How Bullying Leads to Depression


Bullying seems to have reached epidemic propositions in our schools and neighbors these days and it is a rare day when an incident isn’t reported in the news about another teenager, and sometimes even younger, killing themselves because of the treatment they’ve received. That is so important to know how bullying leads to depression.

Bullying goes much further than just name calling or pushing people in the hallways at school.  It is abusive behavior inflected upon someone by a peer or a group of peers, usually in school.

The taunting and teasing can go on for years, making the bullied teen or child’s life a living hell and home is no longer a safe haven, thanks to the Internet.  Many people who bully use social media sites like Facebook or Twitter to keep taunting or tormenting their victim, giving them no escape from the relentless verbal assaults.

What is Bullying?

stop bullying
Stop bullying

The definition of bullying by the United States Department of Health and Human Services says it is unwanted aggressive behavior by school aged children that involves a real or a perceived power imbalance.  The behavior is repeated, or has the possibility of being reported over time.

Bullying has become the focus of many organizations in an effort to make parents and students aware of its existence, what to look for and how to help not only those who are being bullied, but those who bully as well.  Bullying can have long term consequences for both the bullied and the one who is committing the bullying.

How Bullying Leads to Depression

Kids who are being bullied may feel as if they are trapped and they will never be left alone by their tormentor.  They may also feel as if they cannot tell anyone for fear of the wrong people finding out and the bullying getting worse.  Those that are bullied, especially boys, may feel as if they can to handle it on their own so they won’t seem weak to others.

The tormentors may have issues of their own leading them to those behavior, including depression.  Their self esteem may be so low that they feel as if they have to pick on someone else to feel better about themselves.  They may also bully because they are being abused at home, and they take that anger and aggression out by bullying someone else.

Depression and Suicidal Behavior

Whether the child or teen is a bully or is being bullied, they could be suffering from depression as a result of dealing with the bullying behavior.  A study published in 2007 in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry showed “a clear association” between bullying, depression and suicidal thoughts and attempts.

In the study of 2,342 high school students, almost 30% of those who said they had been bullied reported depression and 11%  reported serious suicidal thoughts and suicidal attempts.  Conversely, of those who did the bullying, 19% reported experiencing depression and 8% reported suicidal thoughts and suicidal attempts.

For kids that have never experienced bullying, only 7% of them reported depression and only 3% said they’ve had serious suicidal thoughts or have made attempts at suicide.  Altogether, about 9% of students that are high school age said they were bullied and 13% said they had bullied others.

Siblings Being Bullied Can Lead to Depression

In families where siblings are being bullied by an older brother or sister, or perhaps even a younger one, researchers have found that they had a higher rates of depression and anxiety than siblings who were not being physically or verbally bullied.  The study surveyed 3,600 children and the results were published in the June 17, 2013 issue of Pediatrics.

While sibling bullying is often seen as a normal part of sibling rivalry, the taunting and physicality of the bullying is something that most parents would not tolerate happening by other peers, but they seem to overlook it in siblings.  Researchers think that the issue of sibling bullying needs to be looked at more aggressive as the focus is usually on bullying between peers and not siblings.

Signs of Depression in Children

There are many signs you can look for if you are starting suspect that your child is having problems in school and may be depressed.  If they withdraw from their friends or activities they’ve always liked to do, they may be experiencing feelings of depression.  Changes in sleep habits, especially if they are having trouble sleeping or are sleeping a lot, can be a sign of depression as well.

Teens or younger children who suddenly start asking questions or talking about death and start giving away their possessions should be carefully watched.  These could be signs of suicidal thoughts and you need to have your child see a doctor or therapist as soon as you can.  Ignoring these problems can have serious consequences.

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