Bullying is a widespread problem affecting American youth. According to studies by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, over a quarter of all students from grades six through twelve have been the victim of bullying, while 30% of students admit to bullying others.
There is also an undeniable connection between alcohol and bullying. The social and emotional impact of being bullied is significant, and numerous studies have linked the residual trauma suffered by victims to an increase in alcohol abuse and addiction. Additionally, bullying perpetrators are found to be more likely to abuse alcohol than those who aren’t involved in bullying at all.
Learning to identify the warning signs of both bullying and alcohol abuse can protect our children from harm – and help minimize the risk of addiction forming later in life.
What is bullying?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines bullying as repeated, unwanted, and aggressive behavior among school-aged children that “involves a real or perceived power imbalance.” Power can come in the form of physical strength, social clout, or psychological manipulation. Examples of bullying include:
Hitting, kicking, or pushing
Destroying someone’s property
Bullying can occur at school, online, or in-person during common social interactions on the playground, bus stop, or on the streets of your neighborhood.
Being bullied can lead to long-term alcohol abuse
Victims of bullying often experience many mental, physical, and psychological consequences, with a higher-than-average rate of depression and anxiety. This can lead to feelings of loneliness, social withdrawal, and even suicidal ideation. Sometimes, the impact of being bullied is so severe that the trauma can last into adulthood.
To relieve persistent feelings of isolation and anxiety, many bullying victims turn to alcohol to self-medicate. A study from the American Academy of Pediatrics found children who were bullied by their peers in fifth grade were more likely to go on to abuse alcohol in high school. This puts them at a higher risk of long-term substance abuse problems – because the earlier a person starts drinking, the more likely they are to struggle with alcoholism throughout their life.
Alcohol abuse is common among bullies
Bullies themselves are also more likely to engage in alcohol abuse. While we may tend to think of bullies as powerful individuals who enjoy dominating others, the truth is that many bullies suffer from low self-esteem, and put people down to feel better about themselves.
Bullying could be an indicator of underlying mental health problems, including anxiety and aggression – some of the same risk factors that contribute to alcoholism. Substance abuse and bullying also share some of the same motives, such as the desire to seek a higher social status. A definitive causal link has yet to be established, but numerous studies have identified an indisputable correlation.
Learning to identify the signs of bullying and alcohol abuse
Watching out for the signs of both bullying and alcohol abuse can help adults intervene early on and prevent serious situations from getting even worse. Some warning signs that a child is being bullied include:
Frequent headaches or stomachaches
Avoidance of social situations
Loss of self-esteem
Self-destructive behaviors (running away from home, self-harm, talk of suicide, etc.)
Signs a child is bullying others include:
Reports of fighting at school
Excessive worry about being popular
Blaming others for their problems
Many of the signs of bullying overlap with the signs of teenage alcohol abuse. However, you may also witness physical symptoms, such as slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, and the smell of alcohol on their breath.
Get help for alcohol abuse at Alvarado Parkway Institute
Parental involvement is one of the most important protective factors against both bullying and alcohol abuse in children and teenagers. If you suspect your child is involved in bullying and is abusing alcohol, Alvarado Parkway Institute can help. We offer comprehensive treatment for mental health disorders that contribute to both bullying and alcohol addiction, as well as a rehab center to help your child get and stay sober.
Call us at (619) 667-6125 to stop the cycle of bullying and alcohol abuse.