Psychological effects of cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is a form of psychological and emotional abuse that can have lasting effects on the development of a teenager’s psyche.
To prove it there are data of research conducted on animal models, but also on samples of children victims of this kind of harassment. Bullying, and cyberbullying as its particular bad case, cause changes in cortisol levels, the stress signalling hormone . These modifications, protracted for long periods, may result in changes in the functioning of the child’s immune system, with obvious consequences on health.
Neuropsychological deficits in memory and concentration capacity have also been reported. Not by chance, one of the signs that parents can perceive as change in their children is precisely that they show difficulties in studying, irritability and sometimes aggressive behaviours, especially in younger children.
Greater risks of infections and psychosomatic pathologies are among the most common effects on the body. If left untreated these diseases can lead to chronic illness and undermine quality of life heavily.
But what happens in the mind?
One of the most probable consequences is that the experiences of harassment, and of public humiliation (which characterizes, in negative, the cyberbullying compared to other forms) can structure in the individual’s beliefs system a schema of mistrust/abuse.
According to Young’s personality model, the Schema Therapy, this schema consists of the structural belief that the others will end up deceiving, humiliating, abusing and taking advantage of us.
This kind of assumptions impair the construction of self-esteem, of self-efficacy and of personal value. Ultimately one’s identity. They impact interpersonal relationships and can influence the behavior and lifestyle choices of the individual, in dysfunctional and disadvantageous directions, and possibly contribute to the construction of a personality disorder in adulthood.
In an attempt to avoid being deceived, disappointed, or humiliated, avoidance or phobic conduct can be established, which may result in a social anxiety disorder, for example. If the avoidance and the fear of ridicule on behalf of the other become pervasive and rigid, it is possible that the individual will present in adulthood an avoidant personality disorder.
Always in an attempt to cope with the schema, it is possible that the individual chooses a counterattack strategy, which means that himself will become a person who humiliates, deceives, and abuses others. In accordance with this second line of development, we can cite for example the antisocial personality disorder and the narcissistic personality disorder. In both we find an attitude of prevarication and poor empathy of the other, towards his feelings and his needs.
The deep motivations behind them are different though. To give you a hint, the antisocial personality is given by a more serious lack of ability to think the other as the bearer of rights equal to their own. The narcissist instead brings with him a great injury of self-esteem that tries to compensate through the disdain of the other.
As an alternative to the strategies of avoiding and compensation of the scheme, it is possible that the person chooses a surrender coping, taking for real beliefs about the other as abuser, deceptive, humiliating.
The consequences, even in this case, can be important on the development of psychic disorders such as depression, and lead to give up the realization of projects of life and family or work.