Can Bullying Cause PTSD?

Sad child for being treated with bullying

Bullying and PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often stems from a person witnessing or experiencing a trauma that made them feel threatened, vulnerable, or injured. It is, therefore, possible that you could develop the anxiety disorder if you are victim of bullying, or even your child might be living with PTSD following physical and/or verbal abuse inside or outside the classroom.

Bullying can have a long-lasting effect on its victims, as it could cause anxiety, depression, fear, and sleeping difficulties. The mental or physical abuse could also make a victim feel powerless or vulnerable, which could lead to the development of PTSD from bullying in childhood or adulthood.

Examples of the Different Types of Bullying

Bullying cannot only impact a victim during childhood, but the physical and/or verbal abuse can affect a person into adulthood.

There are also various types of bullying a person might endure, such as:

  • Verbal teasing
  • Physical violence
  • The spreading of rumors about a victim
  • Exclusion from social groups
  • Cyberbullying

Each of the above actions will be taken to upset and demean a victim, which could lead to feelings of isolation, fear, anxiety, and depression. A victim might also have suicidal thoughts, as they might feel unable to cope with the bullying or their symptoms of PTSD.

PTSD in Children

While PTSD symptoms could disappear after many months for children, many kids could struggle with the issues for years without treatment. If you suspect that your child has developed PTSD from bullying at school, you should look for common signs of the anxiety disorder, such as:

  • Sleep problems
  • Recurring nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Avoidance of specific people or places
  • Changes in their school performance or grades
  • Low self-worth

It is worth bearing in mind that while PTSD symptoms are similar for both adults and children, it is common for kids to embark on repetitive and trauma-related play, such as using dolls to highlight bullying or drawing bullying scenes using pencils or crayons. What’s more, they are more likely to complain of head or stomach pains

If you suspect your child might be struggling with PTSD, it might be beneficial for them to talk to a mental health professional who has experience in childhood PTSD.

A Greater Risk of Mental Illness

It is important to tackle post-traumatic stress disorder as soon as possible, as those who are targeted by bullying will be at greater risk of developing other mental health issues in later life, such as depression and anxiety. A victim is also more likely to develop a substance abuse problem, as they could consume alcohol, marijuana, or class A drugs to cope with their emotions.


Bullying can be emotionally devastating for children of all ages and even adults if they have developed PTSD from workplace bullying. As the physical and/or mental abuse can cause a child to feel alone, anxious, and helpless, it can lead to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder. It is imperative to seek immediate treatment to eliminate the debilitating symptoms and to help a child or adult to take back control of their emotions.

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