Bullying is not to be taken lightly. It’s been in the news a great deal lately. It may be because something bad has happened to a victim of bullying or because a victim has taken action against himself or others as a result of the bullying. Short of keeping children isolated from their peers, it seems to be an almost insurmountable problem. How do we help the victims of bullying? Anxiety and Depression can be associated with the effects of bullying.

What Happens to Bullying Victims?

Being bullied is more than being the victim of occasional taunts, or even a black eye, on the playground. Those of us who survived the hardships of childhood and adolescence may dismiss bullying as “just something that happens” and may even tell victims that it will make them stronger. The effects of bullying are serious, though!

Peer bullying is much, much more than a typical rite of passage. While some kids do “get over it,” many others experience lasting repercussions from bullying that can remain for their entire lives. Bullied children and teens may become anxious, depressed, and withdrawn. They may struggle in school, if they manage to show up at all — why, after all, would a child want to go to school when they know they will be belittled and taunted by their peers? Bullied children even experience more physical illnesses, such as frequent headaches and stomachaches, than their peers. These are real, not imagined, symptoms of what is happening to them. Often, the bullies themselves, may have a Behavioral Disorder or Anger/Rage issues.

Does Bullying Have Physical Effects — Beyond a Few Bruises?

Research is beginning to uncover actual physical differences in the brains and hormone levels between children and teens who have been bullied and those who have not. Constantly being tormented can lead to changes in the brain involving an overproduction of cortisol, a stress hormone, in children and teens. The effects of bullying on the brain may lasting implications for the victim. Excess cortisol can weaken the immune system and even harm neurons in the hippocampus, an area vital for memory. This can be detrimental to academic performance, which can exacerbate the bullying: “You’re stupid. You’re a loser. You don’t know anything.” And a vicious cycle begins.

What About Lasting Emotional Effects of Bullying?

The bullied child suffers from nearly constant stress. They may seem irritable or unable to relax, or they simply stuff all their emotions inside so they don’t have to deal with them. Such bottling of emotions leads to isolation, from peers and even from family members. Thus begins another cycle of bullying, for the isolated child  becomes an easy target. Emotional development becomes impaired with such isolation. The child or teen may become unable to form normal relationships with his or her peers, and he or she may become depressed or develop an anxiety disorder. Bullying also has an incredibly negative effect on self-esteem. Being told often enough that he or she is a loser, is worthless, is stupid, etc., the child will start to believe it and will stop trying to overcome the bullying to become anything else. Many victims of bullying become suicidal. Often, only then do they make the news.

What Can Be Done to Help Bullying Victims?

At Brain Changers, we recognize the effects of bullying on the victim, both emotionally and physiologically. Although we can’t stop the bullying at its source, there are many things that can be done to help victims of bullying recover and avoid the spiraling, long-term effects. Accustomed to “stuffing” their emotions, these children and teens need to learn to express these emotions in a normal and healthy way. Counseling can help with this, and it can help with learning to develop positive relationships.

In addition, Neurofeedback can help the brain learn to process and handle emotions in a healthy way. It can also combat any symptoms of anxiety and depression that may have stemmed from bullying. Once the bullied individual’s own self-awareness and self-confidence begins to improve, he or she will be better equipped to develop the tools needed to stand up to those causing them harm and pain.

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