When we think of bullying, it’s easy to imagine a child being picked on during recess. And although bullying can start in childhood, it’s important to remember that those traumatic experiences stay with us. From physical to verbal, cyber, or sexual – all forms are harmful and not ok.
The fact is bullying, addiction, and substance use are all interwoven within one another. According to the Addiction Center, they reported “incidents of nicotine use and alcohol consumption among children who were bullied in response to the trauma they endured.”
Whether someone was bullied in high school, at home, at their workplace, by peers or parents, all experiences have lasting effects. So, what can be done to combat bullying?
Understanding A Bully
To better understand why someone may bully another we need to remember a keyword: trauma. There is most often a cycle of bullying within their personal life. They most likely have a bully of their own, maybe it’s another peer at school or a parent. This child then goes to school and takes their feelings of shame, guilt, and hurt out on another peer. The cycle continues.
The sad truth about kids who bully is they often experience abuse, harm, and neglect. This trauma can cause bullies to easily fall into a pattern of substance abuse and addiction. However, it isn’t always easy to view a bully through a compassionate lens, especially when a bully can create a world of hurt for someone completely undeserving of it.
Effects of Bullying into Adulthood
Bullying is tricky. It may be years since you’ve experienced a time in your life of being bullied – you may not have even thought about it for a while. Suddenly, a new experience enters your life, and you react as a child who’s been bullied. This may present itself as an inability to trust people, anxiety, low self-esteem, or avoiding vulnerability.
In some cases, victims may experience PTSD and physical health conditions such as poor sleep quality, headaches, or even eating disorders. According to a journal about the long-term effects of bullying, “being bullied by peers is the most frequent form of abuse encountered by children”. If you’ve been bullied, it’s important to remember that it isn’t your fault, and you didn’t deserve it.
Bullying and Addiction
What has become apparent with bullying in childhood is the mental health issues that carry into adulthood. Kids who are bullied experience anxiety, depression, and many different health complaints. This in turn can stay with children as they transition into adulthood, leading to a higher risk of addiction.
Having to endure relentless bullying contributes to developing avoidance strategies, self-medicating, and coping mechanisms. “If I make myself small, invisible, and quiet then maybe they will leave me alone”. What happens when we carry this into adulthood? This strategy that once serves us as children can become a detriment to our growth and relationships as adults.
The effects of bullying can be too damaging long-term to be overlooked. Those who have been bullied may downplay just how much it has affected them, or even completely dismiss it. The feelings may be intense, but they are important to acknowledge.
The unfortunate reality is bullying will most likely never disappear. We as human beings are complex individuals with complicated feelings that can leave us making questionable decisions. However, it does need to be taken seriously, and those enduring it need to be offered help and protected. It isn’t a social rite of passage where only the strong survive.
We must promote being kinder to one another and not single out what makes us different, but rather embrace and celebrate it. Support the anti-bullying movement by wearing your pink shirt on February 23rd. Show those who may be struggling with a bully that they are seen, their feelings are valid, and there are people who care.