Most people have experienced bullying at some point during their childhood, and many assume that once you reach adulthood, the risk of being bullied will go away. But, unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.

Adult bullies are found in almost every facet of life; family, relationships, marriage, the workplace, and the community in general. What characterizes adult bullies is their consistent belittling, mocking, shaming, and degrading of their victims. The bullying usually comes in the form of personal insults, unwanted contact, public humiliation, or inappropriate jokes at the victim’s expense.

Is it bullying or something else?

Sometimes it’s confusing to determine if a person is just unpleasant to be around or there is actual bullying going on. Some key things to remember are:

When someone does something UNINTENTIONALLY hurtful one time, that’s rude.

When someone does something INTENTIONALLY hurtful one time, that’s mean

When someone does something INTENTIONALLY HURTFUL REPEATEDLY even when you tell them to stop, that’s bullying.

How bullying affects mental health

Victims of bullying often have long-term effects on their mental health. They can experience:

  • Stress

  • Anxiety and depression

  • Low self-worth

  • Sleep issues

  • Feeling alone because they are ashamed to tell anyone what’s happening

  • Hypervigilance and feeling paranoid all the time.

It can also have a snowball effect. Fear of going to school or work- calling in which means missed schoolwork and pay, which in turn result in grades dropping and financial troubles. Bullying can also have harmful effects on bystanders. Research has found that witnessing workplace bullying is associated with an increased risk of developing depressive symptoms. Those who witness long-term bullying in dysfunctional family situations are more prone to develop mental health issues.

Types of bullying

There are all types of bullies. Some like to use their position of authority to intimidate or control, while others use words as their weapon of choice. Some use physical intimidation and violence to assert control, and many use more subtle means such as passive-aggressive insults and isolation.

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation and a lesser-known form of bullying.

Gaslighting looks like someone telling you:

“You’re crazy.”

“I never said that.”

“You’re too sensitive.”

“Other people think you’re overreacting, too.”

The effects of gaslighting can damage a person’s psychological health to the point where they question their sanity. Many times, they may not even realize it’s happening. Cyberbullying is also on the rise. While it may primarily affect younger people, in the United States, 40% of adults have experienced some type of online harassment. Cyberbullying includes being harassed by text messages, emails, and social media. The difference with cyberbullying is that the bully is only as far away as the victim’s phone.

What to Do If You’re a Victim

If you find yourself the victim of an adult bully, there are a few options to handle the situation.

Eye contact can significantly deter a bully, as they tend to have less empathy when they can’t see your eyes or face. In addition, looking them in the eye sends the message that you won’t cower to them.

If you have a bully in the workplace, put as much distance as possible between yourself and the other person. Talk to your employer and let them know your concerns; ask for the option of moving your desk or even switching offices if that is a possibility.

Document, document, document. Keep a log of every interaction and offense. Take screenshots of harassing texts and copies of inappropriate emails and save voicemails. You may need these if you reach a point filing a complaint or a police report.

If someone you have regular contact with is purposefully hurting you regularly, consider distancing yourself or cutting ties if possible. Your mental health comes first, and there’s no shame in walking away from a toxic relationship.

If you’ve been a victim of bullying and are experiencing mental health symptoms, call Serene Health at 844-737-3638 or visit us at to schedule an appointment.

We have appointments available seven days a week through our Telehealth platform, so you can speak to a therapist from wherever you choose.