Adult Post-Bullying Syndrome

Who's to blame for bullying, some people ask? Is it the bully who preys on the weak and vulnerable? It is the victim who isn't assertive enough? Are the parents to blame who do not teach their children to be kind? Or are the teachers or managers at fault because it is easier not wanting to see bullying, because taking action is so much trouble?
Much research has been devoted to try to understand what are the factors that drives people to bully. Bullies mostly come from dysfunctional families, where there is little affection and openness. Bullies need to be in control, are impulsive and can't regulate their emotions. Bullying behavior gets rewarded with cheap laughs, by negative attention or the power of having others afraid of them. Bullies don’t care how others feel and lack empathy. Highly narcissistic boys were more likely than their peers to show elevated direct bullying[1]. But, above all, deep down bullies have a inferiority complex.

In other words: bullies having serious psychological problems and are in desperate need of some professional treatment.

The problem is that most bullies aren't treated or punished for their actions. Parents, teachers and managers do not recognise (or don't want to recognise) the signals. Bullying leads to festering situations where people frequently report sick with vague complaints.

A new book by Ellen Walser DeLara, 'Bullying Scars', finds that victims of bullying often show signs and signals that mimic those of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). To differentiate between both, DeLara coined the term Adult Post-Bullying Syndrome (APBS).

While Adult Post-Bullying Syndrome can share some symptoms with Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, there are distinct differences. One is that there can be both negative and positive aspects to Adult Post-Bullying Syndrome, whereas there are no positive aspects associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. The negative symptoms of Adult Post-Bullying Syndrome can mimic those of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome or the effects seen from child abuse. These effects, both in Adult Post-Bullying Syndrome and in Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, are lasting into adulthood and can include shame, anxiety and relational difficulties.

[1] Reijntjes et al: Narcissism, Bullying, and Social Dominance in Youth: A Longitudinal Analysis in Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology - 2016. See here.

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