Bullying is a hot topic today. Still, it is not yet common knowledge that bullying can be extremely damaging to victims. Bullying can literally change your brain’s neural structure and impact neurotransmitters. Theses changes lead to anxiety, depression and diminished learning capacity.
There are many different definitions of bullying. Most definitions refer to specific behaviours that the bully engages in, such as:
- intentionally inflicting injury or discomfort upon another.
- taking advantage of an imbalance of strength.
- carrying out negative actions with physical contact or words, making faces and/or obscene gestures and intentionally excluding from the group.
The victims of bullying can endure physical harm and/or a broad spectrum of emotional problems including:
While these problems are observable, researchers wanted to know the underlying mechanisms that lead to these changes. For the past ten years there has been extensive research* which has found that bullying:
- has a detrimental effect on neurochemical production,
- changes neural functioning,
- causes neural damage.
This is not meant to be an academic paper, so I take the prerogative of summarising research* that shows the following:
- Chronic exposure to bullying leads to changes in cortisol levels – when the changes are large and chronic, depression and anxiety are manifest.
- Bullying and/or social exclusions changes neural circuitry. Researchers have shown that these changes can lead to antisocial behaviours plus an increased risk for major depressive illness.
- When a victim feels unsafe, the primitive brain focuses on survival. The consequence is that the brain cannot absorb or process new information. This commonly leads to developmental delays in learning and academic weakness.
This research highlights the need to decrease bullying behaviour and to protect victims of bullying.
- Make sure your child is learning in a safe environment. If your child is struggling, check out the possibility of being bullied by teachers or peers.
- If you are an educator, ensure your classroom is safe for everybody.
- At home, observe the interactions of siblings. An older or aggressive sibling could be bullying another sibling and it needs to be dealt with quickly and firmly.
- If you, or anyone you know, is suffering from depression and anxiety, think about possible contributing factors at home or at work. If you are being bullied, it will most certainly have negative effects.
*These full articles can be found on mediros.com.au