Long term effects of childhood bullying


Childhood bullying shown to increase likelihood of psychotic experiences in later life

New research has shown that being exposed to bullying during childhood will lead to an increased risk of psychotic experiences in adulthood, regardless of whether they are victims or perpetrators.

The study assessed a cohort of UK children (ALSPAC) from birth to fully understand the extent of bullying on psychosis in later life – with some groups showing to be almost five times more likely to suffer from episodes at the age of 18.

The analysis, led by researchers from the University of Warwick, in association with colleagues at the University of Bristol, shows that victims, perpetrators and those who are both bullies and victims (bully-victims), are at an increased risk of developing psychotic experiences.

Even when controlling for external factors such as family factors or pre-existing behaviour problems, the study found that not only those children who were bullied over a number of years (chronic victims), but also the bullies themselves in primary school were up to four and a half times more likely to have suffered from psychotic experiences by the age of 18. Equally concerning is that those children who only experienced bullying for brief periods (e.g. at 8 or 10 years of age) were at increased risk for psychotic experiences.

The term ‘psychotic experiences’ covers a range of experiences, from hearing voices and seeing things that are not there to paranoia. These experiences, if persistent, are highly distressing and disruptive to everyday life. They are diagnosed by GPs or psychiatrists as “psychotic disorders” such as schizophrenia . Exact diagnosis is difficult and requires careful assessment as in this study.

Professor Dieter Wolke of the University of Warwick explained, “We want to eradicate the myth that bullying at a young age could be viewed as a harmless rite of passage that everyone goes through – it casts a long shadow over a person’s life and can have serious consequences for mental health”

“These numbers show exactly how much childhood bullying can impact on psychosis in adult life. It strengthens on the evidence base that reducing bullying in childhood could substantially reduce mental health problems. The benefit to society would be huge, but of course, the greatest benefit would be to the individual.”

Wolke’s team have previously looked at the impact of bullying on psychotic symptoms in 12 year olds, and there have been a range of short term studies that confirm the relation between being a victim of bullying and psychotic symptoms. This study, however, is the first to report the long term impact of being involved in bullying during childhood – whether victim, bully or bully-victim – on psychotic experiences in late adolescence or adulthood.

Professor Wolke added, “The results show that interventions against bullying should start early, in primary school, to prevent long term serious effects on children’s mental health. This clearly isn’t something that can wait until secondary school to be resolved; the damage may already have been done.”

View the full paper “Bullying in elementary school and psychotic experiences at 18 years: a longitudinal, population-based cohort study” free for a limited time here.


4 Responses to Long term effects of childhood bullying

  1. Paul says:

    I take sublingual b vitamin pills and drink a liter or 2 of gatorade everyday. I also eat (every night) either pan fried filet mignon shnitzel, or oven baked wild alaskan salmon. Every morning I eat 4 or 5 slices of french toast, oozing with Canadian Maple Syrup.

    Of course, I also guzzle 1 or 2 (home made) soy latte’s with my french toast, and I have 200 ml of vermouth or 2 shots of vodka with dinner (every day). I average 6 latte’s a day and 1 gram of premium medical cannabis every day (to keep up that appetite for all those carbs and protein). Other than those food categories, I only eat (lightly) pan fried zuchini, brocccoli, and asparagus. Oh and other than those drinks, I have water.

    So, I suppose I’m living sort-of healthy?

  2. Rosemary Jones says:

    Could this sort of research include all the known variables ?

    Bullying is rarely non-physical, therefore there is probability the victims cerebrospinal fluid will be disturbed by head hitting, even the possibility of vertebral damage to neck arteries making brain oxygen deficits – hence a predisposiyion for psychosis later on.

    The bullies are also likely to have learned bullying from first hand experience at home or early schooling, which means they too have cerebral physical damage..

    It must be time for the less scientific to get more scientific, and the more scientific to read up on sociology ?

  3. Paul says:

    Damm, I got bullied for years, and I got lots if the other risk factors (except for a definitive occcurance of psychosis in my family, although my grandma maybe had psychotic depression).

    I may be living “across the pond”, but if any of you are curious (for the sake of an objective, live account during this rare transition period) I may be experiencing a conversion from the “prodromal phase” to actual psychosis. Cannabis and alcohol sure do consistently induce 3D (but not fully opaque) visual hallucinations (especially if I also had coffee).

    • Rosemary Jones says:

      Psychosis is contained and alleviated by dopamine inhibitors (antipsychotics) because any form of brain stress causes excess dopamine production, which in turn causes disruptive thinking.

      The causes of stress include physical head damage, which often accompanies bullying, and which can include neck damage and consequent a neck artery flow problem leading to one quarter less oxygen (and brain nutrients) reaching the brain.

      Causes also include disease and inflammation, which is why so many so called schizophrenics are better whilst taking antibiotics, and cognition overuse, such as during bereavement or when taking enhancers like cannabis and cocaine, without the necessary oxygen and nutrient backup.

      Why excess dopamine ? Because it ensures the basic functions continue, and regardless of what that does to the more recently evolved functions – cognition and language.

      It is possible to avoid psychosis by taking the dopamine suppressors (antipsychotics) and it is wise to find out what is causing the excess dopamine production in the first place, and for that you probably need some tests including scanning and neck x-rays.

      The psychological nightmare consequent on being bullied, including flashbacks, may be dealt with by dehypnosis therapy, whereby your responses to the past originating fears are discarded.

      The psychosis I experienced was a consequence of a head impact injury affecting my neck but which which did not affect a neck artery, and which is mostly gone due to expert cranial osteopathy. Unfortunately, the head impact has put my upper spine out of kilt, and there are many physical problems from not having a fully functional nerve supply to my lower face.

      Because of that head>neck injury, I still ‘hear’ voices and ‘see’ weird things when I am very tired, or when I am not taking enough additional brain nutrients – vitamins and especially certain minerals.

      Please focus on what you are doing to maintain optimum brain functioning, and, if that is not enough, please find a therapist to help you be free of the effects of the earlier fears.

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