A psychotic break can be fun

Psychotic symptoms in bullied kids

Bullying and the fight against it is one of the hot topics in schools and among parents. A study is now looking into the long-term effects on victims of bullying. Children who were repeatedly victims of direct or indirect violence by classmates during their school days develop mental disorders twice as often as children who have not been bullied. This is the conclusion of a study by Dieter Wolke from the University of Warwick in Coventry.

Differentiate between types of bullying

The research team examined a total of 6,437 children up to the age of 13 years. The team reports on the study results in the specialist magazine "Archives of General Psychiatry". A distinction must be made between two different types of bullying - direct beating and physical violence, and relationship bullying, which is threatened, blackmailed and harassed. "It is normal for children and young people to have conflicts with one another, and it is also important," said Wolke in an interview with the press. "Because that's the only way they can learn to deal with conflicts later in life." However, such bullying over a longer period of time is very problematic. "If children were harassed by classmates for several years, the risk of suffering from psychotic symptoms increased four-fold."

Serious consequences for perception

Once a year the children were questioned by the psychologists in personal interviews. Psychological and physical tests were also carried out. "Shortly before they were 13 years old, the subjects were finally asked about any psychotic symptoms they had had in the past six months," explains Wolke. Questions were asked about the occurrence of hallucinations, delusions such as the fear of being spied on or paranoid and bizarre thoughts. "Our study clearly showed that such harassment can have serious consequences for the way we perceive the world."

Consequences into adulthood

"This suggests that hostile social relationships with one's own kind can be a potential risk factor for the development of psychotic symptoms in adolescents and for the development of psychosis in adults," said Wolke. Such problems can be counteracted preventively in the family circle. "If parents notice this, such assaults by older siblings must be subject to clear sanctions." Conversely, the psychologist also warns that parents should not solve all problems for their child. "Overprotective parents also harm the child because they cannot learn to develop strategies."

Prevent bullying

In everyday school life, the prevention of bullying must become the order of the day. "Mobbing doesn't take place in the classroom, but in the corridor or playground," says Wolke. The introduction of peer counselors - trained older classmates - to resolve conflicts has proven to be very effective. "As a rule, only about 50 percent of the affected students go to teachers, as they usually cannot help," says the psychologist.