Addiction Bullying Mental Health

It’s Not Just the Victims: Bullying Affects Everyone Involved

Heidi Bitsoli - February 26, 2022

For many years, bullying occurred at school and the park and was often a face-to-face encounter. In today’s technological world, face-to-face bullying is still common, but cyberbullying is another threat. Cyberbullies attack their victims via text messages and social media, and both types are devastating.

Although the person being bullied will be deeply affected, it’s not just them. The bystanders and the bully themselves will also be affected.

How Is the Victim Affected?

Victims of face-to-face bullying or cyberbullying are affected in many ways — emotionally, mentally, and physically. Bullying and cyberbullying can affect your child in the following ways:

  • Stress
  • Embarrassment
  • Hurt feelings
  • Fear for their safety
  • Self-blame
  • Humiliation
  • Isolation
  • Anger
  • Feeling powerless
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Poor grades
  • Refusing to go to school or out with friends

If your child is being bullied daily, it can become too much for them to handle, and some will turn to alcohol or drugs to self-medicate, leading to addiction. When some children and teens are bullied, they experiment with alcohol and drugs to help them feel more powerful, which is something they don’t feel while being bullied. They may also use it to ease anxiety or to help them forget the pain of being victimized.

If the bullying continues and your child feels helpless and becomes depressed, they may believe that there is no way out and may attempt suicide. According to the Megan Meier Foundation, bullied children are twice as likely to attempt suicide than children who weren’t. 

If you believe your child is being bullied, it’s up to you to help. According to Empowering Parents, there are a few ways you can help:

  • Talk to your child about why they think they’re being bullied and how they feel. Let them speak, and don’t offer judgment.
  • Find out more about the child who is doing the teasing or bullying.
  • Help your child come up with words and actions to get the bullying to stop.

If the bully won’t let up, you may need to get the school and get the bully’s parents involved to keep your child safe and stop the bullying.

How Are the Bystanders Affected?

If your child is the bystander and not the bully, it can still have a negative effect on their mental health and can affect them almost as much as the person being bullied.

The most common problem is guilt. Your child knows in their heart that bullying is wrong, and could be afraid to step in because they are worried about losing friends and experiencing retaliation. 

Not standing up for the victim can make your child feel guilty, and seeing the victim being tormented and doing nothing about it can be more than your child can handle. Guilt can lead to depression, anxiety, and paranoia. If your child cannot let go of the guilt or if the victim tried to harm themselves because of the bullying, their guilt and depression could lead to self-destructive behaviors, including a suicide attempt.

According to, there are a few reasons why kids stand by while someone is being bullied.

  • They aren’t friends with the person being bullied.
  • They fear losing their social status.
  • They don’t think their teachers will do anything if they speak up.
  • They don’t know how to help.
  • They are afraid of retaliation or being bullied if they speak up.

It’s a good idea to talk to your child about bullying and what they should do if they witness it. Teaching your child to stand up and do something early will prevent them from being a passive bystander later. (It can even include something like distracting everyone with a humorous comment, to offer one example.) Stopping bullying behaviors from playing out can prevent short and long-term emotional and mental health issues that can develop later.

How Is the Bully Affected?

If your child is the one doing the bullying, that also can affect their mental and emotional health, even though it may seem strange or unlikely, considering they are the instigator.

According to Stomp Out Bullying, kids bully for various reasons.

  • It makes them feel stronger, smarter, or better than their victim.
  • They are bullied at home.
  • They want to be part of the crowd that is bullying someone.
  • They see others do it.
  • They are jealous of their victim.
  • It’s the best way to keep themselves from being bullied.

Being a bully can affect them in the following ways.

  • Chronic depression
  • Anxiety and panic disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder 
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Self-harm
  • Difficulty in trusting others and forming relationships
  • Substance abuse
  • Guilt later on in life

The best way to prevent issues later in life is to step in and stop the bullying now. According to the Child Mind Institute, there are many effective ways to get your child to stop bullying.

  • Communicate: If your child is bullying another child, you should first talk to them about it. Let them know that you know what is going on and try to find out why they’re acting this way.
  • Get professional help: Most kids can’t articulate why they are acting out and bullying other children. It’s not because they don’t want to; they just can’t find the words. A child psychologist may be able to help your child talk about why they started bullying and how it makes them feel.
  • Consider consequences: Bullying is a horrible thing to do, and your child should face consequences to keep them from continuing this behavior. Consider taking away their computer and cellphone, preventing further cyberbullying. You can also prohibit your child from their favorite activities. The key to punishments is sticking to them and not giving in.
  • Make things right: Your child should apologize to the victim. They can do this face-to-face, on the phone, or in a text. Your child may not want to apologize, but it can end the problem before things escalate. In addition, the apology will likely be uncomfortable for your child, which they will likely remember if they think about bullying someone again. 
  • Monitor your child: It is up to you to monitor your child to ensure they have stopped bullying. You can regularly check their phone and social media to ensure the bullying has ended.

Bullying can have long-term effects, whether your child is the victim, bystander, or perpetrator. As a parent, it is up to you to step in and teach your children right from wrong, preventing serious mental and emotional issues now and later on in life.  




Heidi Bitsoli has been a content writer with Sunshine Behavioral Health since 2019, where she researches and writes articles, guides, and blog posts on mental health and addiction. Prior to that, she wrote extensively on health, medicine, business, and human interest topics for a variety of clients. Her writings have appeared in numerous university publications, magazines, newspapers, and websites. She has a degree in English from Lake Superior State University in northern Michigan. A lifelong lover of learning, she enjoys researching and writing about the complexities of mental health.