Have you been dreading school lately? Are you afraid that your classmates are going to call you names or make fun of your appearance again? These feelings are valid. You may not realise that the hurtful things your peers say about you are actually a form of emotional bullying.
Emotional bullying is an act of aggression where a bully uses non-physical means such as verbal abuse and harassment to torment their victims . Other forms of emotional bullying include name-calling, gossip and intentionally excluding people from social interactions. It is more brutal and widespread because everyone can participate in tearing down the victim’s psyche.
Without intervention, emotional bullying can have dire consequences. Here are some negative effects of emotional bullying and how it affects the victim:
Poor academic performance: Victims of emotional bullying may perceive school as a hostile and unsafe environment. This makes it difficult to concentrate during lessons because they are always on guard. Some victims may even skip classes just to avoid their bully, which can lead to a drastic drop in grades .
Decline in mental health: Being subjected to emotional bullying on a daily basis can take a toll on a person’s mental health. They may become anxious, depressed or paranoid. Long-term emotional bullying can also make people feel powerless and trapped. Even after successfully escaping from the bully, victims may experience social withdrawal and suffer from low self-esteem .
Adopting unhealthy coping mechanisms: When emotional bullying becomes severe, victims may turn to self-harm because they feel alone and need a way to release the pain. Acts of self-harm may turn into a suicide attempt if nobody is there to stop it. It is also possible for victims of emotional bullying to abuse illicit substances as a way to temporarily escape from their negative feelings. Bullying also places one's body under physical stress that may manifest in the form of headaches, digestion problems, etc .
As such, all instances of emotional bullying must be addressed swiftly. If you or a friend have been dealing with an emotional bully, here are some ways you can deal with the bullying:
Confide in a trusted adult: Tell your parents and teachers about the bullying as it can be a good outlet for your emotions. You might be asked questions such as who the bully is, how often the bullying happens, what the bully does, etc . This is for the adults to get a better understanding of your situation and intervene. You will not be alone anymore from that point onward. The bullying may even come to a stop when an adult comes into the picture.
Practice self-care: Remember that you are not at fault for being bullied. You are a person of worth and value regardless of what your bullies say. Engaging in fun activities that you love such as baking or going for a run are an effective distraction and serve as a reminder that your bully cannot control your life . Try other therapeutic activities such as journalling so that you can pen your feelings and express yourself in a healthy way.
Seek additional help: Surround yourself with people who love and care for your well-being. It is important to lean on your loved ones during this time but if you need extra support, reach out and seek professional help. Do not suffer in silence and allow the bully to continue causing you harm. You may find a community who has gone through similar experiences and give you comfort, which can help you feel less alone in your circumstances.
Emotional bullying is not a matter to be taken lightly. If you are dealing with it, don't be silent about it and reach out for help. Surround yourself with loved ones who can bring you solace and journey with you through these difficult circumstances. Be patient with yourself too as emotional healing takes time.
TOUCH Counselling and Intervention (TCI) aims to enhance the psychological well-being of children and adolescents, and strengthen familial relationships by providing counselling services. Leveraging the Systems Approach to explore how the individual exist in their family and community, TCI hopes to see healthy interaction among families and shape resilient individuals to be effective members of their communities.
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