What Every Adult Should Know About How Bullying Affects Adolescents

Boys bullying another

“Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.” – Joseph Campbell

Bullying has been a problem for kids since as far back as most people can recall. However, what was once viewed as an unfortunate part of childhood has now become recognized as a serious threat to a child’s health. The influence of the media has also made it possible for bullying to go far beyond a child’s local peer group, and cyber bullying can lead to a child’s worst nightmare going public. Due to the serious problems that can arise from childhood bullying, every parent should be aware of the following negative effects it can have on adolescents and their well-being.

Physical Health Complaints

Adolescents sometimes struggle with expressing their emotions, yet their bodies are often finely attuned to their emotional state. Kids who are being bullied may complain of symptoms such as stomach pain or headaches for which a physical cause cannot be found. Parents may notice a pattern to these complaints such as a child saying their leg hurts every time they have sports practice. In some cases, a child may also incur physical damage from being bullied such as scraped skin or bruises that they refuse to explain.

Academic Struggles

Bullying often occurs with the same peer group an adolescent must interact with at school. When it gets to be too much, a teen may start skipping class or decide to completely drop out to avoid the fear of running into their bully. Being bullied also makes it harder to focus in class, which means that parents often see a sudden drop in their child’s academic performance. When left unchecked, this can lead to serious delays in a child’s intellectual progress.

Development of Emotional Disorders

Depression and anxiety commonly occur with bullying, yet many parents originally brush these symptoms off as normal adolescent moodiness. However, young teens should never be so afraid of social situations that they begin to stop spending time with friends or going to school. Parents should watch for signs of depression such as a lack of interest in once-loved activities and changes in eating and sleeping habits. Severe cases have even led to suicide attempts, especially in situations where a child feels as though their reputation has been ruined in a public arena. If a bully is the root of the problem, then seeking a solution to bullying is the first step toward helping a child heal.

Behavioral Changes

The constant stress of being bullied will sometimes lead adolescents to seek out alternate outlets for their pain. Substance abuse is common in children who are bullied since a teenager may try to use drugs or alcohol to numb the pain they feel inside. Lowered self-confidence also leaves teens prey to the influence of negative peer groups since they may decide that even a bad friend is better than no friend at all. In some instances, a kid who is bullied may turn into a bully and treat another child badly in an attempt to feel powerful.

As more is learned about the long-term impact bullying has on children, it is important for every adult to be aware of which kids are at risk for bullying along with how to stop it once it is noticed. While talking to the bully and other trusted adults is the first step toward helping an adolescent, other methods may also be used to help rebuild their self-esteem such as providing counseling or an alternate place to go to school. By focusing on helping the child regain their confidence, it is possible to help a child heal from bullying so that they have the best prospects for a successful adulthood.

~Dr. Jeff Nalin, Psy.D. (Paradigm NY )

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About Jeff Nalin

Dr. Jeff Nalin, Psy.D. Dr. Nalin is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist (PSY17766), a Certified Chemical Dependency Intervention Specialist and a Certified Youth Residential Treatment Administrator. He has been a respected leader in the field of emotional health, behavioral health and teen drug treatment for more than 15 years. During that time, Dr. Nalin has been responsible for the direct care of young people at multiple institutions of learning including; The Los Angeles Unified School District, the University of California at San Diego, Santa Monica College, and Pacific University. He was instrumental in the development of the treatment component of Los Angeles County’s first Juvenile Drug Court, which now serves as a national model.
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