The connection between bullying and social anxiety in young people
February 28, 2023
It's a vicious cycle.
If you're bullied, you're more likely to be socially anxious.
And if you're socially anxious, you're more likely to be bullied.
Here's what the research says:
- A two-year study of over 3,200 adolescents reveals the connection between bullying and social anxiety.
- A review of 17 studies further confirms that peer victimisation — bullying being the worst form of it — leads to increased social anxiety.
- And it's not just social anxiety: bullied children have a higher risk of having mental health challenges as adults, as researchers reported.
To make things even more challenging? Bullying ranges from assault to cyberbullying, which can make it hard for parents and teachers to notice.
Now, all this sounds pretty heavy. But there's hope. I know, because I was bullied for over ten years…
My experience with bullying and social anxiety
Growing up, I did pretty well in school — it helps that my mum was a mathematics teacher. I was also active in a variety of extracurricular activities, whether it was public speaking or singing. (In Year 5, I was the only male contestant in the school's singing competition.)
Because of my visibility, other kids were jealous of me, and I started attracting the wrong attention. First, the name-calling. Then the jostling around… and then worse.
I tried defending myself, but the bullies got even more aggressive. So I resorted to avoiding them and being quiet… thinking that if I did so, they might just go away (they didn't.)
It was only after six years of being bullied — when I was cornered and assaulted in an empty classroom — that I told my parents about what was going on. By then, my confidence was in splinters, and I had developed a paralysing fear of social situations.
They were shocked:
"Why didn't you tell us sooner!?"
With their help, teachers intervened, and the bullying went away. But the anxiety stayed.
It would take years of effort — talking with strangers, reading therapy books, journaling, and meditation— to free myself from the grip of social fears.
Today, while I'm comfortable interacting with most people, I regret not seeing a therapist for my anxiety — it would have made the journey of recovery a lot easier. (After seeing a therapist for seven months to address a different challenge, I'm now a lifelong believer in the power of therapy.)
So here's what I'd suggest to you…
Give therapy a try, if you haven't.
Sure, it might feel uncomfortable to share so personally about yourself, but expressing your pain is part of the healing process — especially when you have the non-judgemental guidance of a therapist.
You don't have to commit to therapy right away — just book a free initial consultation with a qualified mental health professional on Mindsum, and let me know how it goes!
PS - Still unsure about therapy? That's OK. Learn more about what anxiety therapy entails, as well as common myths of anxiety that stop people from getting help.
Sending you lots of love and hugs <3