20 Traits of Adults Who Were Bullied When They Were Younger

When someone talks about bullying, they often discuss the immediate effects it has on children. However, perhaps one thing that’s as equally important is the lasting ramifications it has into adulthood. This is because lots of adults who were bullied as children still suffer from its consequences. Low self-esteem and struggling to develop a relationship are only the tip of the iceberg of what we have in store for you today!

They Have Low Self-Esteem

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Once bullying happens, a child’s self-esteem takes a hit. When one is bullied, they slowly develop poor social skills, and as the bullying worsens, one’s self-esteem also constantly lowers and can lead to drastic after-effects, such as thoughts of suicide. Low self-esteem, sadly, can carry over into adulthood, affecting your relationships, job, and more.

They Will Have Difficulty in Handling Criticism

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When someone is bullied, they have most probably experienced being humiliated and embarrassed. This is why victims of bullying find it hard to handle criticism as they get older. It’s like a flashback of the humiliation they went through before.

They Will Struggle With Developing and Maintaining Relationships

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Another way that bullying is considered detrimental to one’s quality of life is its impact on one’s ability to develop and maintain relationships. This is because when someone is bullied early in life, they can have problems trusting others; they may also have low self-esteem and anger issues. These things will then lead to difficulty developing relationships with other people at an older age, especially since they’ve not learned how to create and maintain one when they were younger.

They Have Heightened Awareness

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When someone is bullied, they can have heightened awareness, especially in adulthood. This awareness becomes their shield or armor against possible bullying tactics. They usually are more sensitive to their surroundings and fidgety just because they fear bullying happening again.

They Are Avoidant of Social Situations

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Similar to anxiety, specifically social anxiety, bullying can also lead to one’s avoidance of social situations. When someone is bullied, their confidence will slowly but surely lower, thus making them more reluctant to socialize with friends. This, too, can sadly carry over into adulthood because social skills need to be practiced and improved upon.

They Are More Likely to Become Perfectionists

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A bully constantly attacks their victim’s so-called weaknesses, even though they might not really be a weakness. Victims, however, get so traumatized by what they went through that they just naturally want everything to be perfect. They fear that once they make a mistake, it’s highly likely that they will be bullied again. This feeling of wanting to be perfect latches on to people, even in adulthood.

They Find It Hard to Trust Others

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The Conversation notes that childhood bullying may cause lifelong psychological or mental health damage in people. While people might believe they can quickly get over something like bullying, it simply isn’t true; worse, its effects can be serious and can last for a lifetime—especially without proper treatment or therapy. Victims of bullying can have severe trust issues, and unfortunately, the loss of trust is the most challenging consequence to overcome. Calli Tzani, the author of The Conversation’s article and a lecturer in Investigative Psychology at the University of Huddersfield, notes, “If nobody stands up for you at the time of being bullied, you begin to lose trust in your peers—and that may be for life.”

They Fear Being Vulnerable

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Marie McCarthy, a mindset coach and motivational mapper, published an article on LinkedIn about bullying and vulnerability. She explains that once someone has been bullied, they are left vulnerable with their emotions. They fear that other people will see them as their bully described them. This can then lead to insecurity; even years after your bullying incident, small triggers can still bring you back to your painful past.

They Are More Empathetic

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Because people who were bullied know what it’s like to be at one’s lowest, they become more empathetic. They know the pains someone goes through and can, therefore, relate more to their struggles. This is one of the few positive traits that carries on into adulthood when a person is bullied as a kid.

They Are More Assertive

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Victims of bullying know what it’s like to be at the bottom of the food chain. Thankfully, some grow into more assertive adults. As they age, they gain a broader view of the world and know how and when to assert their feelings, thoughts, and opinions.

They Avoid Conflict

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People who went through bullying as a child or young adult likely have unresolved trauma even in their adulthood. Therefore, getting involved in certain types of conflict may make them feel like they’re reliving their bad days. For some, conflicts can also be triggers that take them back to the days when they were actively being bullied.

They Are More Likely to Develop Depression

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Though there is no number one known cause of depression, bullying may as well be on top of the list of its possible causes. UTHealth Houston notes that bullying causes feelings of rejection, isolation, exclusion, low self-esteem, and more to foster in a person. All this negativity can then lead to depression. Sadly, depression can persist years after the bullying happened; Houston Behavioral Healthcare Hospital explains that it can continue even after 40 years!

They Are More Likely to Develop Chronic Anxiety

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If you’ve ever been bullied before, we’re sure you know the stress that comes with it. In fact, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners notes that childhood bullying can cause lifelong psychological damage. Victims would most likely suffer from chronic anxiety, most especially social anxiety, that would last into adulthood.

They Are Prone to Self-Isolation

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Most bullies, being kids themselves, don’t understand how much they would negatively impact a person’s life. BYU Scholars Archive shared a study on bullying and its effects, titled Pain that Lasts: The Long-Term Mental Health Implications of Childhood Bullying, and noted that being bullied in childhood can alter an adult’s perception of self. Ultimately, this affects their ability to relate to others in social settings, thus increasing their risk of loneliness, isolation, and avoidance.

They Will Resort to Victimization or Self-Blame

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It’s a sad but common fact that victims blame themselves for being bullied. However, their victimization of self often doesn’t end in childhood. According to The American Journal of Psychiatry, bullying victimization persists as one gets older and thus affects adult well-being.

They Will Likely Suffer From Headaches, Ulcers, and Other Physical Illnesses

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Though a lot of bullying tactics significantly impact one’s mind, it’s an act that can also harm the body. According to the American Psychological Association, “High blood pressure, palpitations, cardiovascular disease, migraines, fatigue, muscle pain, and ulcers are just some of the health effects that WHO has linked to bullying.” For example, when one is under constant stress because of bullying, they may develop heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease, also called GERD; prolonged GERD can then lead to esophageal ulcer.

They Will Engage in Negative Self-Talk

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Victims of bullying often resort to negative self-talk because of all the bad things happening around them that they think are their fault. However, if this persists, a victim somehow also becomes a bully themselves. Verywell Family notes, “Many times, victims of bullying will engage in negative self-talk, often repeating the bully’s messages in their head, such as, ‘I’m a loser,’ ‘No one likes me,’ and ‘I am worthless and stupid.’”

They Are at Risk of Developing Eating Disorders

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Eating disorders aren’t solely or directly caused by bullying, but bullying is a significant factor that comes into play in the discussion of different eating disorders. This is because body-shaming, a type of bullying, directly correlates to one’s body image. A study shared by HuffPost on 600 people showed that 90% of people were bullied at least once. Then, 75% of individuals suffering from an eating disorder admitted that they consider bullying as one of the leading causes of their disorder.

They Most Likely Have Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

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One might think that once you’ve gotten out of your awkward years, you’re free of bullying. However, post-traumatic stress disorder can quickly catch up to you in adulthood. American Addiction Centers notes, “Bullying isn’t just traumatic in childhood, though, and it’s not a passing phase. Research shows bullying and harassment can cause adult symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.”

They Are More Susceptible to Substance Abuse

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Young people often get involved in drugs because they are victims of bullying or cyberbullying. However, if they get sucked into it and get addicted, substance abuse is something that’ll carry over into adulthood. Addiction Help notes that bullying can lead to addiction and substance use disorder in adulthood. The National Library of Medicine also indicates that there is a higher chance for victims of bullying to get themselves into drug use.

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Author: Karen Danao


Karen is a writer and also a marketing and advertising professional. Beyond the keyboard and the screen, she is someone who’s out to enjoy every bit that life has to offer!

Poetry, philosophy, history, and movies are all topics she loves writing about! However, her true passion is in traveling, photography, and finding common ground to which everyone from different cultures can relate.