A Different Epidemic: Bullying

Bullying is appearing in the news at an alarming rate even though it has existed for a very long time. Almost anyone can relate a story from their childhood of a bullying incident, whether it happened to them or someone they knew. So why has it become an epidemic-like topic in our society?

One can conclude that technology and social media have helped to escalate the problem. With texting and places like Facebook, it is almost impossible to escape a bully. Technology also helps spread gossip and other bully issue faster than a wildfire. All this leads to a disconnected form of bullying where one can hide behind a keyboard.

The issue has hit a critical mass with young people, and older, killing themselves or boiling over and killing others. Many institutions and programs have developed to help not only deal with bullying but also how to put a stop to it. There are numerous wonderful programs all with their merits.

First and foremost let us identify exactly what bullying is. Psychologists agree that bullying is made up of two key components: repeated harmful acts and an imbalance of power. It involves repeated physical, verbal or psychological attacks or intimidation directed at a victim who cannot properly defend him or herself because of size, strength or because the victim is outnumbered or less psychologically resilient.

  • The repeated harassment must cause injury to either the victims physical or emotion well- being.

  • The victim must feel that they cannot stop the harassment or that the individual doing the bullying has power over them. (whether real or imagined)

This can be convey with the statement “A person is bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more persons, and he or she has difficulty defending him or herself.

What is NOT bullying is playful teasing. This is explained simply as an act that is seen for fun for all involved and is NEVER physically or emotionally abusive.

One of the things that is rarely addressed when bullying incidents are investigated is the cause of the bullying. Studies have shown that the following reasons are the primary cause of bullying.

  • A strong need for power and dominance over others

  • Finding satisfaction in causing injury and suffering to others

  • Often rewarded in some way for the behavior with material or psychological rewards

Most bullies are acting other internal issues such as lack of attention at home, abuse at home or other places or a feeling of having no control or power over their own lives. Addressing these issues when dealing with bullying will have a massive positive effect on reducing bullying.

So who is at risk for being bullied? There is no single factor that puts anyone at risk of being bullied. It can happen anywhere. Generally, individuals who are bullied have one or more of the following risk factors:

  • Are seen as different from their peers. Weight, clothing, economic status, etc.

  • Are viewed as weak or unable to defend themselves

  • Are depressed, anxious or have low self esteem

  • Are less popular or shy

  • Do not get along well with others

Just because an individual has these issues does not guarantee they will be bullied. It just increases the risks.

The following are some of the signs that someone is being bullied:

  • Unexplained injuries

  • Lost or destroyed personal belongings

  • Frequent headaches or stomach issues, feeling sick or faking illness

  • Changes in eating habits

  • Sleep issues

  • Bad grades or not wanting to attend school

  • Sudden avoidance of social situations

  • Feelings of depression or helplessness

  • Self -destructive behaviors

If you are in need of immediate help dealing with a bullying incident or you have more in depth questions, please feel free to contact us!

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