Mental Health Harm
Bullying is often called psychological harassment or violence. What makes it psychological is bullying's impact on the person's mental health and sense of well-being. The personalized, focused nature of the assault destabilizes and disassembles the target's identity, ego strength, and ability to rebound from the assaults. The longer the exposure to stressors like bullying, the more severe the psychological impact. When stress goes unabated, it compromises both a target's physical and mental health.Psychological-Emotional Injuries
PTSD is the result of environments that traumatize, in those working conditions there is little predictability or control. This can create an intensive or overwhelming threat to a person which often results in the destruction of his or her sense of security.
PTSD, best known as a war wound, is actually possible for anyone whose coping mechanisms have been overwhelmed. It happens in childhood abuse cases, domestic violence cases, and the workplace. When a worker suffers PTSD, the workplace for that person has become a war zone. (See our button and bumper sticker stating this.)
Please know that these are injuries. Depression starts in bullied workers who never experienced it before. For the person who was previously depressed and successfully managing it, bullying exacerbates the condition. Bullying causes injuries, albeit psychological in nature and unseen, as surely one can be injured from physically unsafe conditions at work.
Bullying, Economic Crises, and Suicide
In these times of pandemic unemployment and loss of health insurance, many people are stressed as much as bullied workers have always been. Without insurance, mental health treatment is often unaffordable. The raging economic crisis takes a significant toll on individuals, couples, families, and children. Financial strain is linked to increased incidence of domestic violence, substance abuse, divorce, and a disruption of normal childhood development.
Sometimes, the violence is turned inward. When the "way out" seems unattainable and no alternatives can be imagined, some people contemplate suicide. In the WBI 2012-D Study, 29% of bullied targets considered suicide and 16% had a plan. If you or someone you know are talking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at
Risk of Re-Traumatization
PTSD is terribly misunderstood by bullied targets and witnessing coworkers and family members. Targets will suffer uncontrollably without treatment by a trauma specialist (an ordinary counselor won't suffice). Trauma's onset is typically delayed and it lasts long after removal from traumatizing conditions. That baffles everyone. People in your life can't understand why or how the pain lasts so long.
Events that sustain PTSD and prevent the start of healing include fighting back with your employer, the tortuous multi-step years-long grievance process dragged on by your employer, disability or workers comp insurance claims, and lawsuits with their invasive depositions that take years to complete.
The problem of re-triggering the trauma, months or even years later, is more vexing. You believe you have healed. You passed the magic one year period since all triggering-events ended. Your lawsuit is long past. Then, you drive by the parking lot or run into former coworkers who abandoned you when you needed them most and all the negative emotions come rushing back. You are again paralyzed. It is not a weakness on your part. Rather, it is proof of the intensity of the trauma you endured.
In a way, you might always be a "recovering" victim of trauma. Proneness to re-traumatization differs across individuals. It has been described as similar to cancer that returns after remission that can be driven back into remission. Practice your desensitization skills and revisit your counselor familiar with your case. It will be a quicker return to normalcy than when the traumatizing bullying first occurred.
WBI Offers Coaching
Do not hesitate to schedule a confidential, private coaching session with the WBI Coach.
The source of the statistics above is the WBI 2012 Impact on Employee Health Survey.