Bullying can occur among individuals of any weight and at any age. It is often defined as unprovoked aggressive behavior repeatedly carried out against victims who are unable to defend themselves. Between 1 in 4 and 1 in 3 students in the United States say they have been bullied at school. Most bullying happens in middle school and the most common types are verbal and social bullying.

Types of bullying

  • Threats
  • Insults
  • Spreading rumors
  • Physical aggression
  • Social exclusion
  • Sexual harassment
  • Cyberbullying

How bullying is linked to weight

“Overweight” and even underweight children and adolescents tend to be at higher risk for being bullied because they look different. The torment that takes place is not by just the “mean girls” at school. It can be from friends, coaches, and as subtle as teasing by family members. Often times, family members and friends are not even aware they are bullying their loved ones but rather think they are just teasing by making hurtful remarks about another individual’s body image.

In the past, one could escape bullying by going home, being with friends, extracurricular activities, and church groups. Today, students still have all of those ways to escape the bullying; however, there are now cell phones and other forms of media where one can be targeted anonymously if not 24 hours a day, a term is known as cyberbullying.  Cyberbullying is a popular type of bullying that takes place using electronic technology, such as cell phones, computers, tablets as well as communication on social media sites, pictures, videos, websites, and fake profiles. The issues with cyberbullying are that in addition to bullying taking place 24/7, the messages can be posted anonymously and distributed quickly to a very wide audience. Deleting harassing or inappropriate messages, texts and pictures is extremely difficult after they have been posted or sent.

How eating disorders can stem from bullying

When anyone is a victim of weight or looks teasing, developing a negative body image will often develop. If that individual has low self-esteem, perfectionism, or anxiety, they are often genetically predestined to developing an eating disorder.

Who says being bullied isn’t traumatic? Young people kill themselves over bullying. Post-traumatic stress disorder is typically diagnosed in clients who have been bullied. Their anxiety is so bad that they have nightmares, flashbacks, and avoid the perpetrators to the point of dropping out of school or changing schools. The consequences of bullying can be devastating and may vary from person to person, as the threshold for different forms of bullying ranges depending on the individual. The experience of bullying is highly individualized and may depend on the type of bullying, intensity and frequency involved, and all this should be considered when assessing the physical, emotional, and psychological consequences of a victim.

Consequences associated with bullying

  • Low self-esteem
  • Eating disorders
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • PTSD
  • Social isolation
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicide
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Violent
  • Nightmares

Seeking help for bullying

Many individuals who are bullied are often scared to stand up to their perpetrators and may also be scared to admit to others what they are going through. As a result, they may hide from their reality and be in denial of their feelings, which can lead to unhealthy consequences both emotionally and physically. If you or someone you know is being bullied, it is important to tell someone you trust, whether it is a parent, a school counselor, a teacher, or a close friend. If you feel that you are engaging in poor behaviors such as disordered eating, suicidal thoughts, or depression then it may be important to seek professional therapy as bullying can have lifelong scars and can potentially affect your future relationships.