Childhood Exposure to Bullying Connected to Psychotic Behaviors


Bullying during childhood, whether as a victim or a culprit, poses serious damage to a child’s physical and mental well-being. Unfortunately, the situation is often neglected and overlooked by most adults who think bullying is a trivial and temporary matter that can go away on its own. However, numerous studies have proven the opposite. Childhood bullying can cause a permanent effect on a person’s mental state and most specifically, leading them into developing psychotic symptoms later in adulthood.

Childhood exposure to bullying connected to psychotic behaviors in adulthood

For the purpose of analyzing bullying on psychosis, a collaborative study conducted by the University of Warwick and the University of Bristol, England has followed over 4700 participants from when they were born to when they reached 18 years old. The study found out that children who were exposed to peer-victimization had a significantly higher risk of suffering from psychotic experiences when they grew up compared to those who were unaffected.
In details, children who were victims of bullying carried 2 times higher risks of developing a psychotic disorder when they became teenagers. Surprisingly, the same rate surged to 5 times higher for those who did the bullying by themselves. Such mental consequences were reported to be even more severe in those who were exposed to chronic or extreme bullying.

Common psychotic symptoms observed in both parties include:

Hallucinations: see, hear, smell, taste or feel things that don’t exist.
Delusions and extreme suspicions: Beliefs that they are being spied on or being a target of an assassination.
Disrupted patterns of thoughts: psychotic patients can stop their sentences half-way or spontaneously switch their current topic of conversation to another one without realizing it.
Depression, anxiety, and withdrawal from society: this is due to the hallucinations and delusions which they are not aware of.

Traumatic experience involving bullying might lead to altered perceptions

A different UK study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry backed up the conclusions of the previous research by pointing out the correlations between bullying and mental health. In the study, a group of researchers led by professor Dieter Wolke, a professor of Developmental Psychology had followed over 6400 children throughout a period of 13 years starting from their birth. The children involved in the study were interviewed and tested every year. Their parents were also asked to complete a survey on their behavioral pattern and mental development. The final interview was conducted after the children had reached 13 years old. In the interview, the children were asked if they had been bullied or had bullied others and if they had been experiencing any sort of psychosis over the previous 6 months.

The research showed a significant link between a child’s perception of the world and their exposure to traumatic memories involving bullying. More than 47% of children between the age of 8 and 10 reported having been victims of bullying. While boys were likely to be victims of overt bullying (physical and verbal harassment), girls tend to be victims of relational bullying (being excluded and ignored due to negative rumors). At an age of 13 years old, over 5% of children were diagnosed with light to mild psychosis disorders while over 11% showed potential symptoms of having the condition.

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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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