SIX WARNING SIGNS THAT A CHILD IS BEING BULLIED
By Ted Zeff, Ph.D.
Approximately 160,000 children miss school every day in the United States for fear of being bullied. More than 50 suicides have been linked to prolonged bullying. Approximately 85 percent of school shootings have revenge against bullies as a major motive. School-related bullying has led to depression and poor school performance in many children. The costs of bullying are high, but, unfortunately, many children suffer alone, keeping their experiences of being bullied to themselves.
Many children are taught that it is a sign of weakness to ask for help, and frequently fail to tell a parent or even a counselor or therapist when they are being bullied for fear of appearing weak. Many children feel shame and assume, "Something must be wrong with me. Why else would they target me?"
Children who are bullied are at risk for developing a number of emotional difficulties, including depression and anxiety syptoms. Children who are particularly traumatized may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is usually brought on by a terrifying physical or emotional event or series of events. Some of the symptoms of PTSD include trouble sleeping, withdrawal from normal activities, a lack of concentration, and emotional numbness. When children are suffering from PTSD, they are prone to developing strong physical symptoms in situations where they feel unsafe and in danger. They appear disconnected from others, and they may experience an intense physical response from their nervous system that can involve angry outbursts, jumpiness, and hyper alertness. This reaction is the nervous system's response to potential danger, whether real or imagined, creating constriction and disassociation in order to protect the body.
When children experience trauma, they often become frozen and exhibit feelings of helplessness and shame, rendering them nearly unable to defend themselves when attacked or put under pressure. These traumatized children then bring this frozen state of helplessness to many other situations that they perceive as threatening throughout their lives. And, the more withdrawn these children become, the more fearful and helpless they feel, the stronger the likelihood that they will slip into serious emotional trouble.
Although children may experience depression, severe anxiety, or PTSD due to a variety of factors, frequently these symptoms are related to school bullying. The following is a list of red flags that a child may be bullied:
Is the child disconnecting from people and isolating him/herself in their room? Although teens usually separate from the family, they normally connect more often with their friends.
Has the child developed physical problems such as stomachaches and headaches that interfere in their life?
Has the child's schoolwork suffered, and is it difficult for the child to concentrate?
Does the child have trouble falling or staying asleep or experience frequent nightmares?
Does the child seem listless, unenthusiastic, and disinterested in life?
Does the child seem hypervigilant, extremely nervous, depressed, or emotionally explosive (beyond the normal teenage angst and moodiness)?
If the child is suffering from any of the above symptoms as a result of school bullying, it's important to immediately intervene on many levels simultaneously with the child and school personnel.