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Bullying is negative, harmful behavior, occurring repeatedly overtime, in a peer relationship that is characterized by an imbalance of power or strength. Bullying behaviors can include physical aggression, name-calling, teasing, verbal threats, intimidation, social exclusion, isolation, rumor spreading, harassment, and being the target of practical "jokes." Bullying should be distinguished from playful fighting, teasing between friends, or a one-time attack. Bullying tends to be social in nature. Rather than limiting the framework to just a "bully" and a "victim," bullying is considered to be a group process. That is, there can be multiple bullies or victims, and there are often people who are involved in passive ways (bystanders).
"Cyberbullying" is a unique form of bullying, wherein the vehicle of the bullying is technology. In cyberbullying, someone is harassed, threatened, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted through means such as facebook, text messages, YouTube, blogging, etc.
Bullying can occur anywhere. Because that bullying is a behavior that occurs repeatedly over time, bullying tends to take place when people are grouped together. Bullying has been documented in many different settings, including the workplace. On a college campus, this may include groups like classrooms, dorm floors, roommate or housemate relationships, athletic teams, clubs, sororities or fraternities, academic study groups, etc.
The impact of bullying victimization is well documented. Research indicates that victims can experience lower self-esteem, higher rates of depression, suicidal ideation, loneliness, social isolation, aggression, irritability, and anxiety. Bullying victimization has also been linked to health and wellness problems such as headaches, backaches, stomachaches, and difficulty sleeping. Further, victims are more likely to withdraw from the source of the bullying, which can result in secondary social, academic, or occupational consequences. Sometimes these impacts last long after the bullying stops. Bullying can also negatively impact the bystanders or the larger group climate.
Bullying can lead to serious consequences and should be taken seriously. Everyone can help stop bullying by speaking up when you see bullying happening or reaching out to those who are bullied. If you are being bullied or have been bullied, you are not alone. Bullying is an extremely prevalent form of aggression. It is important to recognize bullying and understand that it is/was not your fault. One thing that you can do for help is seek support elsewhere by reaching out to your friends and family, talk with someone trusted about what is happening. It can also be useful to identify strategies to cope with the stress of bullying and protect your self-esteem. For some people, it can be useful to talk with a mental health professional. At the University of Maryland free, confidential help is available through the Counseling Center. For further information contact the University Counseling Center, located in the Shoemaker Building, at (301-314-7651).
The author, Dr. Sarah Mebane, is a staff counselor at the University Counseling Center.