Can bullying others be caused by mental illness?

Postby AllinADadsWork » Thu Jul 19, 2018 2:28 pm

Hi, I'm very new to the forum. I'm looking for a place to discuss some ideas I've had while observing my children, my nephews and their friends and peers at school and other places, like parks.

First, let me explain how I got the ideas. I’m not on facebook. I don’t like the platform. I find it uninformative and believe it promotes a bad form of socialization. I thoroughly enjoy in-person socialization activities, but I’m still asked the question often; Why are you not on facebook? For an introverted adult with no disorders that make it hard for me to function, it is puzzling to me why I can’t simply choose to not use a platform. I just prefer to not be notified constantly or nagged to check it, and believe personally keeping track of my smaller but healthy circle of 5-6 good friends is a better choice. It’s generally not a problem for me, but I noticed an analog to this behavior while supervising children. Children who were introverted or disinterested in forming cliques were often the victims of bullying. Bullies often were upset that introverts did not understand their emotions, and parents of those children would often accuse the victims of being autistic, unable to understand any emotion. I was bullied myself in grade school but for similar reasons some reason this stopped in middle school. Thinking back, I realized that I learned how to change my behavior to make extroverts feel more comfortable around me in certain situations, at the expense of my own comfort. I don't think this is necessarily how it should be, however.

Specifically, I got to thinking back to a nephew of mine who is diagnosed as autistic. While he does engage in inappropriate behavior sometimes (such as pulling on my beard without asking), he does seem to understand the emotions of others and those who bully him. He is a bright child with superior mathematical ability for his age but poor verbal skills, and has difficulty expressing his emotions. But upon speaking with him, I realized something critical. He understands and empathizes with his brothers and peers who bully with him, but he doesn’t think their complaints are important enough for him to change his behavior and sometimes, I found myself agreeing with him.

I thought about this and other issues I’d experienced while dealing with my child, my nephews and other children I supervised. I noticed that cliquish and bullying behavior is commonly accepted in our culture while introverted behavior is not. Despite bullying and cliquish behavior being identified as major problem in our culture, we treat it like a problem that we have to accept as unsolvable, instead of treating it like a disorder.

It is commonly accepted that bullying can be an underlying cause of some mental illnesses, such as depression and others. However, I have noticed that we don't classify the bullying behavior as a common mental illness. Some bullies clearly exhibit sociopathic or even psychopathic behavior, but the truth is, many do not. Furthermore, bullying is so commonplace that mental health professionals are reluctant to ascribe such a serious mental illness to developing children. I believe, however, that this has resulted in a situation where we end up with many children who develop some kind of mental illness, from mild to severe, at least in part from being the victim bullying, but we only treat the victims of the bullying as mentally ill, choosing to use scholastic disciplinary means of correcting the bullying behavior which appear to be largely ineffective.

I have created a hypothetical disease called Peer Oppressive-Corrective Syndrome or POCS and would like to get feedback about whether this reflects bullying behavior or does not comprehensively encompass the behavior. Because some inappropriate behavior can be diagnosed as an Autism Spectrum Disorder, that behavior is not included in this document and it will be assumed for now to be a result of that disease and not POCS. Please don’t take this as an authoritative statement classifying a disease. I just needed a catch-all to easily reference what I think is a distinguishable pattern in the behavior I observe in children who bully other children. Most of these cases are not extreme and do not involve physical contact, though some might. Extreme physical contact or other behavior is clearly classifiable as under psychopathic, sociopathic or other anti-social personality disorders. Bullies with POCS are not anti-social. They are not charming sociopaths who are outwardly charismatic but lack empathy, either, but rather human beings experiencing a debilitating discomfort around people who behave differently than they do, and feel compelled to correct their peers in an oppressive manner.

POCS is characterized by:

1. Behavioral:
- Bossiness, inappropriate “paternalistic” behavior towards peers.
- Cliquish behavior, forming, belonging to or leading a clique.
- Superstitious beliefs, contempt for smarter or “brainy” peers. Generalizations about peers based on appearance, demographic data, or religious beliefs.
- Bullying peers with poor social skills, functional introversion
- Justifies bullying by saying they are helping peers by discouraging poor socialization, does not understand personal discretion or tactfulness
- Visible discomfort when placed among introverted peers.
- Inappropriate behavior limited to places where socialization is discouraged, such as libraries or public transportation, speaking energetically and loudly with friends in person or on a phone
- Excessive and obsessive use of social media, phones and tablets
- Mild narcissism and attention-seeking behavior
- Lack of personal discretion and inability to feel empathy when pointing out a problem with a peer in public.

2. Developmental:
- Highly developed socialization skill and speech abilities, but poor symbolic logic reasoning. Able to communicate their own emotions and abstract ideas but unable to understand complex logical concepts adequately.

3. Cognitive:
- Difficulty in focusing exclusively on self, compulsively giving attention to peers when it isn’t appropriate.
- Excessive concern about other children’s behavior, among younger children may include compulsive tattling
- Pays attention in class, but has difficulty reading or playing alone.
- Easily angered when their emotions are not understood, accepted, acknowledged and reacted appropriately to by other peers

4. Other:
- Loud szeaking voice, excessive gossip, rumor spreading

Treatment Proposals:
- Provide children with therapeutic support in counseling to understand the root cause of their behavior, familial issues, etc.

- Provide children with support in dealing with emotions regarding anger, frustration and other negative emotions when dealing with peers who don’t readily accept, understand, acknowledge or react to their feedback in a manner that they consider acceptable

- Expose children to pleasant activities that give them a break from socializing. Foster interests in activities that they can enjoy alone without requiring constant feedback from others.

- Reduce access to internet access to curb social media use.

- Provide tutoring in activities that foster spatial and symbolic reasoning that don’t use written language, such as geometry puzzles.

- Identify and separate children who are developing cliques that are excluding and bullying other children. Rotate children who are promoting cliquish behavior into roles as followers instead of leadership roles.

- Develop empathy and critical thinking by teaching children to ask how they would feel if the same thing was said to them when they are being bossy to peers
- Develop a respect for smart, intellectual children and adults by discouraging negative views of “nerdy” children; reduce superstitious believes such as the idea that a person is either smart or athletically inclined. Foster respect for people with disabilities by learning to accept differences.

- Provide racial and ethnic sensitivity training for children to reduce bullying of children from other cultures or belief-systems

- Teach children and adults to accept functional introversion. Not all children will be social, energetic and enjoy intense conversations. Some children will enjoy reading, learning alone or creativity more.

- Discourage gossip and rumors as toxic behavior through parables, storybooks, and true accounts.

- Emphasize that it is OK to speak to a peer about a legitimate problem, but that it is important to learn how to do so tactfully; do not embarrass the peer by exposing the problem in front of everybody if it is not urgent and entirely possible to speak with them privately.

- Develop empathy and help children understand that enjoying humiliating a peer publicly is a toxic behavior by asking them how they’d feel if something like that happened to them.

- Supervise children adequately at libraries, public transportation or other places where extroverted behavior is inappropriate. Expose them regularly under supervision so they can learn that extroversion and introversion both have their time and place.

- Mix introverted and extroverted children in group activities and quiet time. Identify children who are uncomfortable around introverted peers and discuss it with them to understand why. Help them learn how to control their emotions and self-sooth when they experience discomfort around peers who do not want to be social.

- Suggestions?
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#1

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Thu Jul 19, 2018 3:45 pm

You obviously have put a lot of thought into the subject. I'm headed out for a trip, so for this reason my post is short.

Have you ever considered that "bullying" is normal?

Most of the behaviors you have described have been part of normal social interactions for tens of thousands of years. They are highly adaptive in the process of socialization. Might it be that only recently, over the last 40 years, society has shifted and therefore the psychological community has begun to label what were previously understood to be normal behaviors are only now being considered unhealthy?

The reason I offer this for consideration, is because of how certain behaviors become labeled a disorder or illness. You may believe that the DSM is a scientific work, but that is incorrect. It is more a political work, where behaviors labeled as abnormal yesterday are considered normal today and vice versa. Homosexuality becomes normal, while "bullying" becomes abnormal. Gender was this and now it is that. Not because of some overwhelming scientific breakthrough that provides better understanding, but because the committee of psychologists that gets together to revise the DSM are just like you and me...they are human.

The behaviors you are trying to label as abnormal, I would approach with caution. Any behavior acted out by one person that might intentionally cause discomfort to another, doesn't necessarily make that behavior abnormal...especially in children.
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#2

Postby AllinADadsWork » Thu Jul 19, 2018 4:32 pm

What do you mean by "normal"? Commonplace or healthy? Of course bullying is commonplace and not all bullying is pathological. I make a distinction between normal interaction and bullying. Without being more specific than "most" about which of the outlined behaviors are "normal", I don't see how your contribution is helpful, but I understand you just glanced and left. Many behaviors we consider abnormal today were normal for tens of thousands of years, and there is always room for improvement.

You yourself said it's obvious I've thought a lot about the topic, so it should be obvious that I've considered the premise that bullying may be normal and even healthy, but upon thinking about it carefully, I think it is ridiculous to suggest that bullying is never harmful. We are certainly more aware of it than we used to be and I feel that many people have a knee-jerk reaction to get defensive about it, especially since many, if not all of us, participated to some extent.

I'm not trying to pathologize normal behavior but I also find your introduction of homosexuality into the discussion as questionable. I don't agree that homosexuality is a mental illness, although many homosexuals do have mental illnesses as does everybody.

With more brevity, what I am saying is that there are clearly bullies that are suffering from anti-social personality disorder. The treatment and handling of these children is well-established but difficult. There are also children with other dysfunctions that may be related to bullying. But there are also children who engage in quite disruptive and clearly unhealthy behaviors, often in groups, who escape any blame or critical analysis at all, while the targets of that disruptive behavior are over-pathologized and put into potentially dubious mental health treatments. In many ways, I feel the same way about the way we treat victims of bullying as you seem to feel about the bullies. Their behavior and reactions are normal, but they are treated as mentally ill. I also believe that it would be more effective to reduce the bullying behavior to treat the instigators of bullying behavior than the victims, and that a blanket statement that all victims of bullying are mentally ill and reacting inappropriately to bullying is definitely wrong.

For the purpose of this discussion, I think we should call "positive bullying" something else, like peer support or constructive criticism, and limit the word "bully" to mean exclusively disruptive behavior targeting a peer. I think posting a discussion on a forum about a purely hypothetical argument is probably about as cautious as you can get.
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#3

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Thu Jul 19, 2018 9:42 pm

AllinADadsWork wrote:What do you mean by "normal"? Commonplace or healthy?


Exactly. How do you believe any particular behavior finds its way into the DSM?

I also find your introduction of homosexuality into the discussion as questionable. I don't agree that homosexuality is a mental illness...


You don’t agree with who? I did not provide my opinion on the subject. I only pointed out it is a behavior previously considered abnormal and now it is considered normal. I take it that you don’t agree with the 3rd edition of the DSM, when it was considered abnormal behavior. How did it change? What changed?

The reason I point to homosexuality is because it is the perfect example of the process of how an observable behavior is either introduced or is removed from the DSM. I did not express any moral point of view.

And it is important as you move forward with the POCS. Your approach is similar in that just like the DMS you are selecting behaviors you consider inappropriate and therefore are worthy of being labeled a mental illness.

I think you have good intentions. You want to help reduce “bullying”. That is a noble purpose. So how about considering that in the vast majority of cases there is no mental illness? Maybe reducing the vast majority of bullying is better addressed not as something pathological, but rather as a result of environment or social factors?
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#4

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Mon Jul 23, 2018 8:10 pm

It appears the OP has moved on.

Too bad. Anyway, I find the topic fascinating.

Over the last few days I have been learning more about theories of human development and the balance between nature and nature. Together with the works of Phillip Zimbardo and the Standford Prison Experiment, it is interesting to see how the idea of "bullying" as a social construct has gained such momentum.

For anyone wishing to better understand what causes bullying, I recommend reading "The Lucifer Effect". It is not a great read, but it definitely is an evidence based approach that demonstrates the heavy influence of social context on human behavior.

https://amzn.to/2uYWawG

"Bullying" has never been abnormal behavior. It is a recent phenomena that mainly appears to plague technology rich countries where infant mortality and birth rates are extremely low. Most children in these countries are subject to authority or helicopter parenting, leaving children under developed and/or ill equipped to handle any perceived negative encounter on their own. Any problem, including any problem with their peers requires seeking out an authority figure to resolve on their behalf whatever problem or challenge they might face.

We...as a society...have created the bully phenomena.
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#5

Postby Fellow Traveler » Sun Aug 05, 2018 6:22 pm

Richard@DecisionSkills wrote:It appears the OP has moved on.

Too bad. Anyway, I find the topic fascinating.

Over the last few days I have been learning more about theories of human development and the balance between nature and nature. Together with the works of Phillip Zimbardo and the Standford Prison Experiment, it is interesting to see how the idea of "bullying" as a social construct has gained such momentum.

For anyone wishing to better understand what causes bullying, I recommend reading "The Lucifer Effect". It is not a great read, but it definitely is an evidence based approach that demonstrates the heavy influence of social context on human behavior.

https://amzn.to/2uYWawG

"Bullying" has never been abnormal behavior. It is a recent phenomena that mainly appears to plague technology rich countries where infant mortality and birth rates are extremely low. Most children in these countries are subject to authority or helicopter parenting, leaving children under developed and/or ill equipped to handle any perceived negative encounter on their own. Any problem, including any problem with their peers requires seeking out an authority figure to resolve on their behalf whatever problem or challenge they might face.

We...as a society...have created the bully phenomena.



I think bullying has been around for along time, ever since people began the process of forming communities.

I think some kids are bullies for different reasons, such as:

1) They're being physically disciplined at home in an excessive manner and this experience I think causes some children to bully others at school to feel better about themselves because of the loss of dignity and the feeling helplessness they go through getting tore up at the house. In the process of bullying they assume a position of power like their parents.

2) They're showing off in front of their friends to impress them and become or maintain their status as someone well known around school as being a bully/tough guy. They like the attention and crave it and bullying is a way to get that attention.

3) They may have mental issues and their bullying behavior is not something that is a precipitate of their home environment or their interactions with their friends.

4) They're physically disciplined at home and told by their parents that they better be tough at school and not take any crap off of anybody and eventually this defensive posture turns into bullying others who they deem have weaker constitutions.

Are these the only scenarios that I think turns a kid into a bully, probably not. I'm writing a web post not a thesis.

I agree with Richard that not every case of bullying is because of a mental abnormality, I believe most cases are the result of an antisocial moral compass that hasn't been noticed by their parents. The parents of the majority of school/online bullies don't know about what they're doing.

Now do all kids that get whipped at home turn into bullies, I don't think so and I don't think all kids that have been told by their parents to defend themselves at school turn into bullies but I definitely think these can be influential factors in them behaving this way.

In our modern society not enough parents are having enough conversations with their kids. Secondly those conversations need to be more in depth. We work long hours, we get home beat down and having a long conversation with our kids is usually not done or scheduled until they get in trouble and that's a sad commentary on our society.

Parents and teachers must form a united force working to get the word out to children about respecting one another and letting it be known that bullying will not be tolerated. Again not just that bullying won't be tolerated but that they must respect one another's differences. They must show common respect due any human being and not take part in bullying and teasing others, which I think can be just as bad as bullying.

Now because we don't live in a perfect world we need to also prepare out children for school by explaining to them that they might at some instance be the target of bullying or teasing and that you need to know about it to help them decide a course of action to make it stop.

So we must do our jobs as parents and make sure our children go to school with a proper moral compass and an understanding of respect yet also get them to understand that they may face a bully or malicious teasing and they should let you know what's happeing and we as parents need to pry more and find out what's going on and decide how to handle it.

In our schools our teachers and administrators and school employees need to be more observant of acts of bullying and mean spirited teasing and get some names and start doing something about it.

Please forgive me for going somewhat off the premise of the primary post but its a problem that's really gotten bad and sometimes our kids are being killed because of bullying and adults as well. We can do something about it if we take the time to see that its a complex problem that requires a deep look into the situation before coming up with a plan of action.
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#6

Postby laureat » Tue Aug 07, 2018 5:50 am

i believe that bulling is very natural and you see every day in the animal world

however, there is also the phenomena about frustration

example: a frustrated dog locked in a cage, one your scared to try to help out
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#7

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Tue Aug 07, 2018 11:38 am

Fellow Traveler wrote: but its a problem that's really gotten bad and sometimes our kids are being killed because of bullying and adults as well. We can do something about it if we take the time to see that its a complex problem that requires a deep look into the situation before coming up with a plan of action.


I agree it has gotten bad, but I don’t think it is all that complex an issue.

I think it is rather simple. As a society we have developed the “nanny state” where we hover over children and tell them they must seek out an authority figure to deal with any problem. We say physical force is never the answer and that everyone is to be treated exactly the same. This takes away a very natural process, the fight or flight response.

No wonder there is anxiety. A person intimidates and you can’t flee. You go to the teacher and you get put back in the same exact cage. You can’t fight, because then you are intimidated and punished by authority figures and returned to the cage. There remains the bully. You are in a lose/lose situation.

Laureat points out it exists in nature. Exactly! Yet as a species we are so arrogant to think we know better. We believe nature’s rules don’t apply to us and then wonder why kids are anxious, frustrated, and committing suicide. It’s simple.

Where I agree it is complex is that changing a system that is widespread and goes against the rules of nature is not easy.
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#8

Postby Fellow Traveler » Tue Aug 07, 2018 1:50 pm

Richard@DecisionSkills wrote:
Fellow Traveler wrote: but its a problem that's really gotten bad and sometimes our kids are being killed because of bullying and adults as well. We can do something about it if we take the time to see that its a complex problem that requires a deep look into the situation before coming up with a plan of action.


I agree it has gotten bad, but I don’t think it is all that complex an issue.

I think it is rather simple. As a society we have developed the “nanny state” where we hover over children and tell them they must seek out an authority figure to deal with any problem. We say physical force is never the answer and that everyone is to be treated exactly the same. This takes away a very natural process, the fight or flight response.

No wonder there is anxiety. A person intimidates and you can’t flee. You go to the teacher and you get put back in the same exact cage. You can’t fight, because then you are intimidated and punished by authority figures and returned to the cage. There remains the bully. You are in a lose/lose situation.

Laureat points out it exists in nature. Exactly! Yet as a species we are so arrogant to think we know better. We believe nature’s rules don’t apply to us and then wonder why kids are anxious, frustrated, and committing suicide. It’s simple.

Where I agree it is complex is that changing a system that is widespread and goes against the rules of nature is not easy.



Thank you very much for saying that Richard. I haven't been on this forum long, still a new member and there are some beliefs I want to post but I'm afraid to because I don't want to be thrown off.

A lot of children aren't inclined to fight and I think they need to be taught to defend themselves regardless of bullies at school. They need to be taught to defend themselves because they may be in a situation away from school that requires them to do so as well as defending themselves at schools.

I applaud people that have their children taught a martial arts form and I think if more kids at school were capable of defending themselves bullying would not be such a big problem but there will always be those people out there that don't see it that way, that won't accept the fact that kids will be kids and there will always be bullying in some form or fashion.
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