Adult bullying and mental health

Dr Chido Rwafa Madzvamutse
Mental Wellness

As discussed in previous articles, mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a meaningful contribution to their community.

Bullying is aggressive behaviour towards or intimidation of another person who may not be able to defend themselves. While bullying often happens with children and young people, it can and does happen to adults too.

Are you experiencing bullying as an adult?

  1. Are you being consistently humiliated or belittled?
  2. Are you often criticised unfairly?
  3. Do you feel deliberately excluded and isolated?
  4. Are you experiencing consistent verbal abuse?
  5. Is someone in a position of authority over you intimidating you or threatening you?
  6. Are you consistently made the subject of jokes, gossip or ridicule?
  7. Do you feel consistently gas-lighted, made to feel as if what you have experienced is not as bad as it seems or did not happen as you say it did?

Types of adult bullying

  • Verbal abuse

This is verbal insults and unwarranted harsh criticism, being called names and being ridiculed.

  • Cyberbullying

Intimidation and ridicule on social media, receiving threatening or harassing messages, spreading of rumours, leaking of private images or messages on public social media.

  • Social bullying

Deliberate exclusion from work or social events, ostracisation, embarrassment and humiliation.

  • Physical bullying

Being physically hurt or having your property damaged to intimidate you.

Am I an adult bully?

Could you be the bully?

  • Do you use your authority to control and intimidate others?
  • Are you dismissive of others?
  • Do you take credit for the work of others?
  • Do you pit people in your team against each other, creating a toxic competitiveness?
  • Do you use finances to manipulate and control others or make them do what you want?
  • Do you often speak down on others, shame or embarrass others?
  • Do you use cruel jokes or sarcasm to ridicule others?
  • Do you spread rumours to discredit or shame others?
  • Do you use social media as a weapon against others?
  • Do you use physical violence to silence or control others?
  • Do you make others feel unworthy or inadequate?

Mental health effects of adult bully

Being bullied as an adult can result in:

  • Stress and anxiety.
  • Low self-esteem and decreased self-worth, poor self-confidence resulting in poor decision-making.
  • Poor performance at work.
  • Social isolation.
  • Depression.
  • Thoughts of self-harm.
  • Psychological trauma from the bullying behaviour
  • Feeling powerless and hopeless

Dealing with adult bullies

  1. Set clear, firm boundaries.
  2. Confront the behaviour, be clear about what behaviour is making you uncomfortable and what behaviour will not be tolerated.
  3. Be self-aware and remain calm during bullying incidents.
  4. Seek legal counsel if needed and escalate the issue if it is in a workplace setting, if the behaviour persists.
  5. Build your support system, friends, family and supportive colleagues.
  6. Build psychologically safe homes and workplaces with a zero tolerance to bullying and intimidation.

 If you think that you or someone that you know may be experiencing a mental health problem linked to bullying, please contact your nearest health care provider and get help.

Association of Health Care Funders of Zimbabwe (AHFoZ) article written by Dr Chido Rwafa Madzvamutse, Consultant Psychiatrist.

Feedback: Dr Chido Rwafa Madzvamutse +263777727332) (; [email protected])


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