Bullying and the different types of bullying

27 - Oct - 2021


November each year sees a whole week in the mental health calendar dedicated to helping understand, stop and provide support around the issue of bullying. So many people are affected by bullying behaviours and the impact on the sufferer can be severe and long lasting. Often depression, anxiety, together with a whole range of other concerns can be traced back in part to the experiences of bullying. 

Understanding bullying is an important first step in being able to recognise it and in the run up to Anti-Bullying week. For this first blog post we are writing about the different types of bullying and we will follow up with further blog posts on bullying and the law, contemporary forms of bullying and finally how to stop bullying and how to recover from being bullied.

The different types of Bullying

Some people may believe that bullying only comes in forms of physical bullying and name-calling. However, that’s not entirely the case as researchers who study bullying have now identified six different types of bullying. These are Verbal Bullying, Physical Bullying, Relational Aggression, Cyberbullying, Sexual Bullying and Prejudicial Bullying. Bullies differ in their tactics and behaviours which are meant to intimidate their victims. Some types of bullying may be easy to spot, whereas others may only be seen by the victim’s eyes and no one else around. 

Verbal bullying comes in form of words, insults and name-calling. It is aimed to not only intimidate and often humiliate the victim, but also to gain power and control over them. It is common for the bully to use insults to degrade, shame and hurt another person. Verbal bullies often like to pick up on their victims for the way they look, act or behave. This type of bullying may be hard to spot as the bully typically approaches and attacks the victim when there is no one else around. That way there is no evidence of the incident. The victim may be scared to reach out for help, especially since there is no proof of the incident. Research has shown that verbal bullying and name-calling has serious consequences and can leave deep emotional scars, so it is crucial to reach for help and speak to someone when verbal bullying occurs.


Physical bullying happens when the bully uses physical action to gain power over the victim. Examples of physical bullying include kicking, hitting, punching, slapping, shoving and other physical attacks. Typically, physical bullies are bigger, stronger or more aggressive than the victims. Compared with verbal bullying, physical bullying is easier to spot, since it often leaves physical marks or scars.

Relational Aggression is sometimes referred to as emotional bullying. It involves social manipulation where the aggressor tries to mentally hurt the victim or sabotage his/her social standing. Examples of relational aggression include isolating the victim from the group, spreading rumours, breaking confidences and manipulating situations. The most common goal of the relational bully is to increase their own social standing by controlling or shaming another person. This type of bullying is mostly seen in schools and common workplaces. 

Cyberbullying occurs when the aggressor uses the internet to humiliate, embarrass, degrade, harass, hurt, threat or target another person. Cyberbullying can target kids, teenagers and adults, however adult cyberbullying is often referred to as cyber-harassment or cyberstalking. Cyberbullying can be done directly to the victim, for example by sending online threats or insults and hurtful messages to the victim, or publicly, e.g. by posting hurtful images or statements of the victim online and shaming the victim to other people online. With the growth of the internet and social media, cyberbullying is now one of the most common types of bullying. Cyberbullies often feel like they can harass their targets with much less risk of being caught. Technology makes them feel anonymous, insulated, and detached from the situation. However, the consequences of cyberbullying can be just as significant as other types of bullying. This is why it’s important to address it as soon as it happens, whether it happens directly to someone, or when being a witness of cyberbullying.

Sexual bullying targets the victim sexually through harmful or humiliating actions. Examples of sexual bullying include vulgar comments and gestures, uninvited touching, sexual propositioning, sexual name-calling and pornographic materials. The bully can also make crude comments about the victim’s appearance, attractiveness or sexual activity. Slut-shaming is also an example of sexual bullying. Sexual bullying is illegal and it’s crucial for the victim to report it as soon as it occurs. 

Prejudicial bullying occurs when the offensive comments and targeting of the victim happens due to victim’s race, religion, nationality or sexual orientation. The bully chooses the victim with the different background or beliefs compared to their own. This type of bullying can be dangerous as it often leads to hate crimes, hence why any forms of prejudicial bullying should be immediately reported.

The effects of bullying and therapy 

People often bring their experiences of being bullied and the impacts it has had on their lives to therapy. Bullying can result in a number of things including: anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, self-harm and suicidal thoughts. People who have experienced bullying often find counselling and therapy helpful, whether that’s dealing with a current bullying incident or something that has happened earlier in life. Speaking to a counsellor and psychotherapist can help victims of bullying deal with incidents of bullying as well as looking at others behaviour from a different perspective. Many clients come to counselling and therapy for other reasons and the root cause of different problems is bullying. Therapy can help victims deal with the issues associated with bullying as well as dealing with the root cause.

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