Bullying and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (Part 3)


In continuing through the main theme of this site, which is the long-term effects of bullying on the psych, I have continued to research articles about how bullying leads to PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). Dr. Susanne Babbel, Ph.D., MFT, a psychologist that specializes in trauma and depression, wrote an article for Psychology Today titled “Child Bullying’s Consequence: Adult PTSD” discusses how childhood bullying can lead to adult onset PTSD.

In the article, she states that every 7 minutes a child is bullied and that 77% of students today experience some form of bullying. Dr. Babbel points out in the article how bullying can be defined in the future as a PTSD issue:

“In clinical terms, to officially be considered “bullying,” the behavior needs to take place repeatedly. Interestingly, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was traditionally considered to be a disorder that arose from a single traumatic incident. However, in recent years, experts have begun to identity a second definition for PTSD that allows for the victims of repeated traumatizing incidents. Bullying falls into this category.

Bullyonline.org points out that the most recent version of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistic Manual, which all doctors use to diagnose mental illness) recently updated it’s definition of PTSD to note that, although PTSD has traditionally been thought to be caused by a single, life-threatening event (or, at least, an event that seemed to be life threatening), in the case of trauma such as bullying, PTSD can also come about by way of an “accumulation of many small, individually non-life-threatening incidents.” 3 (Note that this is often referred to as “Complex PTSD.”)

So by its most simplest definition, PTSD is brought on by one or a series of terrifying events and results in delayed and prolonged symptoms such as anxiety, depression, withdrawal, suicidal behavior, alcohol and drug abuse, and emotional issues.”

I think this more clinical explanation helps define how PTSD can be tied to bullying and allow for more accurate diagnosis and treatment methods to help long-term sufferers to recover from the bullying that happened to them as a child years later.

Dr. Babbel goes on to say that the best way to not have PTSD years later from childhood bullying is to work to prevent or stop the problem early on. Because it is the repeated victimization of bullying that really has an effect, she suggests a more aggressive approach at the school level by parents and administrators, since much of the bullying happens on school grounds. As with other information provided on this site, Dr. Babbel lists signs that should be watched by adults and administrators for a child that is experiencing bullying. Signs to look for are:

  1. Isolated or disconnected behavior that is not normally a part of the child’s personality
  2. Sudden physical complaints – especially ones that prevent the child from attending school or other events
  3. Degraded performance with schoolwork or difficulty concentrating
  4. Sleep issues or nightmares
  5. General malaise, withdrawal, or depression
  6. A sense of hypervigilance, anxiety, or a high temper
The article discussed how long-term bullying can lead to Complex PTSD, where victims feel they are “held captive” by their situation and perceive that there is no way out. The risks of not addressing the issue when it goes to this level has been discussed here, with possible outcomes of bullycide or worse, serious violence done to others. As this issue continues to get a brighter spotlight in the media and gains national attention, more solution-based recovery programs should be a priority as well as more aggressive approach to prevention.
You can read parts 1 and 2 on the bullying PTSD connection from this site at the following links:

2 thoughts on “Bullying and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (Part 3)

  1. Thanks for posting. I remember in the years 2006-7, it was nearly impossible to find anything on the web about childhood/school bullying and its destructive consequences on social/psychological/emotional development. The medical establishment needs to pay close attention to this; including the absolute necessity for measures to provide comprehensive,individualized treatment for victims. This will take much time and effort for a variety of reasons; the first might well be the lack of parity in health insurance coverage for mental health issues. The time has come to act; the costs of untreated trauma to society alone, are staggering. The costs borne by individual victims in terms of loss of potential and sense of safety, etc. cannot be measured.

    I welcome any thoughts and comments on this!
    Thanks,
    Rosina

  2. Pingback: ptsd » Blog Archive » CiviliNation – Cyberbullying and Complex PTSD

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