Bullying is a pervasive social issue, and although we tend to associate it with tweens and teenagers, it can happen to anyone at any age, and it’s not always as straightforward as some might think. It’s not always name-calling or getting physical – it can be more subtle than that. It can be someone spreading nasty rumors about you, excluding you on purpose, or even constantly belittling and putting you down. Recognizing these not-so-obvious bullying tactics is the first step to fostering safe, respectful, healthy relationships with people in your circle.

Bullying comes in many forms

Let’s dive a bit deeper into the different types of bullying. Bullying can be categorized into three main types: physical, verbal/emotional, and cyberbullying. Physical bullying involves any form of physical harm, like hitting, pushing, or even damaging someone’s belongings. Verbal or emotional bullying, on the other hand, can be much more subtle and harder to spot. It involves behaviors such as name-calling, intimidation, or persistent belittling. The scars from this type of bullying run deep and can be just as, if not more, painful than physical bruises.

Finally, there’s cyberbullying, which has spread with the advent of social media and digital platforms. This involves using digital means to harass, threaten, or humiliate someone. The anonymity and vast reach of the internet can sometimes make this the most destructive form of bullying. Understanding these various forms of bullying can equip us to identify and address it effectively, whether it’s happening to us or to those around us.

Emotional manipulation as a bullying tactic

Because not all bullying leaves physical scars, emotional manipulation can often be overlooked or mistaken for playful teasing. This form of subtle emotional abuse typically involves tactics like guilt-tripping, using anger to manipulate others, or undermining the sense of self-worth of those around them. Bullies will use threats, aggressive behavior, or hostile gestures to induce fear in the victim. This fear then coerces the victim into submission. These behaviors can often go unnoticed, but they are just as damaging as physical and verbal bullying in many ways.

Emotional manipulation can be hard to recognize. It comes in several forms, and understanding them is the first step to combating such behavior. Gaslighting is a psychological manipulation tactic where the bully makes the victim doubt their perception, memory, or sanity. The aim is to make the victim question their reality, thus giving the manipulator control.

A bully may also use guilt to make the victim comply with their demands. They may twist situations and play the victim, making the actual victim feel responsible and obliged to accommodate them. Silent treatment is another common emotional manipulation tactic. This involves the manipulator ignoring or refusing to communicate with the victim. It’s a passive-aggressive tactic intended to make the victim feel unworthy of communication or attention.

Negging is a manipulative strategy where the bully gives backhanded compliments to undermine the victim’s confidence, making them more vulnerable and easier to control. By identifying these tactics, we’re better equipped to counter emotional manipulation, whether it’s happening to us or someone we know. It’s crucial to remember that nobody has the right to manipulate your emotions, and seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

The less obvious signs of bullying

Bullying, in its many forms, often leaves emotional wounds that can be deeper and more lasting than physical injuries. These mental and emotional scars are less visible but can significantly impact a person’s self-esteem, confidence, and overall mental health. Here are some less apparent indicators that someone might be a victim of bullying:

Unexpected mood swings

A sudden shift in a person’s behavior or mood can signify bullying. They might seem unusually quiet, anxious, or upset, especially after using their phone or computer—indicating possible cyberbullying.

Avoiding friends and activities

If someone starts avoiding situations where they previously felt comfortable—like school, team practices, or social gatherings—it might be because they’re being bullied.

Slipping grades

Bullying can lead to declining grades or a lack of interest in learning. Victims might find it hard to concentrate due to the emotional stress they’re experiencing.

Sleeping issues and changes in appetite

Victims of bullying might have trouble sleeping due to anxiety or stress and might either overeat or undereat as a coping mechanism. Remember, these signs can vary, and some people might not show any outward signs at all. The key is fostering open communication, ensuring everyone feels safe and comfortable talking about their experiences and emotions.

The difference between healthy and toxic relationships

In a healthy relationship or friendship, there’s a balance of give and take, understanding, and mutual respect. Each party feels heard, valued, and appreciated. These relationships are characterized by open and honest communication where feelings and thoughts are freely expressed without fear of judgment or retaliation. They are rooted in trust and understanding, providing a safe space for growth and development. Unhealthy relationships, on the other hand, often feel draining and unbalanced. They may involve manipulation, deceit, or disrespect and often lead to feelings of discomfort or unease.

Here are some red flags that may indicate something’s not right:

Constant Criticism

While constructive feedback is a part of any relationship, constant criticism that undermines self-esteem indicates an unhealthy dynamic.

Controlling Behavior

This can involve someone controlling your actions, decisions, or social interactions. A hallmark of healthy relationships is respect for each other’s autonomy and independence.

Lack of Communication

If discussions often lead to arguments or if there’s a consistent lack of communication, it might indicate a problem.

Feeling Unappreciated

Everyone wants to feel valued in a relationship. If you’re consistently feeling unappreciated or taken for granted, it might be time to reconsider the relationship’s health.

Fear or Anxiety

A healthy relationship should make you feel safe and secure. If you’re frequently anxious or afraid, it’s a significant red flag. Remember, it’s essential to trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t ignore that feeling. Healthy relationships contribute positively to our mental and emotional well-being. If a relationship causes continuous stress, it may be time to seek advice or help.

Bullying in any form can have profound and lasting effects on mental health, and recognizing the signs and tactics of bullying is a crucial step towards combating it. Remember, you don’t have to face this alone – support and assistance are available. At Serene Health, we are committed to helping individuals navigate these challenges and work towards a healthier mental state.

If you or someone you know is suffering from the impact of bullying, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Your mental well-being is our priority. We offer many behavioral health and mental health services under one roof, along with online therapy, so you can speak to a therapist or counselor from wherever you choose. Give us a call at 844-737-3638 or visit www.serenehealth.com to schedule an appointment.