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Many of us know or have heard about bullying. Unfortunately, this word has been installed in our vocabulary by becoming a repeated reality in many classrooms around the world. We know that it has consequences on the emotional state of children, however, some recent studies also speak of alarming Effects that bullying can have on children's brains.
Bullying is a phenomenon of intentional and unjustified aggression (verbal, physical ...) by one person or several over another or others. This occurs in a repeated and sustained manner over time, and the victims cannot defend themselves effectively because they are usually in a disadvantaged or inferior position.
However, to date, studies reveal that this problem is not sufficiently addressed with its relevance and severity. In part, this may be related to the complexity it has for teachers, parents, and even psychologists, to distinguish when behaviors can be considered bullying and when not.
The line that separates a joke from a mockery is very fine and blurred. In my work, I always explain to parents and children in session, that a joke it stops being a joke when the other person to whom it is directed feels offended. In that case, the joke is not shared, it creates discomfort to the person and therefore, continuing to make this type of joke turns them into FUNNY.
In the ANAR Foundation report (Helping Children and Adolescents at Risk) on bullying and cyberbullying seen from the eyes of those affected, it is explained that '90% of the victims of bullying have psychological problems derived from the harassment they suffer, among which anxiety, depressive symptoms and permanent fear stand out. '
But beware! The latest studies warn us that this damage goes beyond a psychological damage with emotional manifestations. These behaviors have consequences at the brain level. Yes, you read it right. At the brain level. And how do these behaviors affect the brain of the child who suffers them?
In one of the first European longitudinal studies called IMAGE, it is observed that adolescents who have suffered chronic bullying present significant decreases in the volume of two regions involved in movement and learning (left putamen and left caudate) in addition to higher levels in generalized anxiety.
Recent studies cannot determine what biological mechanism produces this alteration in brain volume. However, it seems that cortisol (better known as the stress hormone) seems to be behind these changes.
High levels of this hormone allow the body to perform higher when we are exposed to an acute stressor. However, children who suffer persistent bullying and who, therefore, live exposed to chronic stress, generate the opposite effect.
The fact that these children are continually 'alert' causes memory, cognition, sleep, appetite or other functions, do not have the option to be repaired and therefore do not perform well. Since cortisol receptors are found on most cells throughout our body, this chronic stress could lead to receptor damage and neural cell death. And therefore, these changes will have short and long-term repercussions as lower academic performance or suffer from general depression and / or anxiety.
These studies, such as the one carried out by McCullom ('How Bullying May Shape Adolescent Brains') are the first to show that constant bullying can deteriorate a child's mental health by causing changes at the brain level. And therefore, given the serious consequences, we should all double our efforts to limit and above all, prevent the risk of bullying.
You can read more articles similar to The alarming effects of bullying on children's brains, in the Bullying category on site.