Bullying can Lead to Eating Disorders

By WritingJackie

Jun 3, 2018 | Feature |

Weight loss is an issue both for bullies and their victims, with studies showing that bullying increases anxiety and depression, and leads may victims to use eating disorders as a way to deal with feelings such as shame and low self-esteem. In a recent study of 600 persons, 90% stated they were currently victims and 75% stated they were battling an eating disorder. For anyone involved in bullying, weight can become a source of obsession. Therefore it is important to take preventive steps to stop the victimization of others, and obtain help if necessary for victims of bullying.

 Focusing on Weight Loss

A recent study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that teenagers who are involved in bullying in any way are more likely to develop concerns about diet and exercise, and to become excessively worried about losing weight. The study was based on around 800 students, including those who had been bullied and those who had bullied others. The teens were asked to complete questionnaires such as Rosenberg’s Self-Esteem Scale, with tests showing that 42% of bullies have an extreme preoccupation with weight loss, as do 55% of bullying victims and 57% of students who had been bullies and victims of bullying as well.

 Why the Preoccupation with Weight Loss?

The researchers found those who bullied were obsessed with weight loss because they wanted to be seen as the most attractive. Victims, meanwhile, could have negative self-esteem and wish they could lose weight because they had been picked on. Interestingly, the group that had bullied and been victims of bullying were the most likely to develop eating disorders, as well as other psychological problems.

 Adolescence and Body Image

During one’s teenage years, body image is strongly linked to self-esteem. Indeed, it is during this period in life that children begin to take extra care with their grooming and fashion choices. It is important for parents and teachers to stress the inexorable link between health and beauty to children. One way to garner their children’s interest is by pointing out the inexorable link between sound nutrition and healthy, beautiful hair and skin. Ironically, teens who are weight obsessed can equate beauty almost exclusively with thinness. In an age where diverse body shapes are being celebrated more than ever on social media, eating disorders are still on the rise on a global scale.

 Body Image Matters

It is vital that any child who has been involved in bullying receive the support they need. For many, therapy can help reduce the long-term effects of bullying. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been found to be particularly useful for bullying since it teaches teens the link between self-defeating thoughts and harmful behaviors. One study carried out just late year at the University of Missouri-Columbia showed that negative body image is linked to increased tobacco and alcohol use. Therefore, therapy can be seen as a way to help children build the resilience they need to avoid falling into harmful habits. 

Because bullying has so many negative consequences, it is vital that the issue be taken seriously and that children receive therapy, especially if parents notice that they become obsessed with weight and appearance. CBT, which enlightens patients on the link between their thoughts, behaviors, and emotions, can help anyone involved in bullying learn to express themselves in a more assertive, confident manner, and teach youths that bullying is never acceptable.

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