Bullying and PTSD

Most people equate posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with combat veterans, but experiencing bullying at school is a possible cause of this condition. If you or a loved one has been bullied and shows symptoms of PTSD in response, then seek professional help as soon as possible.

What Is PTSD?

PTSD is classified as an anxiety disorder that develops after experiencing a traumatic event, especially if that event produces intense feelings of fear and helplessness. PTSD is persistent, which differentiates it from shorter-lived anxiety and stress disorders, such as acute stress disorder. PTSD is characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Constantly reliving the event
  • Nightmares and other sleep disturbances
  • Avoiding reminders of the event
  • Feelings of detachment
  • Hyper arousal
  • Irritability
  • Increased startle response

If someone shows these symptoms, she may have PTSD.

How Bullying can Trigger PTSD

In professional studies, childhood trauma consistently increases susceptibility to PTSD both in children and adults. In other words, bullying can cause PTSD at the time, and it can also make survivors more susceptible to the disorder later in life. In cases of PTSD that result from an assault or attack, it is more commonly triggered by events that were personalized, as when the victim knows the attacker. This is the situation in cases of bullying, in which the attacker is someone the victim knows and sees regularly.

As mentioned above, PTSD is more likely to develop if the trauma produces feelings of helplessness; this can easily be a factor in cases of school bullying. After all, the child who suffers bullying is required to attend school, so he cannot leave and avoid the situation. The child will be forced to face his tormenter on a daily basis. Feelings of helplessness can increase if the child seeks assistance from adults who do not respond appropriately. Parents and teachers may ignore the problem or proffer bad advice. For example, a father may counsel his son that he will have to fight the bully, which can backfire dramatically. This is quite likely in today’s social climate, because many young people fight in mobs rather than one-on-one fights. A fight like this will even further increase the chance of developing PTSD and the risk of serious injury.

Some teachers have bullied children, which can produce profound feelings of helplessness. The duration of trauma also affects the development of PTSD. A school bully may target a particular child for days, weeks, months or even years while the child is forced to face the bully five days a week.

Help Treating PTSD

PTSD is a serious condition that may cause long-term damage, so any child who displays signs of PTSD from bullying at school should be diagnosed and treated by a professional. If you would like help finding treatment for PTSD, then please call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline today.