Bullying can be physical (hitting, kicking, pushing, tripping, spitting, taking or damaging someone’s belongings), verbal (teasing, name-calling, threats of violence, hurtful comments), or social (rumor spreading, public embarrassment, social exclusion). It can also happen online through cyberbullying (sending hurtful comments or messages, sharing embarrassing media, or pretending to be someone else).
Bullying typically happens between people with unequal power (e.g. a stronger or older child bullying a smaller or younger child), but it may also happen between friends or children of the same size or age as they seek to become popular with peers.
Who is impacted by bullying?
- About 35% of 12- to 18-year-old students report being a victim of traditional bullying and 15% report being a victim of cyberbullying.
- LGBTQ students, religious or ethnic minorities, and students with disabilities have a higher likelihood of being bullied, with 51 to 70% of such youth reporting bullying in the past year.
- The most common reasons for being bullied are a child’s distinctive physical appearance, race/ethnicity, appearing emotionally vulnerable, or appearing socially isolated.
- Bullying has been linked with poor mental health and low school performance, especially when it persists for a long time and when children blame themselves for being physically or emotionally attacked.
- A victim of bullying is twice as likely to take his or her own life compared to someone who is not a victim. If you or someone you know has feelings of harming themselves or others, tell a trusted adult immediately. Never promise to keep it a secret.
What are the warning signs that a child is being bullied?
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Increase in depression or anxiety
- Decrease in self-esteem
- Irritability or sudden outbursts of temper; aggressive behaviors
- Complaints of excessive headaches or stomachaches
- Increased clinginess with parents
- Fear or reluctance to go to school; avoidance of recess or school activities
- Bruises, cuts, or scratches without a logical explanation; torn clothes or damaged or missing belongings
- Unusual increase in requests for money
- Atypical avoidance of social media or online gameplay
- Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
Is there a correlation between bullying, depression, and anxiety?
Bullying has been recognized as a common contributing factor to depression and anxiety in teens and young adults. Teens who are regularly subjected to ridicule and mistreatment are likely to suffer from low self-esteem, which can lead to depressive-like symptoms. Additionally, teens and young adults who are bullied can develop anxiety over having to socialize with peers and excessive worries over how they are perceived by others.
If your child expresses thoughts of wanting to harm themselves or others, call 9-1-1 or visit the nearest Emergency Department.
MHSA Suicide Prevention Line:
(877) 7CRISIS or (877) 727-4747
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
Crisis Text Line:
Text “HOME” to 741741
Find a mental health provider
Check your insurance website or the back of your insurance card.
Explore Psychology Today’s “Find a Therapist” tool.
Call CalOptima Behavioral Health (Orange County, CA).
Pacer Center’s Kids Against Bullying
Pacer Center’s Teens Against Bullying
Stomp Out Bullying
American Psychological Association
Cyberbullying Research Center
National Bullying Prevention Center