Long-Term Effects of Being Bullied
The long-term consequences of being a victim also vary greatly from person to person. Most victims of bullying, who have the proper support systems, will survive the experience and go on to lead normal and productive lives. Others may not fare quite so well. Research has shown that it is not necessary to be physically harmed to suffer lasting damage.
Black eyes and broken arms hurt, but only temporarily. The physical wounds will heal; it's far more difficult to heal the damage that can be done from years of emotional and psychological abuse. Repeatedly being told that you are worthless, incompetent, and a loser can take its toll, until one day you internalize it and believe that you are a worthless, incompetent loser.
Once a child believes that he is a loser, he will begin to self-sabotage. He will no longer try to change his situation for the better. It's a phenomenon called “learned helplessness.” Learned helplessness is a psychological term that means once a child has come to believe that nothing he does will change his situation (even if it isn't true), he will no longer try. He has learned that he is helpless and will simply accept his fate. Learned helplessness can lead to hopelessness, depression, and in some cases, suicide.
Some common long-term effects victims of bullying may experience include chronic low self-esteem, difficulty with interpersonal relationships, avoidance of social interactions and new or unfamiliar situations, difficulty trusting people, reduced occupational opportunities, residual feelings of anger and bitterness, or continued bullying and victimization.
Being labeled an outcast and an outsider can shake the confidence of even the most self-assured youngster. And that's because much of what passes as confidence and self-assurance is actually a reflection of the positive reinforcement he receives. When people around him reinforce his belief that he is a good, worthy, and desirable person, he believes it. On the other hand, if people are telling him that he is stupid, cowardly, and no good; eventually he will believe that.
Long-term shortfalls of self-esteem can cause deficits in every area of a child's life. And long-term isolation and lack of positive peer interaction can cause difficulties in establishing and maintaining healthy adult intimate relationships.