The Mental and Physical Impact of Bullying

Bullying in the workplace can be defined as a recurring form of harassment that takes place on a regular basis against an individual. The Workplace Institute found that 25% of all employees have experienced bullying in the workplace. The repeated belittling with the intent of harming the person can have severe emotional and physical repercussions for the victim. Examples of workplace bullying can include:

  • Offensive remarks or jokes
  • Threatening or intimidating behaviour
  • Setting out unrealistic or different guidelines compared to co-workers
  • Social isolation

Research conducted by psychologist, Dr Noreen Tehrani, found that victims of workplace bullying can often portray the same psychological symptoms to that of soldiers who have been involved in combat. In fact, one in five people who experience workplace bullying can have the same symptoms of those that suffer from post-traumatic stress.

Emotional impact

  • Anxiety and depression
    Workplace bullying can have a severe impact on the victim’s mental well-being.
    Often they suffer from high levels of stress which can develop into anxiety. This sustained level of bullying may prevent the individual from attending work and further negatively impacting their anxiety as they become worried about their poor attendance. Furthermore, workplace bullying over a period of time will leave the individual feeling depressed.
  • Increased risk of suicide
    With depression comes the potential for victims to suffer intolerably and have a detrimental impact on all aspects of their life. A study conducted by Yale University found that those who are on the receiving end of bullying are nine-times more likely to consider suicide.

Physical implications

There are numerous physical effects that victims will suffer from as a result of bullying. Increased stress levels will cause the production of stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, which can result in increased heart rate, muscles tensing up, and constricted blood vessels. There are also a number of other health problems that can develop as a consequence:

  • Weakened immune system
    Higher levels of stress in individuals leaves them having to fight off infections and illnesses as well as leaving them susceptible to a number of serious conditions. Often those who are suffering from bullying are far more likely to catch a cold or develop flu. In more serious cases they can result in autoimmune disorders like diabetes, multiple sclerosis, or the stress-related illness that is known as chronic fatigue syndrome.
  • Increased risk of cardiac/heart disease
    Astudy conducted by the University of Helsinki found that there is a correlation between workplace bullying and the greater risk of cardiac disease. As stress is a main outcome of bullying, this too is linked to cardiovascular problems and heart disease through increases in blood pressure and cholesterol which are major risk factors in the development of heart disease.

Overcoming workplace bullying

The risks are very apparent and potentially serious, so it is vital that workplace bullying is stopped early on before it becomes too serious and potentially threatening to the victim. Here management and the staff need to be all involved to create a health work-culture and address the issue so it can be prevented before it has the ability to develop.

Source And Further Reading