In Health & Wellbeing, Syndromes & Disorders

Psychological Disorders and Their Role in the Bullying Problem

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There are many reasons for bullying, and often it is just a matter of kids who enjoy pushing others around, getting their way, and using manipulative tactics on others. Even psychologists admit that some kids just like to be a bully. However, in some cases, psychological disorders are the impetus which drives this behavior. We will talk about a few of these here, and also how bullying affects the victim in the form of psychological disorders, so that we will address both sides of the spectrum.

Psychological Disorders In Bullies

There are many psychological disorders which may drive bullies to act as they do. Some of these are considered “personality disorders.” The personality disorders run a gamut from mild to extremely severe and they include the narcisstic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and sociopathic personality disorder. The sociopathic personality disorder often gets the most attention in the media, due to the fact that it is believed that many killers fall into this category.

Sociopath Defined

It is difficult to define the thinking of a sociopath but in short, they seem to have no conscience. At some point they lost their ability to have and show empathy for others and therefore they feel no guilt for their actions, even in the face of doing great harm to others. Killers often fall into this category but so can others, such as bullies.

When a bully has a sociopathic personality, he or she will tend to enjoy pushing others around, using them to get what they want, or even causing physical harm to the person. And the problem is that, once they do this, they will feel no remorse. These types of people have a deep-seeded self-preservation motivation but no apparent motivation to help or preserve others. This combination makes them especially dangerous. If you believe someone in your school who exhibits bullying behaviors is a sociopath, you should talk to your counselor and see if the person needs an evaluation to decide what the best course of action is.

Often the term “sociopath” has gotten misconstrued with “psychopath”, which brings to mind images of serial killers but sociopath is the more accurate term. Someone with “psychopathic illness” of any kind, in which they are not responsible for their actions might be considered a psychopath, but a sociopath has no care for others though they may NOT be insane legally.

It is important to understand the distinctions between these terms, and to realize that the sociopathic personality cannot be helped until he or she wants to be helped. However, it is not a hopeless case. There is help for the person who has this personality disorder but only if they wish to change. If they seek help for their problem, they may be able to rethink their view of others and of life, and find their conscience once again.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

The Narcissistic personality is not dangerous in general, like the sociopath is, but they may see the world as just existing for them, and therefore they are, in a sense, delusional. The Narcissistic personality doesn’t set out to harm others, but if their illusions are challenged or if they believe someone is getting more attention or fame than them, they may react in a negative way. One of these ways may include bullying. In the bullying act, such personalities may feel superior to the ones they are picking on, and create a sense of power for themselves.

Other Personality Disorders

There are several other personality disorders which may exist among kids which may serve as the basis for some bullying behaviors. Some kids who were badly disciplined, experienced a traumatic childhood, or other situations may create a personality disorder. The problem with the personality disorders is that they are so interwoven into the fabric of who they are, that it is difficult to separate it from their behaviors. Such kids can only change if they truly want to, and that comes from a place of morality and ethics that only they can be motivated to address.

Other Types Of Psychological Disorders

There are hundreds of disorders, phobias, neuroses, and mental problems which plague kids sometimes which could be at the root of bullying. This is not implying that this is always the reason. But, if you think that a child has a psychological disorder and that they may be the factor influencing their behavior, there is help to be sought via mental health counseling and therapy. Talk to your school counselor and see if they could do an observation of the child to determine if further evaluation is needed. It is only when we address these issues head on and early that we will begin to make a dent in the problem of disturbed kids at school.

The Effects On The Bullied Victim

Just as there are sometimes psychological disorders underlying the reasons why bullies do what they do, there are also psychological problems which result from such attacks, on the part of the victim. Many victims of bullying feel scarred for life in many ways and seek therapy for years after the attack. Why is bullying so devastating? The answer may lie in the idea of generalized thinking. When a child is bullied by someone else, it is not just about that bully or that one kid. Kids seem to be critical of themselves when they are bullied and wonder, “Why did they choose me?” “Why did they pick on ME?” causing them to internalize the bullying almost as it is were their fault. They may also generalize the thinking to circumstances which extend beyond the bullying situation to believe that others in the world will do the same. And this, in turn can create such psychological disorders such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Paranoid Personality Disorder, and others.

For this reason, it is extremely important that victims of bullying receive help from mental health professionals and school counselors immediately following the bullying incident, as well as weeks or even months later. They should be allowed to express their fears to professionals and close family members and to talk about their experience openly. By being able to discuss their experience, they may get rid of some of the frustrations and problems such trauma creates, and believe in themselves again.

It is true that some take bullying harder than others. Certain personality types are naturally more prone to letting such an incident get to them. But some of this depends upon the severity of the bullying, whether they had their reputation damaged and lost friends over it (such as in the case of cyber bullying, etc.) and how much support they have from peers and close family members.

Bullies seem to get over the bullying incident quickly and often forget what happened. But the victim does not. Statistics show an alarming fact that many victims of bullying became school shooters later, to show others that they did not want to take it. Still others get involved in other petty crimes when they are still in their teens, and many have adjustment problems which reach far beyond the boundaries of the school grounds.

With cyber bullying playing such a large role in the incidents of bullying these days, it has become even more important to help kids to recover from these incidents and to resolve to prevent such attacks from happening in the future.

It Takes A Village

The old saying, “It takes a village” could apply here. Bullying is and will continue to be a big problem in our schools, as well as in the world in general. We cannot solve all of the world’s problems. But we can do something about it in our own schools, our own communities, and our own towns. One way is to work together with teachers and school officials to form a group to stand against bullying. It is only when we make a public statement about the damaging psychological effects of such child behavior that we will help the victims (and the bully) to stop these incidents when they occur.

Teaching other kids to stand up for the bullied victim whenever they see it is another way people can get involved and stop the cycle of bullying.

Being more vigilant toward the media and social platforms children are on on the part of parents may also thwart some of the instant access bullies have to their victims online.

There also needs to be more legislation regarding the lines between school and off-campus behaviors, and to regulate the problem of cyber-bullying and call it what it is: terrorism.

Great psychological harm is being done to bullied victims. And often the reasons it is done is also due to psychological disorders, including the personality disorders and other problems on the part of the bully. More education on these problems is needed and a higher level of coordination and communication between schools and community is called for.

This is what we try to do at We are focused on providing resources for parents and communities and schools, to try to raise awareness and offer resources for bullied victims and their families, and to serve as a resource also for parents of kids who bully, to get them the help them need to move forward with better attitudes and respect for others.

Together, we can fight bullying but it takes a village.

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