What Happens when Bullying Victims Grow Up

image-300x300LONG-TIME BOXING COACH, CHUCK HORTON, HAS SEEN THE ILL-EFFECTS OF BULLYING FIRSTHAND. HE HAS BEEN WORKING FOR YEARS TO EMPOWER TROUBLED CHILDREN AND TEENS WHO ARE THE VICTIMS OF BULLYING. HE COMBATS BULLYING BY TEACHING THE KIDS OF DULUTH THE ART OF BOXING. CHUCK BELIEVES THAT BOXING, WHICH HELPS IMPROVE CONFIDENCE AND INSTILL DISCIPLINE, CAN SERVE AS AN ANTIDOTE TO THE TOXIC EFFECTS OF BULLYING.  THIS IS THE FIRST INSTALLMENT OF A 7-PART SERIES, AUTHORED BY ROXANNE WILMES, ABOUT THE PHENOMENON OF BULLYING, AND HOW IT NEGATIVELY EFFECTS BOTH ITS PERPETRATORS AND VICTIMS. 

It would hardly shock anyone to know that children who suffer at the hands of bullies continue to suffer the effects into adulthood.  But the extent of the suffering may surprise you.  

In the UK, they’ve been tracking data on nearly 8,000 children born in a specific week of 1958.  With fifty years of data at their disposal, researchers discovered that children who were exposed to bullying in their youth were still dealing with its effects up to forty years later.  And the results weren’t just emotional.

In addition to poorer psychological health, adults who were bullied in childhood also experienced:

  • Poorer physical health
  • Inferior cognitive functioning
  • Higher rates of unemployment
  • Lower levels of education
  • Lower incomes
  • Fewer relationships
  • Little or no social support

But does that mean children who are bullied are destined for a lifetime of depression and disappointment?  Not necessarily.  Now that this information has been collected and analyzed, perhaps we can intervene and reroute the path of the victims while they are still adolescents.  The key, of course, is that the children being bullied need to come forward so they can be helped.

Empathy can make for a powerful ally in such a process.

Empathy can make for a powerful ally in such a process.

And what of those adults who find themselves in the above demographic, struggling with the after-effects of childhood bullies?  It’s not too late for them to find some relief.  They do, however, need to first acknowledge the problems they had, with whom, and why.  This is sometimes easier said than done.  It will require some deep reflection on what are likely very painful memories.  It also may necessitate some absolution, both for one’s self as well as the bully.  But empathy can make for a powerful ally in such a process.  

For example, if someone was tormented frequently by the same person, the victim should try to look past the actions and words and try to understand the real cause of such behavior.  Often times bullies have issues at home or other problems that they cannot cope with in a healthy manner.  Figuring out why people act the way they do can help a victim move past the negative and begin a process of recovery, regardless of the bully’s remorse or lack thereof.    

Some other ways in which victims can help themselves be healthier both physically and mentally:

  • Practice good nutrition.  The effects of a healthy diet on total well-being cannot be emphasized enough.
  • Exercise.  Find something that you like to do, and get moving.  You don’t have to join a gym; and it doesn’t have to be painful.  Zumba is fun and you forget you’re exercising!  Or go for a walk, ride a bike, swim, do a video at home, you get the idea.  Once you start, the endorphins will kick in and your mood is likely to improve instantly.
  • Limit alcohol and don’t smoke or use drugs.
  • Learn new things, take a class or read about different topics.
  • Have a pet.
  • Take up a hobby and make it a priority.
  • Start a gratitude journal.  Writing regularly about what you’re thankful for can help you focus on the positive aspects of your life.
  • Volunteer for something.  Helping those in need is always a good idea, and increasing your time with other people is great for your mental health.
Author: Roxanne Wilmes