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Miles Gomez
Miles Gomez

Cyberbullying Can Lead To Substance Abuse, Mental Health Issues


Objective: To examine sex differences in the association between cyberbullying victimization and mental health (psychological distress and delinquency), substance use-related outcomes (drug and tobacco use, binge drinking), and suicide ideation among adolescents.




Cyberbullying Can Lead to Substance Abuse, Mental Health Issues



Conclusion: Adolescents exposed to cyberbullying victimization demonstrate an increased odds of poorer mental health, substance use outcomes, and suicide ideation. The current study reveals increased risk among female adolescents as compared with male adolescents. These findings lend support for the need to develop and evaluate targeted preventative interventions specifically tailored for female and male adolescents.


The psychological effects of bullying include depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, self-harming behavior (especially for girls), alcohol and drug use and dependence, aggression, and involvement in violence or crime (especially for boys). While bullying can lead to mental health problems for any child, those who already have mental health difficulties are even more likely to be bullied and to experience its negative effects.


What is cyberbullying?The role of social media in cyberbullyingThe mental health of cyberbulliesSimilarities and differences to conventional bullyingPreventing and lessening the psychological harm of cyberbullyingReferences Further reading


Cyberbullying is bullying with the use of electronic devices and is prone to causing mental health issues such as depression and anxiety for both the victim and perpetrator. Cyberbullying can come in many forms, such as texting derogatory messages, sending threatening e-mails, forwarding confidential pictures or messages, or posting on social media forums, and can become just as serious as traditional bullying.


Embarressment over the issue can lead to people hiding online bullying from their friends and family in real life, further fuelling feelings of isolation, depression, and anxiety. A lack of awareness and support can also create a barrier for the victims to open up about their problems and lead to unstable mental health.


Evidence shows that the constant and pervasive nature of cyberbullying frequently leads to more detrimental outcomes for victims than traditional bullying, particularly depression symptoms. Given this correlation, it has been speculated that the mental health effects of cyberbullying on the perpetrator could differ from that imposed on traditional bullies.


Rates of stress, depression, and anxiety are higher amongst students involved in cyberbullying than those not, with Ybarra and Mitchell (2004) reporting that of those who cyberbullied, 39% dropped out of school, 37% showed delinquent behavior, 32% engaged in frequent substance abuse, and 16% were severely depressed. Other studies suggest that depression rates are lower amongst cyberbullies than traditional bullies, though, as mentioned, the two groups often strongly overlap.


School counselors and mental health professionals working in the education sector play a vital role in helping students suffering from psychological symptoms due to cyberbullying. It is essential to educate the students and parents about cyberbullying and psychological symptoms to know how to report the bully or handle the issue when they encounter such circumstances.


People involved in bullying as bullies or victims seem to possess poor attachment towards parents and high rejection of peers. Seeking counseling or therapy can help with psychological problems and improve the coping mechanism. Empathy training, communication, and social skills can help the individual cope with the trauma. Interventions like group counseling, role-playing, group projects, discussion, and lectures have a very strong effect on preventing cyberbullying and helping with the mental health of the victims.


Cyberbullying can contribute to many mental health problems, putting young people at higher risk of anxiety and depression. Those who experience cyberbullying are also at higher risk of engaging in self-harm and experiencing suicidal thoughts.


The study included more than 20,000 adolescents in Wisconsin who were asked about their experiences with face-to-face bullying and cyberbullying, and mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, self-harm, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.


The link between cyberbullying and these problems was more common among teens who ate fewer meals with their families. The findings suggest that regular family contact and communication may help protect teens against some of the harmful mental health effects of cyberbullying, according to the researchers.


Even without a physical component, cyberbullying has a significant negative impact on teens. It causes distress and can exacerbate symptoms of teen anxiety, teen depression, and teen isolation. Moreover, cyberbullying has led to several highly publicized teen suicides. These are critical concerns during a time when an unprecedented number of adolescents are struggling with their mental health.


Online harassment does significant psychological and emotional damage. Research shows that adolescents who experience cyberbullying are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, loneliness, suicidal behavior, and physical symptoms triggered by mental health issues. Moreover, young people who perpetrate cyberbullying have higher rates of substance use, aggression, and delinquent behaviors.


Teen cyberbullying and social media harassment can trigger or exacerbate adolescent mental health issues. If teens are experiencing suicidal thoughts or other symptoms of depression or anxiety, treatment with a mental health professional is essential.


Bullying has been linked to various mental health disorders in children and adults, including eating disorders. People who have been bullied often experience anxiety, insecurity, and low self-esteem. These feelings can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as binge eating or purging.


Results: A total of 33 eligible articles from 26 independent studies were included, covering a population of 156,384 children and young people. A total of 25 articles (20 independent studies, n=115,056) identified associations (negative influences) between cybervictimization and self-harm or suicidal behaviors or between perpetrating cyberbullying and suicidal behaviors. Three additional studies, in which the cyberbullying, self-harm, or suicidal behaviors measures had been combined with other measures (such as traditional bullying and mental health problems), also showed negative influences (n=44,526). A total of 5 studies showed no significant associations (n=5646). Meta-analyses, producing odds ratios (ORs) as a summary measure of effect size (eg, ratio of the odds of cyber victims who have experienced SH vs nonvictims who have experienced SH), showed that, compared with nonvictims, those who have experienced cybervictimization were OR 2.35 (95% CI 1.65-3.34) times as likely to self-harm, OR 2.10 (95% CI 1.73-2.55) times as likely to exhibit suicidal behaviors, OR 2.57 (95% CI 1.69-3.90) times more likely to attempt suicide, and OR 2.15 (95% CI 1.70-2.71) times more likely to have suicidal thoughts. Cyberbullying perpetrators were OR 1.21 (95% CI 1.02-1.44) times more likely to exhibit suicidal behaviors and OR 1.23 (95% CI 1.10-1.37) times more likely to experience suicidal ideation than nonperpetrators.


All adverse childhood experiences, typically defined as stressful or traumatic life events that occur during the first years of life, are pervasive and notable public health problems [9]. Cyberbullying should also be considered as a cause for new onset psychological symptoms, somatic symptoms of unclear etiology or a drop in academic performance [1]. Victims of cyberbullying have lower self-esteem, higher levels of depression, behavioral problems, substance abuse and experience significant life challenges [2, 5]. Moreover, bullying victimization may trigger a sequence of events that results in suicidal behavior; Ferrara et al. identified in Italy 55 cases of suicide among children and young adults


These two issues are also likely to lead to depression among females more so than males. Females who struggle with depression and who are bullied are most likely to abuse various substances. They are more likely to struggle with co-occurring disorders, which is when a mental health disorder appears at the same time as a substance use disorder (SUD).


Prejudicial bullying happens when a person is bullied based on prejudices. The person being bullied is being bullied for their race, religion or sexual orientation. The bully may engage in cyberbullying, verbal abuse, relational abuse, physical abuse and even sexual abuse. This type of bullying can lead to hate crimes.


If you know someone who has been bullied, keep an eye on their actions. They may abuse alcohol or drugs to cope with their situation. As their addiction worsens, their mental health will further spiral out of control. If you find out that the bullied victim is struggling with a substance use disorder, get them help immediately.


Both bullying and substance abuse can cause chronic health issues. Counseling and therapy is often recommended. Both of these treatment options can heal the side effects of bullying and substance abuse. Healing one will help heal the other.


Amanda Marinelli is a Board Certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP-BC) with over 10 years of experience in the field of mental health and substance abuse. Amanda completed her Doctor of Nursing Practice and Post Masters Certification in Psychiatry at Florida Atlantic University. She is a current member of the Golden Key International Honor Society and the Delta Epsilon Iota Honor Society.


While bullying can leave your child with physical bruises that will eventually heal, bullying can also result in long-term behavioral health issues. Children that experience verbal and physical bullying are at a greater risk of developing depression than children who do not experience bullying. In fact, one study finds that the consequences of childhood bullying, including depression, can persist even 40 years after the bullying occurred. Depression that results from bullying can cause a wide range of symptoms, and in extreme circumstances, bullying-induced depression can lead to suicide.


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