Bullying and Its Effects on Health
"All cruelty springs from weakness."(Seneca, 4BC-AD65)
"Most organisations have a serial bully. It never ceases to amaze me how one person's divisive, disordered, dysfunctional behaviour can permeate the entire organisation like a cancer."Tim Field
Everybody has arguments with other people or little incidents when their feeling are hurt or they "exchange words" with other people. This is part of life. More serious are acts of violence or assault. These are however single incidents or a number of them which stop over time.
Bullying is not a single incident and it doesn't go away. It usually manifests itself by an accumulation of continual small incidents over a long period of time. This is where the problem might be overlooked or seen as trivial or unimportant by on-lookers and even those who are close to the bully.
Bullying is always very serious and can cause deep suffering and lasting damage to the victim.
It should never be tolerated.
What is Bullying?
According to the Bully On-Line web-site, bullying is "constant nit-picking, fault-finding and criticism of a trivial nature - the triviality, regularity and frequency betray bullying; often there is a grain of truth in the criticism to fool you into believing the criticism has validity, which it often based on distortion, misrepresentation or fabrication".
The above-mentioned web-site is one of the oldest and most authoritative sites on the web dealing with bullying and its founder, Tim Field, has worked for years to put an end to bullying in all its forms.
Simultaneous with the criticism, is a constant refusal to acknowledge the victim and his or her contributions and achievements or to recognize their existence and value. The bully makes constant attempts to undermine the victim and his position, worth, value and potential.
In a group situation, according to Tim, the victim is singled out for different treatment and, not allowed to put a foot wrong when others are treated with tolerance for the same "offenses", patronized, humiliated and demeaned in front of his contemporaries.
In social settings the victim is often ignored, excluded or frozen out and "Sent to Coventry", gossiped about behind his back and pulled to pieces. Things he is alleged to have said are often misrepresented, distorted or even fabricated entirely.
There are many other tactics that bullies use to victimize their prey, especially in the workplace, and you can read about them on
Who, What, Where and When of Bullying
Anyone can be a victim of bullying, just as anyone can be a bully.
People are bullied at home by their spouses, siblings,children or in-laws, in the workplace by their co-workers, managers or subordinates, at school or university by teachers or other pupils, in the care of others, whether in hospitals, residential homes or while convalescing, by neighbors or landlords and in society through gossip or exclusion from social cliques.
Everywhere you have people you will have bullies - army, navy, football clubs, dance schools, anywhere people get together to do things with other people.
Bullying can take place at any place and at any time. The perpetrators are usually people who get power by manipulating others. In group situations their friends will often ignore what is going on and even treat the victim in a similar manner, but be entirely different, even kind to the victim when the bully is absent. Often they just want to avoid challenging the bullying for fear of reprisal. The bully takes this compliance as validation for his behavior against the supposed villain, who has of course brought on the bullying himself, he rationalises.
In other instances the bully is worse to the victim when there are no witnesses, sometimes appearing to be a very kind and caring person in the presence of others. It all depends on what s/he thinks he can get away with.
If it is someone the person depends on for a job, care or help of some kind then the victim often feels unable to challenge the bully for fear of having this "priveledge" taken away.
Bullying and the Older Adult
Excessive stress is increasingly becoming a problem in the workplace as the current economic situation forces companies to cut budgets and redundancies and dismissals become commonplace. As the work force is reduced, the remaining team have more tasks to perform with no extra time or often pay. And unfortunately age discrimination and bullying in the workplace has become a reality in many countries.
People who are approaching retirement age or even those who are approaching fifty are often seen as easy targets by bullies who want to use their age against them. As you age it is important to keep fit and active and and finding ways to manage your stress and avoid depression are necessary if you are to show you are still competent and able to deal with change. People also need to learn techniques to Protect Themselves from Bullies.
Bullying unfortunately also occurs in care homes or in people's own homes, where the person should feel secure.
A lot of this bullying takes the form of lack of patience understanding and respect for the older person, who might be a little slower than they used to be.
The person being bullied might not challenge or report the abuse for fear of retaliation from the bully, or a fear of harming the family relationship or being shunned by other family members. S/he might feel shame for having a family who bullies them or feel that problems need to be kept within the family.
Bullying also occurs in care-homes and hospitals where it can include neglect and even violence. There is often an unwillingness by family, friends or even the Senior to disclose that bullying has occurred.
Bullying in care homes often goes undetected because the victim is unable to denounce the bully due to diminished mental capacity Often the effects of the bullying are wrongly attributed to changes associated with aging or physical or mental illness
The What and Why of Bullying
If you have ever watched Keeping Up Appearances, you may have been amused by the way that the long-suffering neighbor, Elizabeth, constantly spills her coffee, when in the presence of the overbearing and larger-than-life character of Mrs. Bucket or Bouquet as she likes to be called.
We probably all know a Mrs. Bucket and usually we can avoid her or suffer her in small doses. The problem is when Mrs. Bucket turns out to be your boss, your sister-in-law or worse, your wife or husband.
Every relationship demands tolerance and compromise - if someone always gets their way, it is not a relationship, it is a dictatorship.
And being tolerant applies to any situation where you might come into contact with others who think or do things in ways which are different to your own.
Constantly being picked upon for small and unimportant details can undermine anyone's confidence and make us all prone to spilling our coffee.
The victim usually doesn't stand a chance, no matter what s/he does it will be wrong. The truth is that most bullying stems from jealousy or the bully's own insecurities and often incompetence. In some way the bully feels threatened by the victim who they fear might be more popular, better looking or competent than they are. The only way the bully knows how to make themselves look good is by putting the victim down and making him look bad when compare with himself.
As Tim Field says in his website.
Those who can, do, Those who can't, bully.
Health Effects of Bullying
Unfortunately, the effects on a persons health brought on by bullying can be very serious, even leading to suicide or life-threatening illness.
The health effects brought on by bullying are similar to those which are provoked by any type of prolonged exposure to stress and pressure.
These include headaches and migraines, digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, eczema and other skin conditions, backache, panic attacks and depression.
If you suffer from bullying or other situations which increase your stress levels, learn how to manage your stress here.