The Perceived Threat Syndrome


Lately I have been thinking about an observation I have dealing with people who have a history of being bullied. It’s something that I call “Perceived Threat Syndrome”. My supposition is that people who have a history of being bullied react as if they have been threatened when the other person dealing with them didn’t do anything to cause that reaction.

dukesupFor example, someone might be making a suggestion to this person and the person sees the suggestion as a threat to them, instead of the intended suggestion. That person lashes out accusingly to the other person as if being cornered by a bully. Has this happened to you? Or are you someone with a history of being bullied who has people tell them that they perceived a comment as a threat when it wasn’t? It seems like I have witnessed this by many people who I know were picked on in their youth.

Given my interest in the long-term effects of bullying, I am interested in your opinion on this. Do you believe that someone who is bullied deals with fight or flight issues as an adult? This perception of being threatened and not trusting those around them is one I am interested in looking into further. I wonder if there is a correlation between those that were bullied in their youth and a lack of trust of others as an adult. If so, what kinds of issues can this cause to individuals and to society as a whole? Please share your stories and opinions.

9 thoughts on “The Perceived Threat Syndrome

  1. I think that’s only natural and is akin to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). “Hyperarousal” and reactivity to anything perceived to be similar to the original trauma. I wonder if it could be reduced by working with a counselor in a way similar to soldiers and others who get help for PTSD.

  2. Excellent observation and tie to what is happening with PTSD and returning soldiers. I never even thought of that connection. That could be an excellent part of the study and tie to finding a good solution to helping people.

  3. Yes, I would say that is how I often reacted. I’ve since sorted things out. I was bullied from birth by my sister and aided by my mother.

  4. Pingback: Bullying and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (Part 1) « Bullying Stories

  5. Am I ever relieved to have found this site. It validates all the crazy feelings of powerlessness, fight or flight, and “perceived threat syndrome” that have overwhelmed my social interactions for the past 22 years. Unless I have a prescribed role to play with people, be it work or performing, I feel like I’m in a tailspin, like I’m going to crash and die.

    The thought of being around groups makes me ill, and being around them feels worse. I’m 34 years old. The bullying took place over 25 years ago but it still feels like yesterday. Everyone is still plotting to embarrass me, mock me, discredit me, ridicule me, strip me of something or someone, physically abuse me (so it feels…) I feel crazy.

    Sometimes I feel so helpless and hopeless that there only 2 options: get away as quick as possible or die. I’m beginning to feel numb. I can’t talk about it with anyone, including my husband (yes I’m married and extremely uneasy.) Nobody seems to get where I’m at.

    I think to myself- how pathetic all of this self-pity, but I don’t know any other way of coping with the fear and loneliness. It feels as though I’m fighting ghost demons that seize me in terror and then manifest themselves as strong feelings of hate and defencelessness.

    How can I work my way out of this sinking tar pit? Why do I keep punishing myself projecting these memories onto the idiots of my present life? I consider most people as idiots because they’re untrustworthy unless they prove themselves trusting… but then who knows they’ll probably turn on me so best to keep my distance~ this is how my mind works, one interaction after another.

    Then I find comfort in -> What’s wrong with just not having any “friends?” I don’t need “friends.” I can move far far away from here

    Why can’t I just “let go” like so many people have told me? Why do I make “mountains out of molehills”? Why am I so “super sensitive”? Why am I so “trapped in the past?” Why do I “over react to every little thing?” Why do I “read into everything?” Why do I think “everyone’s out to get me?”

    I want to be a normal functioning member of society. What can I do? Please offer me some guidance. Books? Chat rooms? Practical exercises I can use to relate to gatherings of people that are supposed to be my “friends.”

    • Maureen:
      I am glad you found my site and know that you are not alone. There is nothing crazy about your feelings and this is a form of PTSD you are dealing with. I am not a doctor or psychologist, but have talked and been advised by many. No one can go this alone. The professionals that are focused on PTSD and the long-term effects of abuse are probably a good place to start. The post traumatic stress you feel is a common element that many who dealt with youth bullying feel. Do seek out help if you want to to help conquer this. You can do it and there is a whole world of “friends” here to help.

      • Thank you so much for writing back to me. I’ve been reading about PTSD online in as many places as I can. I live in Taiwan so finding 1-on-1 help might be a bit difficult. I’ll see what I can do. Could you recommend an international forum or chat room mediated by professional counsellors? I’m sorry to bother you with all of this, but reading your stories and the stories of those people that have contributed to your site are turning the mulch in my brain. I’ve been dealing with this for so long, but I didn’t have a name for it. I didn’t know the symptoms of my behaviour were directly correlated to all of those ugly times. So much in my life and relationships has suffered. You talk about having lost 8 days, I can relate. I can also relate to not trusting your own memories and the shame and everything. It’s crazy. I just want to thank you for all the time, energy and care you’ve poured into this online project. I’m very grateful. You’re doing amazing work and helping so many people. In all sincerity, you should really be proud of yourself. You’re a very strong person to have overcome such great obstacles. You’re a very compassionate person to reach out and want to help others with the insight you’ve gained. From the bottom of my heart thank you again Mr Eisenberg.

  6. Pingback: The emotional vampires suck me dry--and accuse me of being too sensitive--Tracy's Reign of Terror: True Story of Narcissism, Bullying, Domestic Violence and Child Abuse, Part 21 | Nyssa's Hobbit Hole

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