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Could bullying have caused PTSD?


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I'm 19. I had a very unhappy time all the way through school, from the age of around 8 till I left at 16. This is all very hard to talk about without sounding self-pitying.

I was badly bullied. In later years the few people I told about what happened; teachers, a psychotherapist, said it was one of the worst cases they had ever come across. It wasn't by a specific person, though there was a core group of people who were worst. There was clearly always something about me that they took against. I struggled to make friends, and people who didn't know me often took against me, for what I thought was no reason. I think partly I looked different, an I must have in some ways behaved differently. This resulted in me being singled out by a great deal of people. I always felt that I wasn't part of the school properly - I was the one everyone was allowed to be cruel too, even the students who where bullied could pick on me.

I went to quite a rough school and the teachers did very little to help. Many of them saw that I was different and did nothing. I'm sure they felt that I didn't help myself - I was somehow bringing it on myself by not changing - not 'trying harder'. It was emotional and physical. There are a few dozen key events that stick out for me very strongly, but every day was difficult.

Every day felt like entering a warzone. I was often ill. I often threw up on Sunday evenings thinking of Monday morning. I was ill a lot, what I now think was stress. My attitute was to get through every small period of time, just a little at a time. Get through this lesson without crying or screaming or fighting someone. Get through break. Get through the next lesson. I used to hide in the library during lunch so people couldn't find me, but I didn't help.

I remember being surrounded by a mob of probably thirty children, all screaming at me. I remember being pushed and trampled to the ground in corridors - being dragged to the floor and literally walked over. I remember being thrown into walls. Punched in the chest. Kicked repeatedly in the stomach. My hair pulled. Drinks poured over me. Food thrown at me.

It was mainly emotional, exclusion, insults, winning my trust, then telling my secrets. The spreading of rumours. But the physical stuff is what I remember best.

I remember being in a fight with a girl where I was torn to the ground. I was kicked by boys when I was on the floor. They took my bag and tore it open, throwing my belongings in the mud. I remember washing my clothes in the sink to try and hide from my parents what had happened.

I remember I was standing in a corridor when a group of boys came up to me. One said "She won't do anything. I can punch her and she won't do anything" and he punched me. I didn't do anything. I didn't know what to do. I was too shocked and afraid.

Several times I believed I was about to be seriously physically hurt. I also had a fear, which I have now realise was a sense of sexual threat. I was afraid to be alone with certain boys. Many of their comments where sexual and homophobic. Rumours where passed that I was transgender. There were numerous questions about this - it was near constant. People seemed to believe it. There were constant questions as to wether I was a boy or a girl. It was an attempt to humiliate.

They'd often make threats about sending their family members - fathers and uncles, to come and hurt me, or that thet'd set their dogs on me. They told me they knew where I lived.

They also managed to get many teachers on their side, who decided I was clearly the one in the wrong - the common element in many disturbances. They often would single me out in front of the class, and they did not seem to take anything seriously, or even attempt to investigate it themselves.

I developed insomnia and an eating disorder. I also started cutting myself. I wrote many suicide notes, then changed my mind.

I am still affected by this all, but I'm only just now beginning to realise quite how badly. I have nightmares; they're not all directly about this but I've begun to realise they're linked. I cross the road to avoid people a lot. I'm terrified of teenagers and young people, especially those in school uniform. My heart leaps and I feel sick every time I see kids in uniform. At college I was afraid to walk home at certain times because I knew the kids from my old school would be coming out.

I believe it still affects my relationships now. I'm starting to be able to crack my shell now but it made me hard, aggressive, violent. I'd snap and lash out, shout or cry. I still cry for no reason sometimes. I struggle to trust people. I'm often paranoid and suspicious. My flatmates say I'm strange and somtimes I scare them. Many people have told me I frighten them. Things hurt me more deeply than other people. I often overreact. I worry and lie awake at night. Sometimes I feel like I'm going away somewhere and I struggle to get out of it - intrusive memories and intrusive thoughts.

I didn't have my first kiss until I was 18. I still struggle to make friends. I think it's what made me take so long to come to terms with my sexuality - I couldn't let what they were saying to me be true. I can't deal with seeing people from my old school, it's terrifying.

I think I'm better than I used to be, I'm getting better, I'm at uni now so I'm away from the people and the places. I'm getting better but I'm only just now starting to realise how much it has affected me.

I'm sorry about the long post - but it was very theraputic to write. A lot of this stuff I've never said before.

I know this isn't trauma from something terrible like a war, or rape or torture, it's just lots of kinda shit stuff that happened, but there's something going on and I don't know what to do.

x

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Oh my heart just breaks for you as a kid. Every child deserves to feel safe all the time and your treatment wasn't deserved and it wasn't ok. I'm even more horrified that teachers didn't stand up for you and address it as they should have.

We can't diagnose people here, but I think your experiences meet criterion A ("an extreme traumatic stressor involving direct personal experience of an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury, or other threat to one's physical integrity") and I think it's worth talking to your tdoc or pdoc about.

There was a thread a while back that caused a lot of controversy about whether an adult with non-aggressive workplace bullying had PTSD and I think the thing that arose from that is that even if the diagnosis isn't officially PTSD it doesn't mean that the event wasn't awful and life-impacting in many ways.

Thankyou for trusting us enough to share that. It must have been hard to write. Are you still seeing a therapist at the moment?

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It sounds like you had a horrible time, which is very much still affecting you. Whether or not you'd fit the formal criteria for PTSD really doesn't matter. All that does matter is your recognizing the connections between your past and present, so you can start making things better for yourself now. Are you in therapy? If not, that would be a really good place to start.

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I was bullied and beaten at home, and then beaten and bullied at school and outside playing. It was a wonderful childhood.. not. The inescapable, constant nature of that sort of abuse is what landed me in C-PTSD.

Though, you dont even need to be physically assaulted to develop PTSD. Just the threat of violence can be enough to traumatize a young child.

Some people dont deserve to live. Anyone that would do that to another human being is pure scum.

Can you get PTSD from the bullying? Yes. I know I sure have it. The aftermath of trauma can take many forms. depression, anxiety, eating disorders, OCD, even psychosis.

Id get a good therapist who is well versed in caring for trauma survivors. There are several different therapy styles which can really help you out.

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Thank you for your courage in sharing this story. I too have PTSD from childhood trauma, although I have healed from it successfully for the most part. I had no idea what PTSD was until I found a good therapist who could identify the nightmares, self-harm behaviors, intrusive thoughts, social phobia, etc. as symptoms of PTSD. With the help of therapy and anti-anxiety meds, I'm now fairly symptom-free unless a really huge trigger happens. Actually trauma survivors are some of the strongest, bravest people I know, having been able just to get through such ordeals. And very smart: we knew what we had to do to survive, and we did it so we could get through it and get free. I'm glad to hear you are now in a different place and free of the old people and places. Trust me the symptoms may feel like hell now, but it DOES get better!

- Wendy

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I'd say you'd meet critera for ptsd but as SS says whether someone formally diagnoses you with it or not (and I cannot possibly imgaine why they wouldn't) you need to get therapeutic help for this problem to get better from it. The bullying sounds traumatic and extreme and far crosses the line into violence if you ask me. I would be surprised if you did NOT have lasting psychological damage from it, honestly.

i'm sorry this happened to you,

Anna

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Thank you so much all of you. Writing that was so helpful, and having people read it and tell me that no, I'm not being silly. I'm feeling a little better. Thank you all for your empathy and your advice - I'm going to definitely go back to therapy and have another look at this.

x

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Believe it or not, I had a similar childhood to yours, Valentine. I was regularly bullied and beaten by other children. I witnessed my father's violence to my mother. We had neighbors attack our home, throwing stones and pulling the front door off the hinges. By the time I reached my teens, I suffered from what has been since diagnosed as complex PTSD. I also had anorexia, self harming behaviors and severe depression. Triggers are the worst. Although I think that I have healed a lot, I find that neighbors making a lot of noise is a powerful trigger. It's like part of me believes that she is in life threatening danger, if there are thumps and banging sounds, or loud bass music. PTSD sucks, but bullies suck more; a thousand times more.

I hope you will get the specialized counseling that you need, to reach a place of equilibrium. And just remember that as someone moving towards adulthood, you have the law on your side for any more would-be bullies.

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I can definitely relate. I'm 18 and throughout my entire schooling I was severely bullied, I had death threats at me etc etc and I also dropped out at 16. From my experiences it did end up being a cause of my PTSD (among other things), but like everyone has said the fact that you've had to live through that is horrible. I really sympathize with you. I would suggest it to your doc a.s.a.p

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  • 1 month later...

Although all bullies are different, I will tell you a perspective from the other side of the 'bullying'. I was the youngest of 3 sisters and the youngest on the block of 8 girls. I was also chubbier than them and terrified to do anything they didn't approve of. Because of my insecurities and bad bad bad self-esteem, I reacted the only way I knew how when I was 7 -- I bullied other girls. I am in NO WAY saying what I did was right so please, no one get holier-than-thou on me.

Bullies are not all alike, they bully in different ways and for me - I tried to make someone else feel as terribly as I did. The sick thing is that it kept me going in elementary school because I finally could have pride in my classroom, because I would never feel it at home. I guess what I am trying to say is that it makes me so sad to hear about the victims of bullying and know that I once contributed to the problem. The girls I would single out were "different" or quiet. I think I was envious that those girls that separated themselves from the norm, I remember feeling like I wanted to be myself but I never had the courage. I wanted to feel good about myself but I never believed it when my mom said I wasn't fat or that everyone was beautiful. If anything, it just made me more angry. I am sorry that you had to go through this -- although my example is very minor in comparison with your experience, I hope victims can take a little pride knowing that bullying had nothing to do with them. I think the most insecure, pathetic kids at the end of the day were the ones that felt like they had to pick on someone else to feel good.

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Seems like thats usually the way it works. Abuse at home leads to re-victimization outside with other kids. Its like the child has some behavioral patterns that attract bullies. I cant tell you how many times I got beat up as a kid. I tried tormenting someone else once and it made me sick to my stomach. I turned that need for control inward and tormented myself instead. This control cheat is pretty common and its a vicious cycle of feeling helpless and hurt.

I wouldnt blame yourself, that sort of trauma is something a child just cant handle. No matter what you did it would have leaked out in other ways. I know that all the bullies I dealt with all had their own issues at home. Not that it justifies their actions but it allows me to forgive and move on.

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  • 1 month later...

Oh you poor creature! There was a girl 2 years above me in our school who suffered something similar and committed suicide. I think you are incredibly strong to have survived it.

Oh everyone pretended to be so sad after she died and the school lit candles, but they didn't do anything to stop it and the psychopath that lead the whole thing (who was in the same year as me)just laughed when she heard and said it served her right.

It did affect one or two though, they realized what they had been swept up in, I remember around then one girl started defending me when I was teased, but it was never that bad for me and I always told myself I was someone different at home and that they couldn't affect me there. I never suffered anything close to what you did, I don't think I could have survived it.

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