Can Bullying Cause Depression In Children?

Can Bullying cause depression? Most people would just go on like “yeah” and “bullying is the worst!”.
According to anyone and everyone you will ever meet – bullying causes depression.

But does it? Does it really?

As some of you may know, I am a firm believer of the “cause and effect” mindset when it comes to practically anything, Anxiety and depression included.

As such, it should stand to reason that I would like nothing more than to find whatever it is that causes my issues and deal with it as decisively as I can.

Most depressed people are too stuck up in their own little world to care about actual solutions.

When I was a child I was bullied a lot. I regret not fighting back enough, and whenever I did I got punished.
Why is it important to note?

Because bullying is a mindset.
Children are cruel, if you show any weakness they will crush you.

Quite frankly, the biggest cause for bullying is the mindset behind how you react to it.
Certain people never get bullied, some react to even the slightest bit of teasing in a way that makes others not mess with them again.

Some of them, on the other hand, become bullies themselves.
What? How? Why? All valid questions, but the answers are surprisingly complicated.

While bullying may be the trigger, the cause is much more fundamental.
Does bullying have anything to do with it? Sure!
Is it the only reason? Hardly.

Can bullying cause depression in children? Let’s see.

Bullying is the trigger.

Our life is made out of triggering events and emotions.
We react to certain ways based on some internal bias we’ve built over the years.

You are likely to act and react in a certain way to a job interview for example.
These reactions of yours are noticed by the interviewers and they react to them accordingly and so on.

Children who are being bullied react to bullying in certain ways.
The bully notices their reactions, even on the subconscious level, and develops a certain bias towards them.

To put it simply, kids who let themselves be pushed to the corner will be pushed into the corner and stuck there as victims.

So let’s look at it on a bigger scale – What is our reaction to being bullied? What bias are we likely to develop?

We are likely to start feeling inferior upon encountering our bullies, we are likely to be easily intimidated in similar situations, we will develop a constant stress of dread, fear of other people and so on.

Would you look at that?
I described some symptoms of both anxiety and depression, as well as symptoms of repressed trauma.

It’s true, being bullied is a traumatic experience. As such, different mental illnesses are likely to develop from it over time.

Consider it to be your gateway to anxiety and depression in all shapes and sizes.
Really, though, what type of behavior attracts these bullies to you in the first place?

Stop encouraging the bullies!

We already discussed how humans have certain subconscious biases towards certain things, that bias is made based on our first impression and changes based on encouragement.

According to research, first impressions are almost immediate, taking anywhere between 50 to 500 milliseconds to be made.

Our brain develops cognitive bias by latching onto the first piece of information we get and basing all future interactions off of it.

This process is called “anchoring” and it’s extremely difficult to break.

This term doesn’t only apply to first impressions, but to pretty much everything – that includes bullying.
If a bully sees you and something about you makes them want to bully you they will try and do just that.

If you react in a way that they consider favorable they will continue treating you badly.

I won’t go into the psychology of bullying because this it isn’t important right now, but you should know that encouraging and behavior will make it continue.

When a parent disciplines their child, they basically react positively to behavior they want to encourage and negatively to behavior they wish to discourage.

Life works the same way, more so when it comes to stuff that people (bullies) actually find enjoyable.

Being bullied

What causes bullies to “lock on” to certain people?

Say I am this nerdy kid that nobody likes and a bully picks on me.
If I flail my hands helplessly or stutter or tell him to leave me alone nothing it would have the opposite effect.

Honestly, why wouldn’t it? The bully finds bullying enjoyable, and I haven’t done anything to discourage him.
In fact, I am an easy target, so why the heck not?

Now let’s flip it.
Say the bully insults me in class – if I let the teacher silence him that’s not going to make me any less of a victim.

The only options remaining would be to insult him (With a voice full of aggression) or inflict physical harm on him (anywhere between throwing something towards him or punching him in the face)

If he tries to intimidate me I need to intimidate him back, or worse…

After something like that his opinion about me would change, but what made him try and bully me in the first place?
Surprisingly enough, there could be many reasons for that:

  • Introverted behavior might make children appear weak and easy to push around
  • Passive behavior, for the same reason
  • Jealousy (more common in girls than in boys)
  • Differing sexual orientations (an obvious oddity, and as such, seen as a weakness)
  • Poor body language (slumped shoulders, downcast eyes and the like)
  • Shyness and social awkwardness
  • Obvious, physical, differences

Are you noticing a pattern here?

From a psychological standpoint, there has been a recurring theme here to notice.
All of these “easy to pick on” behaviors are symptoms and/or causes for anxiety and depression.

Introverts are more likely to suffer from depression, as are passive and submissive people (life pushes them around until they stop caring).

The same can be said about shyness and social anxiety, and body language actually shapes our thought processes more than we would care to admit.
Seriously, try and force a smile for 30 seconds, you will notice that it becomes much less forced over time.

The truth is that although bullying causes depression, the people who are bullying are fundamentally more prone to depression, to begin with!

Heck, the very symptoms they are being targeted for are enough of a proof for that much.
Even if some these people weren’t bullied they could have developed depressive symptoms over time.
It’s no wonder that bullying and suicide are as related as they are

You need to break the cycle!

Alright, thus far we were discussing theory, let’s talk about the actual kids.
Assuming your child already established himself as someone who will be pushed around there really is only one way out.

Something extreme needs to happen, something that will completely shatter that “anchor” the bullies have attached to him.

During boot camp one of my friends from our platoon was picked on.
Throughout more of our basic training, there was this guy who picked on him all the time.

But as the saying goes, you don’t poke the dragon.
One day my the bully slapped him on the back of his head, all the while claiming that it wasn’t him (childish, I know).

Eventually, my friend had enough – he turned to him and flat-out punched him in the face. Hard.

Our commanders knew that he was being bullied, yet did nothing.
So when the situation actually escalated to violence… They still did nothing.

Yeah, they really were that useless.
After somebody stopped their fight they two shared some death threats and the bully didn’t bother him ever since.

Now, I am not telling you to resort to violence (though I do encourage it since emotion can’t be reasoned with), much less to something quite as extreme as this, but the only way to stop a bully after getting “anchored” is to do something drastic.

Either way, whatever your kid does is going to get him punished by his teachers should they discover.
In case he is discovered make sure to be supportive – that’s the best you can really do.

Your direct involvement isn’t going to make him appear less of a victim either, dealing with his bully is something he needs to do on his own.

Unless of course, the situation is that extreme, in which case just transfer him to another school.

Standing up to the bully

Can bullying cause depression in children? Yeah, what are you going to do about it?

Look, the truth is that bullying does cause depression, but bullying itself isn’t just a random act of an evil child – bullies choose their victims wisely.

These children are more likely to develop depression and other mental illnesses by default – they have certain qualities that lay the foundation for future issues, bullies aside.

Even children with different sexual orientations or physical oddities are more likely to develop self-hate and differing types of anxiety (social anxiety, for example).

Bullies might trigger those issues, but they may very well be triggered by your child’s very thoughts.
Deal with the bullies when they come, but the issue itself runs much deeper than some kids being naughty.

If you want to be a good parent these are things that you should take note off. Being different is hard, being passive will not reward you and having poor body language will make you look weak.

All of these are issues that need to be addressed.
So get on with it!

Before you do, though, here’s a quick question for you – Were you ever bullied? How did you deal with your bullies?

It may come off as a bit intimate, and I understand if you would ignore it, but on the internet, we are all unknown to each other.
This is exactly the type of place you should be sharing in.

Speaking of sharing, make sure to write your answers in the comment section below – I read every single on them!

If you got any questions about this article, or any article really, that you would like me to answer feel free to send me an email.
I promise to reply to it as quickly as possible.

Email: [email protected]

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2 Replies to “Can Bullying Cause Depression In Children?”

  1. Online with Nerissa S. says: Reply

    This was a very insightful post.

    When my oldest son was in 3rd and 4th grade, he experienced bullying from one kid in particular. As a result, I noticed a decrease in his enthusiasm to attend school, and he appeared more stressed than any other child I have come across. I reached out to the school counselor, for intervention, and she tried to have “conflict resolution meetings” with both my child and the bully in the same session.

    In my opinion, this only made things worse! The thing is, just as you pointed out in this article, is that the bully somehow targeted my son, because he is reserved, quiet and never wants to be mean or unkind to anyone. That said, the bully never stopped, and once we switched schools, my sons depression went away and he seems so confident and happy now!

    Keep educating us with posts like this one! Thank you so much!

    My best,
    Nerissa S.

    1. Hello Nerissa, thanks for you time!

      You are correct of course, teachers don’t have the tools to change the mindset of the bullies, no matter how much “punishment” they will dish out.
      The don’t have the ability to enforce their own laws either. I’m glad that your son’s social situation improved, hopefully he won’t be bullied ever again.

      Cheers, Vlad!

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