What Is Psychological Bullying?

Jacob Queen
Jacob Queen
Psychological bullying may occur at school.
Psychological bullying may occur at school.

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.

Psychological bullying may come from harassing text messages.
Psychological bullying may come from harassing text messages.

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.

Personal attack is one of the most common tactics used during psychological bullying.
Personal attack is one of the most common tactics used during psychological bullying.

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.

Yelling and nagging from a spouse can contribute to psychological bullying.
Yelling and nagging from a spouse can contribute to psychological bullying.

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?

Psychological bullying can affect negatively affect children.
Psychological bullying can affect negatively affect children.

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. 

Psychological bullying can take the form of someone spreading rumor, innuendo or intential lies about another person.
Psychological bullying can take the form of someone spreading rumor, innuendo or intential lies about another person.

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?

Psychological bullying during adolescence can cause lasting emotional issues.
Psychological bullying during adolescence can cause lasting emotional issues.

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?

Malicious bullying and psychological abuse can be a form of spousal or partner abuse.
Malicious bullying and psychological abuse can be a form of spousal or partner abuse.

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. 

Counseling

Victims can attend counseling sessions to learn to speak up about and cope with bullying. 

Talk Therapy

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.

Discussion Comments

anon1001768

I was bullied psychologically from elementary through high school because I was different. I am still living with the scars. I tried telling teachers and they didn't believe me, said the kids who I told them were bullying me would never do that. My escape from them was in books. Have you ever noticed how most of the bullies are in the crowd are not in honors and AP classes? I graduated at the top of my high school class and went to a better college than they did.

I now am a volunteer official for an Olympic sport and we are required to do Safesport training every year, which involves teaching us to recognize the signs of abuse, harassment, bullying, and hazing and how to report it. I can't get through that video training without a panic attack and crying through most of it.

anon993408

anon358700 post 6: She is not your friend. She is known as a frenemy.

A frenemy is a person who appears to be a friend but is not.

Frenemies systematically destroy their targets by undermining

their confidence, self esteem and happiness. Frenemies have personal issues like jealousy, and they cannot change. If their jealousy is not aimed at you, then it is aimed at someone else.

You are not the source of the jealousy so you do not have to feel guilt.

Time to dump your frenemy and find real friends.

anon924048

I was psychologically bullied at school. The majority of people were against me and the rest just stayed silent as I was destroyed by the bullies. The teachers whom I did tell didn't really seem to take me seriously or care. One teacher tried to help, but by then there was no single bully, but many people out to insult me at every opportunity. I didn't really tell my family about the extent that I was being bullied. I mentioned that I got called some names but that was only the surface. I didn't want to worry them.

From the ages of 12 to 15/16 I was alone, carrying the weight of the bullying on my shoulders.

I would die a thousand deaths to never let anyone experience the pain I felt.

anon358700

My friend Hannah is always mean to me. I think she hates me, but then gripes and moans when I don't talk to her. Then, I make the effort, and she moans even more. Sometimes I think she wants to stab my eyes with a fork, because once she cut my hand open with a knife.

ysmina

I'm writing a paper on the psychological effects of bullying. I decided to go back to school and study psychology after my traumatic marriage to a man with narcissistic personality disorder. Psychological bullying is usually a hobby for adults with this disorder.

burcidi

@burcinc-- Did you seek help from your teachers at the time? I'm sure they must have done something.

I'm a teacher and unfortunately, harassment and bullying is common in schools. It's especially true in lower-income neighborhoods where children deal with issues at home, whether it's poverty or an unhappy family life. Children with problems at home tend to carry those problems to school and act in abusive ways toward their peers.

As a teacher, I do everything I can to prevent bullying in my classroom. I hope that I am as effective as I think I am.

burcinc

I was a victim of psychological bullying at school. I still don't understand how children can hurt each other so much psychologically. It does fit into the category of psychological bullying because children usually do this intentionally. But I don't think that they understand the consequences of it. I would like to believe that if those kids that mocked, bullied and humiliated me in school knew the kind of psychological damage they caused, they wouldn't have done it. Or maybe they would have, I don't know.

I had to change schools because of psychological bullying and it took me many years to get over feelings of humiliation and low self-esteem. I had to go to a lot of therapy. I'm at a much happier place now, but I do wish that parents and teachers could have intervened and prevented all this.

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    • Psychological bullying may occur at school.
      By: michaeljung
      Psychological bullying may occur at school.
    • Psychological bullying may come from harassing text messages.
      By: Maksim Kostenko
      Psychological bullying may come from harassing text messages.
    • Personal attack is one of the most common tactics used during psychological bullying.
      By: stefanolunardi
      Personal attack is one of the most common tactics used during psychological bullying.
    • Yelling and nagging from a spouse can contribute to psychological bullying.
      By: Junial Enterprises
      Yelling and nagging from a spouse can contribute to psychological bullying.
    • Psychological bullying can affect negatively affect children.
      By: godfer
      Psychological bullying can affect negatively affect children.
    • Psychological bullying can take the form of someone spreading rumor, innuendo or intential lies about another person.
      By: schwede-photodesign
      Psychological bullying can take the form of someone spreading rumor, innuendo or intential lies about another person.
    • Psychological bullying during adolescence can cause lasting emotional issues.
      By: fasphotographic
      Psychological bullying during adolescence can cause lasting emotional issues.
    • Malicious bullying and psychological abuse can be a form of spousal or partner abuse.
      By: DragonImages
      Malicious bullying and psychological abuse can be a form of spousal or partner abuse.