Psychology of Bullying: How to deal with bullies?


Psychology of Bullying: How to deal with bullies?

[Contributors-Dr.Emily Stone(Relationship therapy expert), Silvi Saxena (Clinician)]

Life is not easy. It is sometimes tough. And some people are headed on to this planet with a life mission of making it tougher for others. Yes, we are talking about bullies.

In this article, ‘Psychology of Bullying: How to deal with bullies’, we shall look into several aspects regarding bullying behavior, psychology of bullies-why bullies behave the way they do? And also look into several ways to brace yourselves against the harm that others, especially bullies, are trying to inflict upon you.

What is Bullying?

Bullying is the abuse of power and is defined as aggressive behavior or intentional harm-doing by peers that is carried out repeatedly and it also involves an imbalance of power between the aggressor(bully) and victim.

Basically, bullying another person means harming and humiliating them either physically or mentally in ways that can hurt their (victim’s) self-esteem, confidence, and self-worth. These include taunting, hitting, calling names, social exclusion, and all sorts of abuse. It is tougher on the receiving end as it can severely affect mental and physical health too.

Bullying Behavior: Analysis of Stats, Gender, and Age vulnerability

According to Oxford Health, bullying victimization (i.e victims of bullying ) is associated with several health issues. In a longitudinal experimental study conducted on 2766 children from 32 Dutch elementary schools, it was demonstrated that 16% of them reported being bullied on a frequent basis and 5.5% of them reported active and enervating bullying. Coming to the bullied children, it was also found that nearly half of them did not share their experience of being bullied with their parents. An analysis of several studies across the world reveal that nearly 46% of children across the world are suffering from the harsh effects of bullying. We must note something important in this respect- bullying is not just confined to children, it is something everybody is facing on a regular basis irrespective of age, gender, and employability status.

Studies suggest that boys are more active bullies than girls. These bullies have their own way of dealing with things. Boys, for example, have straight way of being mean to others like punching, hitting, abusing, etc. while female bullies have a sadistic approach(social exclusion, spreading rumors, calling names, etc).

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Both bullying and being bullied takes a toll on one’s mental health

Being an active bully or a victim of bullying are both associated with increased risk of mental health problems. Victims are more prone to suffer from conditions like sleep troubles, head aches, stomach ache, depression, and even suicidal thoughts.  While victims are usually the ones suffering from low self-esteem, lower self-confidence, anxiety, etc. bullies are towards the other extreme end suffering from issues related to anger, aggression, violent behavior, etc.

According to a survey, bullying behavior (of bullies) is an indicator of violent, ant-social, and risk-taking behavior. Among 5074 adolescents 36.3% reported bullying behavior with 8.2% being identified as bullies, 19.3% as victims, and 8.7% as bully-victims(children who are bullied and who bully others). Male students were at a greater risk of being bullied, than girls. It was found that violent, anti-social behavior increased in all(bullies, victims, and bully-victims).

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Psychology of bullies: Why do bullies behave the way they do?

Bullies are not born, rather they are created. They are products of a harsh and violent environment possibly observed in the home and the only outlet of their pent-up aggression is to do the same towards other seemingly weaker prey. Through bullying, the bullies satisfy these weaknesses that they have. 

A lot of times there is a problem with the bully in how he or she processes emotions. Social-emotional regulation is critical for healthy interpersonal relationship development and intimate relationships in adulthood, but if that development is interrupted, it can manifest into something negative. When there is a disturbance in the natural development in emotional regulation, the interpretation of others emotions and feelings become skewed. When the intentions of others aren't clear, a healthy emotionally-stable child or adult will find ways to get clarity to figure it out as they go, whereas someone without a stable emotional foundation will react and lean into bullying tendencies.

Bullying behavior is a convergence of a few dynamics. Bullying is about identity. Bullying is about a lack of empathy. Empathy has two components: cognitive and affective. Cognitive empathy is when we can imagine what someone else might be THINKING. Affective empathy is when we can imagine what someone else might be FEELING. Empathy is developed through perspective taking that happens at home, in school, and in society. Empathy also develops when we can feel secure enough in our own self to be able to turn away from ourselves and think about someone else's situation.

How to deal with Bullying?

Bullying has a way of making you question yourself and make you feel isolated. You get to choose what is right for you. You get to choose what feels okay and what doesn't. You get to let other people know when they have crossed that line. They do not have to agree with you to honor your boundaries. 

It's really hard to deal with a bully no matter the age. There can be greater implications as adults in the workplace. It's important to remember their actions are a reflection of their inner world and any harm they caused to you was not something you deserved. It's important to speak up if you are in an unsafe situation and get help to feel safe. Not all bullies are the same-sometimes talking to someone about your issues can lead to a solution but it's important to keep in mind your physical and emotional safety before doing this.


Seek out supportive friends with whom you can talk and laugh. Find a therapist with whom you can process feelings, work on self-worth, and learn strategies for setting boundaries. Join a group of any kind where you can feel a sense of belonging. Try to express your emotions to someone you trust. If you are going through a really tough time, let your loved ones know about it. Don’t keep things to yourself. If things go out of line, do not be scared. Stay strong and take the right action with the help of others.


"As a mental health professional, it is beyond frustrating to see the current trends in anti-bullying programs. Too many ‘anti-bullying’ programs put their focus on the bully. They propose zero tolerance policies against bullying and require the victims to tell an adult immediately in the wake of any bullying behaviors. Though these plans are well-meaning, they only sensitize victims to the harms of bullying. They frame bullying as an awful event that they cannot manage alone, which creates dependence on others.

A better strategy is to encourage resilience and strength in the face of bullying by seeing bullies as weak and flawed people who prey on others. By emphasizing the victim’s response with positive self-talk and behavioral modifications that aim to extinguish bullying, the individual can control the situation," quoted mental health professional, Eric Patterson, LPC. 


One can be bullied for a myriad reasons. There is beauty in everything. And bullies are the ones that are blind and that’s the reason why they fail to observe the frabjous splendidness in others. Anybody can fall victim to bullying. It’s not your fault. Former President of USA, Barack Obama, revealed in an interview that he was bullied for his name, looks, and ears. “Usually people don’t see beyond the surface of things and cannot understand more other than the obvious; they are used to judging a book by its cover, and that is why they don’t hesitate to bully.” ― Maria Karvouni.


If you love yourself enough, no matter what others do or think of you, nothing can hurt you. If you are sure of yourself, nothing else matters. So, it is vital to build your confidence by working on yourself. Try to list out all positive- negative traits, strengths and drawbacks of yours. First of all, take a look at things that you admire about yourself, things that make you special and unique. Feel good about it. And then, take another glance at the negative ones. Take a while to ponder if something could be done. If yes, without any delay, give it a try. While some things can be set right, some others can’t be. Remember that flaws too are lovable. They are but a part of yourself and they too complement to your uniqueness. Most importantly, prioritize and love yourself the most.


Dealing with bullies is especially tougher if it’s done alone. For, nothing is invincible than the strength of having  supportive parents. Parents need to take action instead of just being light-minded about such things. For, it can have a dreadful and negative impact on your child’s emotions. Parents can make it easier for children by dedicating at least a fraction of time to their children. According to a self-assessment study, based on data from 1147 students aged 14-18, it was found that father involvement can protect the child from the psychosomatic effects of being bullied.

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Everything in life, happens for a reason. Remember that struggles makes you stronger and wounds makes you tougher. Nobody comes into your life without any purpose. As rightly stated by Chris Colfer, “When people hurt you over and over, think of them like sand paper; They may scratch and hurt you a bit, but in the end, you end up polished and they end up useless.”

I hope my article, ‘Psychology of bullying: How to deal with bullying?’ is of assistance. Subscribe to my newsletter and get all updates delivered straight into your inbox.

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