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Bullying is shockingly common — just under a third of US students aged between 12 and 18 report being bullied within the last school year, 70 percent say they have witnessed bullying, and perhaps most surprisingly, 30 percent admit to having bullied someone. 

Though most often associated with schools and schoolchildren, anyone can become a victim of bullying, whether in the workplace, at college, online, or just about anywhere else. What are the long-term consequences of bullying? What can you do if you become the victim of bullying?

The Physical And Emotional Consequences Of Bullying

Bullying makes a person feel excluded, isolated, and unworthy, and as it goes on, it can grind away your self-confidence and sense of identity. It is no surprise, then, that bullying can result in depression, anxiety, a fear of social interaction and people in general, anger, and a sense of deep vulnerability. Some victims of bullying will develop eating disorders, while others can even begin to feel suicidal. 

Victims of bullying may also experience a decline in their physical health, with loss of appetite, headaches, poor sleep quality, fatigue, and abdominal pain being common symptoms. Some additionally notice more colds and coughs, dizziness, and musculoskeletal pain. All this can lead to an increase in the use of over the counter medication, which can in turn cause additional side effects.

Bullying: What You Can Do

If you are a child being bullied:

  • Everyone needs and deserves a group of people — parents, friends, relatives — who love and like them for who they are. If you have these people in your life, spend as much time as possible with them. This will counter the negative feelings you get from the bully or bullies. The less of a role the bully has (or bullies have) in your life, the less of an impact their actions will have.
  • Try to avoid places where the bullying usually occurs, and the people who bully you. If you can't, try to retort with humor, calmly walk away, or tell them to stop it. 
  • Talk to a trusted adult, like a parent or teacher. If you are worried that this means they'll talk to the bully and the bullying will only get worse, say so immediately. If you find it hard to talk about the bullying in person, you can also write a letter. Don't feel you have to deal with this alone! Stopping the bullying is easier with a team of people. If the bullying involves physical assault or you feel you simply cannot cope anymore, always report it. 
  • See if you can attend new activities, away from the bullies, and you and your parents could even consider whether a new school might offer you a fresh start. 

If you are a bystander witnessing someone else be bullied, be kind to the victim — it can make a big difference. Stop being a bystander and speak up, whether directly to the bully or by reporting the bullying. 

Parents of bullying victims, talk to the staff at school, listen to your child with empathy and without immediately saying things like "I'll go over to his house and talk to his parents" — which may simply cause your child additional worry. Consider a new school, and do what you can to make sure your child has a loving and supportive environment at home and beyond. 

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