Signs of Bullying

Signs of Bullying

Have you ever felt like you were being unfairly singled out or that someone else was unfairly singled out or scrutinised? Interpersonal interaction can be a nightmare! We all want to get on with everyone, however, work/sport/personal/family interactions can often turn into a breeding ground for fallouts, passive-aggressive behaviour, and sometimes all-out bullying—something you thought you’d left in the playground all those years ago!


And it’s more common than you might think… A survey by the Workforce Bullying Institute found 27% of respondents had direct experience with abusive conduct at work, either past or present.  


Bullying can occur at any age, at any time in your life. Taking place at school, university, work, home, or anywhere you have an internet connection, bullying can have a huge impact on an individual’s self-esteem, confidence, mental health and well-being, making many feel isolated or as though no one is on their side.


Defined as repeated behaviour performed with the intent to hurt another person physically or emotionally and can take many forms. Ranging from verbal threats to physical assault, name calling to gossiping, cyberstalking and cyberbullying, any repeated behaviour that is making someone feel unhappy, isolated, or bad about themselves can fall under the category of bullying.


Obviously some signs can be harder to spot than others. Bullied individuals may keep their worries and experiences to themselves. Others may try to brush events off as harmless jokes and banter or may feel overwhelmed and unable to turn to others. Each person is unique and may react differently. There’s no set list of behaviours someone will exhibit. But how do we know if we or other are being bullied or if it the behaviour is in the realms of what is acceptable behaviour?


Signs of you being bullied include:

  • Being outcast, alienated, ignored, or excluded,
  • Decisions you make being called into question
  • Being blocked from training opportunities and promotions
  • Criticism
  • People invading personal space
  • People trying to cause sensory pain: shouting, showing graphic content, trying to irritate an injury
  • Gossiping
  • Gaslighting


There is a good chance that we experience these at some point in our lives but it does not mean necessarily that we are being bullied. So in regard to this and the question; is this behaviour bullying or not? Bullying is about ongoing intimidating behaviour with the aim of causing harm.


Ongoing bullying can significantly impact a person’s wellbeing, mental health and functioning. In many people, the impact of bullying can be commonly seen in individuals through social anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and self-harm. Certainly in my experience, bully can cause trauma-like reactions. Trauma reactions predominately can be seen through avoidance, hypervigilance and intrusive memories. So those that are bullied may dread going to work everyday (avoidance), feel as if they are walking on egg shells or feel unsafe (hypervigilance) and/or may play over certain events over in their mind when they were ridiculed and yelled at (intrusive memories).


So it is important that if you are worried that a friend or colleague (or even yourself) may be experiencing bullying, there are a number of signs and behaviours you can keep an eye out for.

These can include:

  • Loss of interest in going to school/work
  • Doing poorly in school/work
  • Changes in Sleeping and Eating Patterns:
  • Loss of interest in food or eating less than before
  • Skips meals
  • Bingeing or stress eating
  • Having trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Experiences frequent nightmares
  • Shows little interest in spending time with others
  • Avoids social situations they normally would have enjoyed
  • Increased tiredness
  • Keeping things to themselves
  • Sudden or unexplained changes in attitude
  • Becoming irritable, snappy or short-tempered
  • An increase in sick days, time off, or cancelled plans
  • Frequent headaches
  • Feeling nauseous
  • Loss of confidence
  • Increased feelings of nervousness
  • A lack of motivation
  • Decreased interest in work, hobbies, or socialising


So if you’re concerned about someone who you think may be bullied and even for yourself, or that you perhaps have noticed these changes, it maybe an indication that something is going on. The best way to know is to talk with them regularly about their work/school and friends. By talking about these issues, it helps gain a better perspective on the situation and perhaps how to deal with it in a healthier and constructive manner or that perhaps more professional assistance maybe required to deal with the situation.

Darren West

Darren is a Psychologist who enjoys working with adolescents and adults on a wide range of presenting concerns including; depression and anxiety, grief and loss, parenting skills, family issues, trauma/PTSD, sleep hygiene, guilt and shame, anger management, drug and alcohol issues and phobias.