Written by Lucy Donoughue

Lucy Donoughue

Counselling Directory Content Team

Last updated on 8th November, 2018

What is bullying?

Bullying can be defined as repeated and unwanted behaviour with the intent to hurt another person, physically or emotionally. It can take many forms, including verbal threats, physical assault, calling names, gossiping and cyberbullying.

The legal definition of bullying which specifically relates to someone’s age, sex, disability, gender identity, race, religion or belief, pregnancy and maternity or marriage, is harassment. This is against the law - find information on how to report this bullying and protect yourself from further harassment.

Counselling for bullying

Whether you are currently being bullied, have been bullied in the past or are affected by it in another way, many people find counselling helpful. A therapist can help you explore what is happening and your options and responses, in private and without judgement.

Bullying may have affected you at an earlier time in your life, but it may have been a factor in developing other issues such as anxiety, depression or low self-esteem.

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By Marilyn McKenzie BSc, PGDip, MBACP, listed counsellor/therapist

Types of bullying

Verbal bullying - This includes calling someone unpleasant names, verbally attacking their appearance or threatening them with physical violence. 

Physical bullying - Physically hurting someone by purposely hitting, kicking, punching, scratching to cause pain. 

Indirect bullying - Ignoring someone, leaving them out of plans, gossiping or spreading rumours behind their backs or visually attacking them eg threatening looks.

Cyberbullying - Including sexting (unwanted texts of a sexual nature), hacking social media accounts, instant messages, text messages, emails and posts that belittle, hurt or abuse you. Social networking can bring people together, but it can enable bullies to target their victims' homes or places of work.

While this type of bullying is more often used by those of school age, bullying online isn’t something that affects only young people and children. For adults, it can exist in the workplace and on personal and professional social media accounts (otherwise known as trolling). Visit our cyberbullying hub for more information.

Experiencing sustained bullying has a serious effect on the mental well-being of its victims. Individuals can become depressed, withdrawn, angry, anxious, or experience insomnia; it can even lead to suicidal thoughts. The first step on the road to recovery is not to suffer in silence, as anonymity is a bully’s greatest defence.

Recovering from the emotional damage bullying causes can take time. Victims may carry a sense of shame, anger or anxiety. Counselling and talking therapies can offer a safe, non-judgemental environment to talk through feelings, process what has happened and start to heal the psychological scars left behind.

- Listed counsellor/therapist.

Helping others

It may be that you suspect a friend, loved one or colleague is being bullied or is on the receiving end of cyberbullying and you would like to offer support. A person being bullied may need an ally and to know that they don’t have to suffer in silence.

To help you support them, Counselling Directory has a wide range of information including advice on spotting the signs of bullying, advice for teachers, parents, information around bullying at work for employers, as well as guides to staying safe online and further information on cyberbullying

There are a number of other charities that you can signpost people to and receive support from. Childline and Kidscape can support young people experiencing bullying, the Anti Bullying Alliance offers a wide range of information and a helpline, while Action on Elder Abuse works to prevent bullying and to protect vulnerable adults.

You can also call The Samaritans, 24 hours a day on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org. Alternatively, you can text 'SHOUT' to 85258 for free, confidential support via text message 24/7.

You are not alone, help is available now.

Being bullied can be an isolating experience, but in reality, one in two of us are affected by it. Hearing not only people's experiences of bullying but how they got through it, can really help. Visit our Wall of Hope to hear some kind messages from strangers.

We have over 13,000 professional counsellors and therapists who can help you overcome bullying. Search for a local counsellor.

Amanda Perl MSc Psychotherapist Counsellor BACP (Accredited) CBT Practitioner

“So how do you move forward and heal? Learning assertiveness skills, entering into therapy in order to have your experience witnessed, validated and affirmed, acceptance and approval of yourself in order to build your inner strength will not only protect you from further attack, it is the key to healing.

From there, you will regain your footing. Clarity, strength, resilience and strategic tools will rebuild your dignity. Your feet will touch back down and you will find yourself firmly on solid ground.”

Bullying advice

Page last reviewed: 08/11/18

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