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Psychoses As A Continuum and Childhood Bullying: What about It?

According to an article by Cambridge University Press, the relationship between bullying and illness on the psychosis-continuum — including full blown psychosis, psychotic-like experiences, and its related syndromes/disorders like schizophrenia — have long been topics of study in social psychiatry. A number of studies have noted an association between being the victim of bullying and psychotic symptoms. In van Dam and his colleagues' meta-analysis, it suggests that being bullied in childhood (‘bullying victimization’) increases the risk of psychotic symptoms twofold in a dose-response fashion. Bullying is related to more persistent symptoms and further increased when victims of bullying are also perpetrators.

On a similar note, based on an analysis of almost 2600 British children questioned about bullying — such as saying nasty and hurtful things, kicking, pushing or shoving, and telling lies about the other — aged 12 and about psychotic symptoms aged 18, people bullied by their siblings during childhood are up to three times more likely to develop a psychotic illness. Eldest children are most likely bullies within families, with girls most likely to be victims. Parents often believe the behavior is normal and that their children will outgrow it eventually. However, researchers led by Warwick University say being bullied means there is no ‘safe space’ to escape the torment. For those bullied both at home and in school, their odds are four times as high.

Senior author Professor Dieter Wolke, from the from the University of Warwick’s Department of Psychology and Division of Mental Health & Wellbeing commented in the very article: “Bullying by siblings has been until recently widely ignored as a trauma that may lead to serious mental health problems such as psychotic disorder,” and mentioned that if “children spend substantial time with their siblings in the confinement of their family home and if bullied and excluded” can lead to “social defeat and self-blame and serious mental health disorder.”

The study, published in the journal Psychological Medicine, states that childhood trauma creates a lasting ‘cognitive vulnerability’ in the brain, with bullying found to make people more sensitive to stress. Furthermore, the researchers stated that ‘sibling aggression is the most common form of family violence’, it’s not something that can simply be perceived as normal behavior.

Parents should be aware of the long-term mental health consequences that sibling bullying may have and understand that interventions must be developed in order to reduce and even prevent this form of aggression within families.

If you are interested in what trauma does to the brain and body, I suggest reading “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk, a neurologist who has spent his professional life studying how children and adults adapt to traumatic experiences.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to seek help when you need it. It’s not a sign of weakness, simply a sign of how strong and resilient you are.

“If you’re hurting, don’t be afraid to seek the help you need! Speak to someone — it may just change your life.” - Demi Lovato



Emily Wang

My name is Emily and I'm an ordinary person who aspires to do something extraordinary. My hobbies include baking, reading, journaling, writing, and sometimes attempting new things. Most importantly, I believe that every person deserves to live with promise and hope. However there are still a lot of people that have to deal with bullying every single day, thus I want to change that. I want to be part of the solution, part of the change, and as Anne Frank once said, "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."

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