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Teens, PTSD, Anxiety, Depression Symptoms Linked to Bullying

by Ellen

The teenage years can be a challenging time for both teens and parents. Teenagers are going through many trials, and parents need to be sure that changes in their child’s mental health does not go undetected.  

A common situation many teens face is bullying. One out of every five (20.2%) students report being bullied (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2019 ). Every seven minutes, a child gets bullied. According to Bullying Statistics, 77% of students experience bullying in some form: mental, verbal, or physical. These are some eye-opening statistics. It is important to know that bullying affects mental health and can lead to PTSD, Anxiety, Depression, and thoughts of suicide.  

The signs of bullying and the symptoms of these mental health issues are related. Fairmount Behavioral Health Systems of Philadelphia links anxiety, depression, and thoughts of self-harm with children who internalize being bullied.  

Who Suffers?

It is also not just the victim of bullying that may need mental health support. Bullying and being bullied has been found, in a 2007 study, to result in a greater risk of adult mental disorders. The disorders suffered tended to be either an anxiety disorder or antisocial personality disorder, states John M. Grohol, Psy.D., founder of Psych Central.

Research has found that both bullies and their victims suffer from suicidal thoughts more than 3 times as often as other children ( These are serious issues and sadly children often do not tell anyone when they are bullied, or about changes in their mood, thoughts, or behavior.

It is helpful for parents to understand the symptoms of these disorders and also the signs of bullying. The faster a parent can detect that there is a problem, the quicker they can get their teen the help they need.  

Symptoms of PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders, and mood disorders — such as major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder — have distinct symptoms, but they overlap significantly. Researchers found that certain features of brain activity were consistent across mood disorders, PTSD, and anxiety disorders (Medical News Today). Having a handle on the various symptoms will help you to discover if your child needs help.

Bullying can lead to PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). PTSD disorder is a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event.

People with PTSD have intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to their experiences that last long after the traumatic event has ended. They may relive the event through flashbacks or nightmares; they may feel sadness, fear or anger; and they may feel detached or estranged from other people.

Symptoms of Anxiety

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry reports that anxiety disorders vary from teenager to teenager. Symptoms generally include restlessness, worry, fear, nervousness, and withdrawing from social interactions. Teens may seem either overly restrained or overly emotional. Teenagers may suffer from physical symptoms ranging from muscle tension and cramps to stomachaches, headaches, pain in the limbs and back, fatigue, or discomforts associated with pubertal changes. They may blotch, flush, sweat, hyperventilate, tremble, and startle easily.

Symptoms of Depression

The Mayo Clinic lists multiple symptoms of depression. These include irritability, feelings of sadness, anger, and hopelessness. Teens may show a loss of interest in people, activities, and social pleasures. Low self-esteem, excessive self-criticism, and self-blame, sensitivity to rejection, a great need for reassurance, trouble concentrating, and making decisions are all signs of depression.

Depression also causes sleep issues, changes in appetite, and slowed thought, movement, and speech. Parents may also notice teens lack of care for self appearance and hygiene, a decline in their teen’s schoolwork, social isolation, self harmーlike cutting and burningーor emotional outbursts. Depressed teens may also have suicide plans or make attempts to take their own life.

Signs of Bullying

Along with changing mental health symptoms parents can lookout for signs of bullying. Bullying is linked to a variety of mental health issues, and if you catch the signs of bullying, you may be able to stop a problem before it starts.

Stomp Out Bullying urges parents to keep an eye out for unexplainable injuries or destroyed property (books, clothes, electronics). Parents should be aware if their teen has frequent stomach or headaches, feels sick, or fakes illness. Other signs of bullying are changes in eating habits, sleep issuesー including nightmares, declining grades, loss of friends, avoiding social situations, feelings of hopelessness, and self-harm.  

Is My Child a Bully?

Some other things to think about are signs that your teen is bullying others. These signs, provided by Stomp Out Bullying, include getting into physical and verbal fights, having friends that bully, increasing aggression, or having frequent detentions or problems at school. If parents notice unexplained extra money or belongings, or see their teen blaming others for their problems, not accepting responsibility for their actions, or being competitive and worrying about their popularity they should take note.

How to Address Bullying

If you think your teen is bullying others or has been bullied, it is important to talk to them about how they are feeling and what they are experiencing. Stomp Out Bullying emphasizes the importance of taking seriously the belief that the bullying will get worse if the bully finds out that your child told or if threats of physical harm are involved. Approaching the bully’s parents could be helpful. Stomp Out Bullying suggests having a school official mediate the discussion. They say teachers or counselors are the best ones to contact first. 

There are anti-bullying policies in most schools, and many states have laws and policies regarding bullying. Find out about your community’s laws and contact legal authorities if you have concerns about your child’s safety.  

 Parents and their teens have a lot to face in the process of raising a young adult. As you can see, there are similar signs and symptoms of being bullied and having PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Staying informed and understanding the difference between teen angst and actual mental health issues will help you get the support your teen needs. 

Ellen Carey is a freelance writer and beauty blogger.  She writes blog posts, scripts, social media, and website copy along with video production services.  She is currently working on a novel.  Visit her site at   *


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