Understanding How Bullying Creates Anxiety in Kids and Teens

Photo of redheaded teen in a school hallway about to hit a younger African American boy. Photo could represent the anxiety this younger boy feel due to bullying and the need for online solution focused brief therapy in Illinois and Florida.

Bullying has become an all too familiar issue that affects the well-being and mental health of children and teenagers. It often goes unnoticed or downplayed, yet its effects can be long-lasting. One of the most harmful aspects of bullying is the development of anxiety in kids and teens.

In this blog post, I’ll explore the different forms of bullying, signs of potential bullying, how bullying can breed anxiety and discuss what parents can do to support their children.

What is Bullying and What are the Different Forms?

Bullying is defined as repeated aggressive behavior with intent to cause harm, imbalance of power, and a perceived threat to the victim.

It can occur in various forms and settings, including schools, workplaces, and online platforms.

Here are the most common forms of bullying:

Verbal bullying

Verbal bullying involves using words to attack or hurt someone, such as name-calling, teasing, taunting, or making offensive remarks.

Physical bullying

This type of bullying involves physical aggression, such as hitting, kicking, pushing, or any other form of physical harm inflicted upon the victim.

Relational bullying

Also known as social bullying, this form involves manipulating social relationships to cause harm, such as spreading rumors, excluding someone from a group, or socially isolating them.


Cyberbullying occurs online or through digital devices. It includes sending mean messages, spreading rumors, sharing embarrassing photos, or any other form of online harassment.

Sexual bullying

This form of bullying involves any unwanted and inappropriate sexual comments, advances, or behaviors towards someone. It can include sexual harassment, assault, or spreading sexual rumors.

Prejudicial bullying

Also known as discriminatory bullying, it is based on personal characteristics like race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. It involves making derogatory comments, slurs, or engaging in discriminatory actions.

Psychological bullying

This form of bullying involves using psychological tactics to manipulate, intimidate, or humiliate someone. It can include threats, blackmail, manipulation, or controlling behavior.

What are Some Signs of Potential Bullying in Your Child?

Often, subtle (and not so subtle) signs of bullying can appear in your child. However, be aware that not all children who are bullied exhibit warning signs. If you suspect your child is being bullied, don’t ignore the problem.

Here are some potential signs of bullying:

  • Unexplainable injuries
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
  • Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
  • Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
  • Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
  • Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or school avoidance
  • Self-destructiveness

The Link Between Bullying and Anxiety in Kids and Teens 

Victims of bullying experience persistent harassment, leaving them feeling helpless, trapped, and threatened. As these negative interactions accumulate, a toxic environment is created, leading to anxiety and related psychological effects.

Here are some specific ways in which bullying can contribute to anxiety in kids and teens:

Persistent fear

Constantly being targeted leads children and teenagers to fear attending school or participating in social activities. They worry about potential encounters with bullies, leading to heightened anxiety levels.

Low self-esteem

The taunting and demoralizing behavior often endured during bullying can profoundly impact a child’s self-esteem. Feeling inadequate or inferior can generate anxiety and self-doubt, making them more vulnerable to future bullying.

Social isolation

Bullying often results in social exclusion, making it challenging for victims to form genuine connections. The lack of a support system can intensify feelings of loneliness, alienation, and anxiety.

Post-traumatic stress symptoms

In severe cases, victims may exhibit symptoms akin to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to the traumatic experiences they have endured. This can manifest as flashbacks, nightmares, and hypervigilance, further increasing anxiety levels.

What Can Parents Do to Help their Child Being Bullied?

As a parent, it’s heartbreaking to see your child experience bullying. However, by implementing the following strategies, you can play a vital role in supporting and empowering them.

Create a Safe and Open Environment

Ensure your child feels comfortable and safe talking to you about their experiences. Create an open line of communication where they can express their emotions without fear of judgment or retaliation.

Active listening is important. Let them know you understand and empathize with their feelings. Encourage open discussions about boundaries, respect, and the consequences of bullying.

Educate yourself

Familiarize yourself with the different types of bullying and its signs. Knowing the signs can help you accurately identify if your child is being bullied.

Stay updated on the school’s policies and procedures regarding bullying prevention and intervention to ensure you are well-equipped to address the issue effectively.

Document and Report Incidents

Encourage your child to document incidents of bullying they experience including dates, times, locations, and any witnesses present. This documentation will provide critical evidence that can be helpful when reporting the incidents to school authorities. It also helps you keep track of the frequency and severity of the bullying.

Teach your child to report each incident promptly, either to a trusted teacher, school counselor, or principal. Make sure they understand the importance of speaking up and that reporting bullying is a brave and necessary step.

Collaborate with the School

Contact your child’s school to schedule a meeting with teachers, administrators, and counselors to discuss the situation. Share the documented incidents and express your concern for your child’s well-being. Collaborate with the school to develop a comprehensive plan for addressing the bullying issue.

Request regular updates and feedback on the progress made in resolving the situation.  It’s important for the school to understand that you are actively involved in advocating for your child’s safety and well-being.

Build resilience

Bullying can significantly impact a child’s self-esteem. Help your child recognize their strengths and accomplishments by focusing on their positive attributes and praising their efforts. Encourage them to participate in activities they enjoy and that boost their self-confidence.

Celebrate their achievements, no matter how small, to help them develop resilience and a positive self-image. Remind them that their worth is not defined by the opinions of others and that they should value themselves for who they are.

Teach Assertiveness and Conflict Resolution Skills

Help your child develop assertiveness skills to handle bullying situations. Teach them strategies such as using confident body language, standing tall, and responding assertively rather than passively or aggressively. Role-play different scenarios to practice assertive responses.

Encourage them to use “I” statements to express their feelings and set boundaries with the bully. Additionally, teach them conflict resolution skills, such as problem-solving and negotiation techniques. These skills will empower your child to handle bullying situations effectively and build their self-confidence.

Encourage Positive Relationships

Promote healthy friendships by encouraging your child to engage in activities and hobbies that interest them. Participating in extracurricular activities and joining clubs or sports teams can help your child develop positive relationships with peers who share similar interests.

These friendships can provide support and increase their confidence. Encourage them to surround themselves with friends who uplift and support them, ensuring they have a strong support system during difficult times.

Seek professional help if needed

If your child shows persistent signs of anxiety or their well-being continues to be negatively affected, consider seeking professional help. A therapist or counselor can provide the necessary support and strategies to help your child manage anxiety and recover from the effects of bullying.

Bullying can have severe consequences on the mental health of children and teenagers, often leading to anxiety and related challenges. As parents, it’s critical to be proactive in supporting and protecting our children.

Open communication, education, documentation, collaboration with the school, teaching assertiveness and conflict resolution skills, fostering positive relationships, and boosting self-esteem are all powerful tools in helping your child navigate the challenges of bullying.

Remember, you are not alone in this journey. Seek support from professionals, such as school counselors or therapists, who can provide guidance and additional resources to address the bullying effectively. Together, we can create a safe and nurturing environment for our children to thrive.

Begin Online Therapy for Kids and Teens with Anxiety in Illinois and now Florida.

Photo of Caucasian Mom and her redheaded son sitting on a blue couch together with the mom's arm wrapped around the son. They are both smiling as they look at the open laptop in front of them on their laps. Photo could represent an online session with a Christian therapist in Illinois to help the son with his anxiety.If your child or teen is struggling with anxiety, including panic attacks, there is hope! Anxiety is highly treatable and online anxiety treatment at Briefly Counseling can help.

Using Solution-Focused Brief Therapy, I help kids and teens reduce their anxiety and build resilience so they can become a happier, more confident version of themselves.

And kids love being able to receive counseling from the comfort and privacy of their own home. Studies have consistently proven that online therapy delivers equal results to in-office counseling.

As an experienced and caring therapist, I love providing counseling for anxiety. To start your child’s counseling journey, call me at 224-236-2296 or email Helena@BrieflyCounseling.com to schedule a FREE 20-minute consultation.

Helena Madsen, MA, LCPC is the founder of Briefly Counseling. I specialize in providing online short-term anxiety treatment for kids and teens ages 7 – 18 as well as Christian counseling.

Whether you’re on the North Shore, in Naperville, Chicago, Champaign, Barrington, Libertyville, Glenview, or downstate Illinois, I can help.

And effective 2024, I am now licensed in Florida! For parents in Jacksonville, Pensacola, Destin, Crestview, Coral Gables, Weston, Parkland, Naples, Marco Island, and Pinecrest, I have immediate openings.

Schedule your appointment or consultation today. I look forward to working with your child to quickly and effectively help them in activating their strengths, resources, and resilience, in order to live with confidence and hope.