15 Ways Bullied Kids Struggle as Adults

Bullying is a pervasive issue that not only affects children during their formative years but can also leave lasting scars well into adulthood. The experiences of being bullied can shape an individual’s psychological, emotional, and social development in profound ways. Here are 15 ways bullied kids may continue to struggle as adults.

Low Self-Esteem

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Bullied individuals often internalize the negative messages and criticisms they receive during childhood, leading to persistent feelings of inadequacy and a diminished sense of self-worth. As adults, they may struggle to recognize their own strengths and accomplishments, constantly seeking validation from others and doubting their abilities.

Anxiety Disorders

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The trauma of being bullied can lay the groundwork for various anxiety disorders in adulthood. Generalized anxiety disorder may manifest as excessive worry and fear about everyday situations, while social anxiety disorder can lead to intense fear of judgment or rejection in social settings. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may develop in response to the traumatic experiences of bullying, causing intrusive memories, flashbacks, and hypervigilance.


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 The relentless harassment and social exclusion experienced by bullied individuals can contribute to the development of depression in adulthood. Lingering feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness may persist, impacting daily functioning and diminishing the individual’s quality of life.

Trust Issues

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Betrayal and mistreatment by peers during childhood can erode trust in others, making it difficult for bullied individuals to form close relationships or rely on others for support. In adulthood, they may approach new relationships with caution, fearing that they will be hurt or betrayed once again.


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 Adults who were bullied as children may carry a lingering sense of social discomfort and fear of rejection. This can lead to self-imposed isolation as a protective mechanism, as they may prefer to avoid social interactions altogether rather than risk facing further humiliation or mistreatment.

Poor Coping Mechanisms

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Some individuals who were bullied develop maladaptive coping mechanisms to deal with the emotional pain and trauma. This may include substance abuse, self-harm, or other destructive behaviors that provide temporary relief but ultimately exacerbate their psychological distress in adulthood.

Difficulty Forming Relationships

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The interpersonal scars of bullying can make it challenging for adults to form and maintain healthy relationships. Trust issues, low self-esteem, and fear of rejection may sabotage potential connections, leading to loneliness and a sense of alienation.

Impaired Academic or Career Achievement

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The psychological toll of bullying can impact academic and career success in adulthood. Lingering feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt may undermine the individual’s confidence and motivation, hindering their ability to pursue educational or professional opportunities to their full potential.

Physical Health Problems

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Chronic stress from bullying experiences can take a toll on physical health in adulthood. Persistent feelings of anxiety and depression may contribute to a weakened immune system, exacerbate pre-existing health conditions, and increase the risk of developing stress-related illnesses such as cardiovascular disease or autoimmune disorders.

Emotional Sensitivity

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Bullying can heighten emotional sensitivity, causing adults to react strongly to criticism or perceived rejection. Even minor setbacks or negative feedback may trigger intense emotional distress, as they struggle to differentiate between past trauma and present circumstances.


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Some individuals who were bullied develop perfectionistic tendencies as a coping mechanism to avoid criticism and gain validation. In adulthood, this perfectionism may drive them to set unrealistically high standards for themselves, leading to chronic stress, burnout, and a constant fear of failure.

Imposter Syndrome

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Lingering feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt instilled by childhood bullying can contribute to imposter syndrome in adulthood. Despite external evidence of their competence and achievements, individuals may persistently fear being exposed as frauds and believe that they are undeserving of their success.

Difficulty Asserting Boundaries

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Bullied individuals may struggle to assert their boundaries or advocate for themselves in adulthood. Fear of confrontation or rejection may prevent them from expressing their needs and preferences, leading to feelings of powerlessness and resentment in personal and professional relationships.

Avoidance Behaviors

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Traumatic memories of bullying may lead to avoidance behaviors in adulthood, as individuals seek to protect themselves from further harm. They may avoid situations, places, or people that trigger painful memories or remind them of their past experiences, limiting their opportunities for growth and social connection.

Impact on Parenting

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Adults who were bullied may carry unresolved trauma into their roles as parents. They may overprotect their children in an attempt to shield them from similar experiences, inadvertently stifling their independence and resilience. Alternatively, they may struggle with regulating their own emotions and behaviors, inadvertently perpetuating negative patterns of interaction learned during childhood.

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