Bullying and Depression

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Bullying and depression are often related. Depression affects both bullies and their victims. Victims of cyber bullying may be at even higher risk for depression. Learn about bullying and depression and how you can help stop bullying.

Researchers have discovered a strong link between bullying and depression. Depression is an illness that is not totally understood, and may have a variety of causes, but it is clear that it can have a relationship to bullying. Both bullies and their victims are more likely to suffer from depression than youth who are not involved in bullying. This connection can be long-lasting; people who are bullied as children are more likely to suffer from depression as an adult than children not involved in bullying.

Depression can have a number of serious effects on a person’s life. The link between bullying and depression can also extend to other problems, like:

  • Low self esteem
  • Anxiety
  • High rates of school absence
  • Physical illness

Teens who commit suicide often suffer from depression. Experts hesitate to say that bullying is a direct cause of suicide, but it may be a factor in a teen’s depression.

The relationship between bullying and depression is not limited to face-to-face bullying. The Cyberbullying Research Center found that victims of cyber bullying were more likely to suffer from low self esteem and suicidal thoughts. They suggest further research needs to be done to see if low self esteem is a result of being cyber bullied or if it makes a person more likely to be a target of cyber bullying. A recent study by the US National Institutes of Health, reported by Reuters, found that victims of cyber bullying showed more signs of depression than other bullying victims. This may be because cyber bullying can be more relentless and more frightening or discouraging, especially if the bully is anonymous.

Parents, friends, and other concerned people should be on the lookout for signs of depression in children and teens, especially those who have been bullies or bully victims. Some signs of depression can include:

  • Long lasting sadness or irritability, including unexplained outbursts of crying or anger
  • Sudden loss of interest in activities the person usually enjoys
  • Withdrawal from others
  • Changes in sleep patterns, either sleeping a lot or not being able to sleep
  • Sudden changes in appetite or eating habits
  • Always feeling tired or slow
  • Being restless, anxious, or worried
  • Not being able to concentrate or think clearly
  • Feeling worthless, guilty, helpless, or hopeless
  • Aches and pains with no obvious physical cause
  • Thinking or talking about death or suicide, such as saying that the world would be better without them or that they wish that they were dead
  • Giving away prized possessions or saying good-bye to people can be sign of suicidal thoughts or intentions

If a person is suffering from depression, a visit to a doctor or counselor can start them on the road to recovery. If a person is having suicidal thoughts or has attempted suicide, this should be considered an emergency and the person should get immediate medical help from a doctor, by calling 9-1-1, or by going to the emergency room. There are also local and national suicide hotlines, such as 1-800-273-8255, that can help people who are having suicidal thoughts.


Beth J. Harpaz, MSNBC, “Bullying a Red Flag for Depression” [online]

S. Hinduja and J.W. Patchin, Cyberbullying Research Center, “Cyberbullying Research” [online]

Reuters, “Cyber-bullying Causes More Depression, Study Finds” [online]

MayoClinic, “Depression (Major Depression)” [online]

Stop Bullying Now! “All About Bullying: Why Should Adults Care?” [online]