The Relationship Between Addiction And Bullying

Both bullying and addiction are serious problems with a complex relationship, with each influencing the development and severity of the other. In particular, bullying is often both the cause and result of physical, mental, and emotional trauma that can lead to substance abuse and addiction.

Defining Bullying

Typically bullying includes cycles of abuse or patterns in which the bully targets the victim. The type of abuse can be physical, verbal, mental, or emotional, or any combination thereof. Bullying has garnered much media attention in recent years.

Although bullying-related suicide is not a new phenomenon, an increasing number of suicides have occurred due to bullying recently and there is an increased awareness of its impact. Bullying affects both the victims who have been bullied and the bullies themselves. Bullying can happen to both children and adults. Workplace bullying can impact the financial health and wellbeing of those affected. Roughly 70% of workplace bullies are male, and 61% are bosses.

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Adolescent Bullying

According to research, a student is bullied every 7 minutes. There are 1,200,000 high school dropouts that occur each year because of bullying. There are 500,000 yearly suicide attempts and 5,300 suicides in relation to adolescent bullying. Roughly 40% to 60% of children are bullied, and 75% of school shooters were “either bullies or victims of bullies.” Unfortunately, suicide remains the second leading cause of death among American teenagers and continues to get worse. There are about 500,000 suicide attempts every year, and about 5,300 suicides every year are related to adolescent bullying. However, having anti-bullying programs in schools can reduce bullying by 25% to 50%.

Repeated Harm: Understanding The Types Of Bullying

Bullying is repeated exposure to violence, cruel words, exclusion, manipulation and other harmful behaviors. There are several different types of bullying behaviors that impact victims. Some of the ways bullies can harm victims include, but are not limited to:


Examples include hitting, kicking, punching, slapping, pinching, spitting, and pushing or vandalizing property.


Examples include insulting, name calling, harsh teasing, mocking, racist, sexist, or homophobic comments, and intimidating or threatening remarks.


Examples include “ganging up on” the victim, excluding the victim from social events, starting rumors or gossiping about the victim, damaging someone’s reputation, and humiliation through mean jokes or embarrassing photos.


Examples include hacking accounts and humiliating others through abusive, unkind, and hurtful text messages, online comments, posts, gossip or online rumors, as well as spamming someone’s online accounts, and stalking social media accounts.

Relational Aggression

Relational aggression includes sneaky, undermining passive aggressive comments which are intended to cause harm. This can be difficult to detect as this method of bullying is subtle. Social manipulation, breaking confidences, and emotional bullying are other examples.


Examples include calling people harsh names relaxed to sexuality, inappropriate touching, slut-shaming, unsolicited sexual text messages, crude comments about someone’s sexual orientation or sexual attractiveness, sharing sexual pictures or rumors, or using blackmail to gain sexual power or sexual access. Unwanted touching and sexual assault are other examples of sexual bullying.

All of these types of bullying can lead to deep-seated trauma, and more painful episodes of abusive behavior. Additionally, victims of bullies can become bullies in order to protect themselves, which perpetuates the cycle of abuse. Such painful experiences with bullying could lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as dropping out of school, quitting work, or turning to substances for relief, which in turn can lead to addiction.

Effects Of Bullying For Bully Victims

A survey noted children who are perceived as different (race, weight, dressing differently, being new, or not having a lot of friends) were more likely to be targeted by bullies. Kids who are bullied report lower grades in school, health complaints, anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. There were also reported incidents of substance abuse—namely nicotine use and alcohol consumption—among children who were bullied in response to the trauma they endured.

Studies link school shootings with victims of bullying, citing “12 of 15 school shooter cases had a history of being bullied.” In recent years, the connection between suicide in adolescents as a result of bullying has made headlines. Adults who have been bullied can experience similar symptoms, such as poor work function, stress, mental health issues, eating disorders and reduced social skills.

Effects Of Bullying For Bullies

Bullies are also impacted by bullying, but in different ways. In some cases, bullies are victims of parental abuse, neglect, and harm. In turn, bullies hurt others, as they have learned how to bully people from the comfort of their home. Children who bully others may not always be victims, but are more likely to abuse harmful substances, like drugs and alcohol which can lead to addiction. Furthermore, bullies are more likely to have an earlier onset of sexual activity, become criminals, earn more traffic citations, get into fights, drop out of school, and be abusive to loved ones.

Bullying, Mental Health, And Behavioral Health

Bullying breaks down someone’s self-esteem, distorts their self-image and triggers a host of behavioral and mental conditions. It produces an unstable and stressful environment for the victim. Feelings of anxiety and stress can disrupt the mental state of the victim and cause cortisol to be released in the body. According to the E3 Scholarship Fund, there are a distinct set of behaviors and effects bullying has on the mind, which include but are not limited to:

  • Insecurity
  • Low self-esteem
  • Resentment
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts

Other difficulties like low self-worth, hopelessness, isolation, and suicide can emerge in response to feeling such emotions. Depression, for example can bring about a drinking problem. Roughly 30% to 40% of people with an alcohol use disorder suffer major depressive disorders. As a result of such stressful and difficult emotions, someone who has been bullied may look for methods to self-medicate.

Bullies And Marijuana Use

A study mentioned the prevalence of drug use in bullies. “Only 1.6% of middle school students not involved in bullying reported marijuana use, while 11.4% of bullies used marijuana.” Similarly, “13.3% of high school students who were not bullied used marijuana, compared to 31.7% of bullies” who used marijuana.

Get Help For Bullying-Related Addiction Today

Substance abuse and bullying create distressing symptoms that can be lifelong. Children who abuse drugs are more likely to maintain a chemical dependency in their later years. If your child suffers from substance use disorders, or if a loved one battles addiction due to bullying, you may want to consider treatment options. A facility would screen patients for other possible underlying factors leading to substance abuse and provide needed counseling to get to the root of the problem. Don’t delay; start the steps towards treatment. Discover online therapy options here.