Beware: Adult bullying not good for your health

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LOW-KEY BULLYING: You may not hear a lot about adult bullying, but it is a problem. IMAGE BY Network Counselling & Training

Adult bullying occurs in various ways – in the form of an intimidating boss or colleague, a pushy salesperson, a controlling lover, friend, family member, rowdy neighbour or an online abuser.


We often hear stories about bullying occurring at schools or to young people.

Adults can be bullied too and can have a real health hazards to the victims.

We are forced in one point of our lives to face other people who pick on us, tease us and make our lives extremely difficult.

Experts say people who are bullies in childhood often continue to be bullies as adults.

The victims of adult bullying may find little or no sympathy from other people.

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As upsetting as it can be, adult bullying can have a real impact on the physical and emotional health of those who are being bullied.

It could lead to sleep loss, headaches, muscle pain, anxiety and even depression as the aggressive abuser continues to bully them.

“There can be significant, long-term detrimental effects,” notes Dr. Charles Sophy, a psychiatrist.

Over time, “the stress from bullying can trickle into thyroid problems, gastrointestinal problems, elevated blood pressure, mood disorders, self-harming behaviour and eating disorders,” among other health conditions, Sophy said.

How does one deal with adult bullying?

1.)  Keep Safe

If you don’t feel comfortable with a situation, leave or seek help and support if necessary. You can as well contact the cops, emergency hotline or social bodies dealing with bullying and other related matters.

2.)  Keep Your Distance and Keep Your Options Open

Keep a healthy distance and avoid engagement unless you absolutely have to. There are times when you may feel like you’re “stuck” with a very difficult person, and there’s “no way out.” In these situations, think outside the box. Consult with trusted friends and advisors about different courses of action, with your personal well-being as the number one priority.

3.) Keep Your Cool and Avoid Being Reactive

A common characteristic of bullies is that they project their aggression to push your buttons and keep you off balance. By doing so, they create an advantage from which they can exploit your weaknesses.

If you are required to deal with an adult bully, one of the most important rules of thumb is to keep your cool. The less reactive you are to provocations, the more you can use your better judgment to handle the situation.

4.)  Know Your Fundamental Human Rights

A crucial idea to keep in mind when you’re dealing with an adult bully is to know your rights, and recognize when they’re being violated.

As long as you do not harm others, you have the right to stand-up for yourself and defend your rights. On the other hand, if you bring harm to others, you may forfeit these rights.  

For help and support contact the South African Depression and Anxiety Group on 0800 12 13 14.

(edited by NN)

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