Ever wondered how long the effects
of bullying can last? How about a lifetime? We all know that bullying, when it gets out
of control, is not a good thing; however, historically, people have not worried too greatly about bullying incidents that are less dramatic. In fact, typically, people have
believed bullying to be a “rite of passage” of sorts or a kind of “soft” abuse
that one can just “get over” with the passage of a little time. Turns out, this is not the case at all.
Recent medical evidence from brain scans from bullying victims versus people who have not experienced bullying tell a very different story. With this new technology, the effects of bullying have become clear. Modern medical science with all its new medical imaging technology has given scientists and researchers the opportunity to investigate much more deeply the long-term effects of bullying and the picture is less than pretty. Stress from bullying is far more damaging than ever before believed.
Many of the brains scans of individuals who have been bullied show significant damage that lasts well into the adult years. For some people, the brain inflammation and damage lasts a lifetime. New research shows that the effects of bullying are monumental and not just “soft” abuse. The reality is that the argument related to rite of passage, when bullying happens during childhood and/or adolescence, completely misses the mark.
For example, brain scans from bullying victims show that bullying leads to an imbalance in the Endocrine system of the body and the Endocrine system is not something you want to mess with because it controls so many important coping functions. Our bodies desperately need the Endocrine system to be in balance in order to be healthy, happy, self-motivated and successful in life.
So how does it all work, you may ask? What are the effects of bullying on the body and the brain? Well, let’s look at the stress response mechanism as a starting point. When a young person is constantly bullied, one of the major stress response hormones, Cortisol, produced by the body to help us deal with being attacked become overused during an important brain growth phase. The result is a young person who cannot produce enough of the hormones when needed because the cells that produce these important hormones have been depleted or exhausted.
This leads to a condition known as Adrenal Fatigue
and when that happens, the child's body starts to convert other important hormones,
such as Progesterone, into the needed stress response hormones. It does this because
the body is designed to prioritize certain functions as a part of an ancient survival mechanism. Essentially, the body is programmed to believe that survival is a core bodily need. So, when you face stress, your stress response system will steal resources from all over the body to help you deal with that stress.
Now normally, Progesterone has many different jobs in the body as shown on the picture above. It is a key part of our ability to maintain a sense of well-being; to be healthy and happy. So when the effects of bullying lead to our Progesterone hormone production being stolen away from its main purposes to be used by the overused and depleted stress response system, the body is thrown completely out of balance. One of the results is anxiety and depression, which can lead to a vicious cycle of even more victimization by bullies since bullies prey on people who seem weak and sad. It’s a lot like how over-eating sugar for many years will lead to exhaustion of the beta cells in the Pancreas resulting in Type 2 Diabetes.
The effects of bullying can also interfere with learning because of reduced connectivity in the brain. It's no laughing matter. The Myelin Sheath in the brain protects the brain’s circuitry so messages can move around in a smooth, even flow. It’s kind of like the coating on electrical wires. When this coating becomes frayed or damaged, the wires can become compromised and the transmission of electrical currents can become inconsistent and choppy.
The brain acts the same way; when the Myelin sheath becomes frayed or damaged, the communication across brain circuits can be incomplete and lead to issues such as learning disabilities. Later in life, all this brain damage can easily accelerate other issues such as Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease.
Constant overuse of the brain’s neurotransmitters to deal with the effects of bullying can also sabotage new neuron growth. Of course, this will also interfere with the body’s ability to learn and develop normally.
The effects of bullying are now believed to be so horrible that they are now thought to be as serious a form of childhood trauma as other types of abuse. In fact, the neurological scars from bullying are similar to the damage caused by childhood physical and sexual abuse. The brain inflammation from bullying is similar to the PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) found in war veterans.
For these reasons and many more, no parent should behave passively in the face of their child being bullied because it is now believed that even one terrifying incident can lead to severe anxiety, depression, and many other brain challenges.
The effects of bullying are not to be taken lightly. Parents must work with their children to build confidence and self-esteem because confidence is the only real defense against bullying. No matter what schools do to deal with the problem, the child’s first line of defense is always going to be self-confidence.