Image: Shutterstock/Eakachai Leesin

Long-term health problems can appear.

Petra Hapsari   24 July 2017 14:00 - Recently, we have heard of a number of bullying cases in the country, including one that involved nine junior high school students bullying one elementary school student.

Commissioner for the Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI) reported there were 147 bullying cases in 2015 and 159 cases in 2014, as cited by Kompas.

Bullying is a form of intimidation or oppression inflicted by a person or group. It is different from general conflict as there is a chance for repetition and an imbalance of power between the bullies and victim.

With bullying, there is an intention to cause pain and inconvenience towards the victim physically and/or emotionally.

The scope of abuse is wide, ranging from kicking, slapping, brawling, pulling hair, hitting, yelling, shouting, insulting, embarrassing, rejecting, denouncing, underestimating, swearing at, sneering, isolating to sexual abuse.

Long-term health problems for the victim.

As if being hit, insulted and under-estimated are not enough, some bullying victims still have to deal with long-term health problems.

When someone feels stressed due to constant threats from bullies, their natural response of “fight or flight” will be activated.

When this happens, their muscles will tense, their heart will beat faster, and their body will release adrenaline and cortisol. As the time goes by, this reaction will weaken their immune system and cause various health problems.

Here are some of the possible health issues:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Back pain
  • Stomach ache
  • Physical injuries (broken bones, tear sores, etc.)
  • Headache
  • Hot-temper

From headache to uncontrollable urinating

Children who experience bullying are three times more likely to suffer from headaches, insomnia, stomach problems and uncontrollable urinating as well as two times more likely to have a reduced appetite.

Bullying can also cause long-term damage to a child's self-confidence.

Moreover, both the bully and the bullied are six times more likely to wet the bed while sleeping, four times more likely to have a bad appetite, and three times more likely to suffer from stomach aches.

Children and teenagers who already suffer from asthma, hearing problems, sight problems, talking problems, or digestion problems are at a higher risk of these issues getting worse as a result of bullying.

Not only harmed physically, these health problems may last for a long time even though the bullying has stopped.

Bullying may trigger mental disorders

Research from NICHD shows that although bullies and victims can suffer from depression and anxiety, the victims (including cyberbullying victims) are at a higher risk of developing mental disorders which require them to get intensive treatment when they are adults.

It is believed that bullying is a form of “toxic stress” that can affect physiological responses, which then cause ongoing physical and emotional problems when the victims are adults.

During bullying, your body reacts how it would when fighting against infection.

It is not yet clear how bullying during childhood can relate to long-term health problems. However, as cited from The Conversation, a study has shown that victims develop protein levels in their bloodstream (C-Reactive Protein/CRP) which relates to fighting infection.

The high level of CRP is a general response which shows that the body is working well in fighting infection, reacting towards injuries, or responding to chronic conditions such as arthritis.

This research shows that CRP can also develop in people who were abused by adults during their childhood. It shows that their bodies react similar to the way they do when dealing with an infection.

Bullies are also affected.

Another study investigated the level of CRP in people who are involved in bullying (both victims and bullies) at student and adult ages.

Students who were bullied have higher levels of CRP compared to those who were not. In the case of adults, researchers found the same pattern: adults who were bullied during childhood have higher levels of CRP compared to those who were not, and those who were bullied multiple times have the highest CRP.

Even though bullies also show health problems due to their actions, their CRP level when they are adults are lower than other participants.

The research then speculates that the low level of CRP in bullies when they are adults can protect them from symptoms of inflammation in the future.

Now we know the real effects of bullying, which affects the body mechanisms in coping with stress such as hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. For example, children who were bullied show blunted cortisol response when they are going through stress endurance tests in the laboratory. Cortisol is a hormone released by the body during stress.

Pay attention to even the smallest thing and do not underestimate bullying.

In many cases, parents and teachers ignore symptoms like stomach pain and headaches in children, thinking they are just avoiding going to school.

But the study emphasized that these symptoms are supposed to be taken seriously as they can lead to more serious issues.

Besides, asking children about their physical symptoms can help parents and doctors to know whether they are bullied at school or not.

Remember that kids sometimes hide their suffering.

We need to leave behind the idea that bullying is not dangerous and is 'part of the growing process.'

Intimidation and torture should be considered as another form of toxic stress which can have a significant effect on mental and physical health.

These effects have been studied by hundreds of researchers, both at childhood and young adult levels.

The article was previously published in and all medical data has been reviewed by a licensed medical doctor.


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