The emotional effects of bullying are the most difficult to see and can often be the longest lasting. When a child is bullied and suffers from chronic stress, he becomes unable to relax and can eventually suffer from emotional burnout. This means your child internalizes his anger and sadness and, over time, becomes increasingly socially dysfunctional and isolated from his peers. The more isolated he becomes, the greater chance of the bullying continuing and even intensifying.
Bullied kids experience inner turmoil and emotional angst on a daily basis. Try to put yourself in a bullied child's shoes. Imagine that every day you must go to a place where everyone picks on you, is mean to you, and says and does hurtful and humiliating things to you. Imagine that you have no control over it and that it makes you feel like a colossal failure every single day.
According to a 2007 report in Science Daily, researchers from Penn State confirmed that children exposed to one-time bullying episodes might experience a spike in cortisol (the stress hormone) levels, whereas chronic exposure to bullying is associated with hypocortisol (lower than normal levels). Hypocortisol can have a numbing effect that might make a child more likely to take his own life or strike out against others.
School is, in essence, a child's job; imagine having to go to work every day knowing that you are failing at your job, that you aren't wanted, and that people want you to quit. It sounds downright awful, doesn't it? It's no wonder bullied kids suffer from these emotional aftereffects:
Moody, sullen, and withdrawn
Depressed, distressed, and irritable
Unexplained explosive outbursts
Acting in a way that is different from his normal behavior
Overly emotional, anxious, sad, or secretive
Verbally beats himself up (“I'm an idiot.” “I'm a loser.” “I suck.”)
Suddenly obsessed with personal safety issues
Shows warning signs of suicide (talking about death, saying he wishes he were dead, giving away his possessions, not caring about anything, or a sudden change to cheerful, which could mean he has made the decision to end his life and is happy about it)
Over time, these emotional effects of bullying can impede a child's normal emotional development. A child can become unable to establish and maintain appropriate social and interpersonal relationships with his peers. He may develop full-blown depression or an anxiety disorder.
Children tend to blame themselves when they have been bullied. When a child succumbs to self-blame, it can lead to decreased self-esteem and confidence, which will eventually lead to a loss of self-worth. Once a child feels helpless and hopeless, he may turn to suicide as a way out. Parents need to be aware of the progression of this emotional down cycle; it can be prevented with the proper support and intervention.