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Bullying Can Leave a Lasting Effect on Individuals—Here's What You Need to Know

Bullying has been described by the StopBullying campaign as “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance.” It can be verbal, physical, or social, and these actions are often repeated over time. Children who are victims of bullying are not only affected in the short-term but can also experience lasting problems.

Childhood bullying is not uncommon either, and The Conversation notes that 35 percent of individuals have experienced it at some point. The effects are more serious than many of us may realize, because around 20 percent of individuals will experience some kind of mental health problems later in life. These problems can range from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), to personality disorders, and are not always easy to determine and diagnose.

The effects of bullying are something that researchers have been focused on for many years now, but more recently, a study conducted by Erin Burke Quinlan and her colleagues, of King's College London, shed light on the physical changes that can occur in the brain as a result of being bullied.

The study was published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry (via Medical News Today) and focused on more than 600 young participants in Europe, using questionnaires and brain scans when the individuals were 14 and 19 years old.

At 19, research showed changes in brain volume and high anxiety levels in those who were chronically bullied, compared to the non-bullied (or less-chronically bullied) participants. In addition to finding that the long-term effects of bullying could lead to an increased risk of mental health issues, the study also found that the putamen and caudate could decrease in volume — possibly explaining the “relationship between high peer victimization and higher levels of general anxiety.”

Erin Burke Quinlan explained: “Although not classically considered relevant to anxiety, the importance of structural changes in the putamen and caudate to the development of anxiety most likely lies in their contribution to related behaviors such as reward sensitivity, motivation, conditioning, attention, and emotional processing."

[Image via Shutterstock]

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