angry, while older bullies in high school become depressed and anxious. Older bullies struggle with being unliked, while younger bullies don’t care what people think about them.
Who Becomes a Bullying Victim?
Anyone can become a bullying victim but bullies attack children who stand out from their peers. Bullies target children who have something different, like their appearance, intellect, conversational skills, or physical ability. Unfortunately, bullies target children with disabilities because they often don’t know how to stand up for themselves.
Bullies pick on children they perceive as being weak or submissive. Caregivers can help their children set boundaries so they can stand up to bullies and not become targets. Bullies will not attack people who can derail interpersonal conflict.
Is Emotional Abuse Bullying?
Emotional abuse or emotional bullying is more subtle than typical bullying. It can happen at school, in adult relationships, and at work. Abusers use bullying tactics like name-calling, put-downs, and humiliation to cause emotional strain on the recipient. They also threaten, use sarcastic language, and exclude the people they torment.
Emotional abuse or bullying involves a consistent pattern of behaviors, eventually hurting the bullied person’s emotional well-being and self-esteem.
This type of relationship can happen to friends, lovers, family members, and work colleagues. Sadly, emotional abuse is often overt and difficult to see because it harms the victim’s self-esteem. Eventually, the victim starts to doubt themselves, instead believing what the bully says about them.
What Are the Effects of Emotional Bullying?
Emotional abuse creates serious consequences for the victim. Unfortunately, people victimized by emotional abuse and bullying often become bullies themselves. They experience fear, shyness, low self-esteem, and isolation. Many perform poorly at work or school, and many victims consider or attempt suicide.
The Psychology of Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is another form of bullying that involves people intentionally harming others through electronic devices. This form of bullying usually involves social media or text messages. Cyberbullies send messages that can become viral and cause physical and psychological distress.
All too often, the victims remain quiet because they are embarrassed or afraid of the consequences. All bullying is bad, but cyberbullying is especially troublesome because it often goes unnoticed. Consider that friends and caregivers can see the actions of a playground bully, but they cannot always see what cyberbullies do or say.
Since children and teens spend hours on their devices, they can easily become cyberbullies or victims. Anyone involved in cyberbullying is prone to psychological problems like depression and anxiety.
Unless cyberbullying happens in a public space, it can continue for days, months, or years. Some social media posts can be permanent, creating life-long problems for the victims. According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, almost 40% of teens have been cyberbullied.
What Are Treatments for Psychological Bullying?
Fortunately, several treatment options exist for children, teens, and adults who have been bullying victims. Any type of victimization can leave psychological scarring and cause people to feel sad, vengeful, and angry. Learning to cope with the effects helps people recover and live a healthy lifestyle.
Victims can attend counseling sessions to learn to speak up about and cope with bullying.
Talk therapy sessions help victims understand their emotions and develop coping mechanisms that increase their self-esteem.
Social Skills Training
Bullies and victims can learn how to behave in empathic and respectful ways. Victims can learn how to de-escalate situations and rely on friends and caregivers as a support system.