When there is something unusual or different happening in the life of a child, it usually shows up as a physical red flag. For example, a child who experiences a death in the family might have insomnia, bed wetting, or night terrors. A child who has parents going through a divorce might have stomach aches and headaches that send him to the school nurse every day.
Bullying causes great physical stress on a child; it sends his nervous system into a constant flight-or-flight state. If your child is being bullied, his mind senses the acute threat and sends his body into overdrive. He may experience:
Increased heart rate
Increased respiration rate
Increased metabolism (for increased energy)
Kidney and digestive systems temporarily shut down
Sweat glands open to cool his overworked system
Endorphins are released (the body's natural pain relievers)
Normal judgment is impaired and primitive responses take over
Historically, the fight-or-flight response was necessary for survival. If the body wasn't instantly prepared to either stand and fight or flee the enemy, death might result. Today, the stakes aren't nearly so high, yet the body still activates the state of hyper arousal to even a low-level threat.
Unfortunately, this can take a toll on your child's body. Continued stress with prolonged arousal can compromise a child's immune system and leave him vulnerable to infection by bacteria and viruses.
Continued stress can also cause:
Loss of or increase in appetite
Sleep disorders (insomnia, nightmares, night terrors, bed wetting)
Psychosomatic illness (stress can literally be expressed as phantom pain or illness)
Stress-induced headaches and stomach aches
Nervous habits (nail biting, knuckle cracking, pulling out hair) and/or tics
Psychological problems (anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder)
Chronically bullied kids don't look or behave the same as normal children. When a child is hurting, it affects his entire being. It is reflected in his eyes, expression, tone of voice, posture, and overall attitude. Add in the physical injuries they may sustain (cuts, scratches, bruises, black eyes, bloody lips, etc), and victims are fairly easy to identify.