What is bullying?

The definition of bullying is: when a person or a group of people repeatedly and intentionally use words or actions to cause distress and harm to another person’s wellbeing. Bullying isn’t the same as a ‘normal’ conflict between people (such as having an argument or a fight) or simply disliking someone. It’s more about repeated behaviour by someone who has power or control over someone else.

What does bullying look like?

Bullying can happen anywhere: in schools, at home, at work, or in online social spaces, such as text messages, emails, or posts on Instagram, Facebook or another social media site. It can be physical, verbal and/or emotional, and is really about someone intimidating or exercising control over someone else in a way that makes them feel afraid or embarrassed.

Some common types of bullying are:

  • excluding someone from a group (online or offline)

  • giving someone nasty looks, making rude gestures, calling them names, being impolite or constantly teasing them

  • repeatedly saying nasty things about someone behind their back

  • spreading rumours or lies, or misrepresenting someone (e.g. using a person’s Facebook account to post messages as if it were them)

  • harassing someone based on their race, sex, religion, gender or a disability

  • repeatedly hurting someone physically by pushing, hitting, slapping, ganging up on or restraining them

  • stalking someone.

How can bullying make you feel?

Being bullied feels shitty, that’s for sure. But you may have other feelings as well, that aren’t so easy to understand. You may feel:

  • guilty, like it’s your fault that you’re being picked on

  • hopeless and stuck, like you can’t get out of the situation

  • alone, like there’s no-one to help you

  • like you don’t fit in socially

  • depressed and rejected by your friends and other groups of people

  • unsafe and afraid to attend school or work

  • confused and stressed out from wondering what to do and why this is happening to you

  • ashamed and embarrassed

  • physically sick

  • scared to talk about it.

How common is bullying?

Unfortunately, bullying is really common. ReachOut has found that one in four students report being bullied every few weeks or more. If you’re being bullied, you’re definitely not alone.

Why do people bully others?

People bully others for lots of different reasons: they may have a strong desire to control other people or to look cool in front of others, or even to feel better about themselves. They may bully because it’s the only way they know of to deal with their own anger and frustration. A significant number of young people who bully others have been bullied themselves. They often don’t even realise that what they’re doing is wrong.

Does this excuse their behaviour? Absolutely not. There are no excuses for bullying, but it can be helpful to understand that people who bully usually have some personal issues going on. In other words, in order for them to change (and to stop their bullying behaviour), they need help, too.

What can be done about bullying?

Depending on the nature of the bullying and where it’s taking place, there are steps you can take to reduce the negative effects of bullying and deal with bullying:

If you need some extra support, that’s okay – here are some tips on talking to someone you trust. Above all, it’s important to look after yourself.

What can I do now?

  • Think about how you'll respond next time you're facing a bullying situation. Get the low down on 2 options here.

  • Talk to someone about what you're going through. Rahart Adams breaks down the 5 key steps for you here.

  • It's really important to look after yourself. Check out some examples of self-care tips here.


About bullying