Bullying is a sign that something is wrong in a teen’s life. It’s an indication that an adolescent needs some parental or adult support. For this reason, the way that parents or school administrators handle teen bullying and aggression is important.
Typically, parents or teachers will want to punish a teen for bullying, and rightly so. However, the way that a teen is punished is important. Bullying and aggression might be the result of low self-esteem or a behavior disorder, such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or conduct disorder.
In both these cases, whether it’s lack of self-confidence or a behavior disorder, mental health services are in order. In fact, a therapist or psychologist is needed whenever a child’s life is not functioning well, when his or her relationships are impaired, or when their academic performance is declining. When a teen is exhibiting violence, it’s a strong indication to seek professional mental health support.
One of the primary reasons for this is to prevent the further development of a psychological illness, if there is one. Anger, aggression, impulsivity, and violent behavior can indicate the presence of conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, or ADHD. Impulsivity is a characteristic of conduct disorder, with a tendency to break the rules and violate the rights of others. There is little regard for the consequences of action. A characteristic of ADHD is the tendency for a teen to react to stimuli in his or her environment immediately. She might easily be distracted by noises, urges, thoughts, and outside triggers. Although impulsivity is considered to be a normal feature of adolescence because of their developing brains, if it continues in excess, it might be a sign of a developing mental illness, such as those listed here.
What’s important to know is that when a behavioral disorder goes untreated, typically it will only get worse. A teen or young adult who exhibits the traits of conduct disorder or oppositional defiant disorder, and who goes untreated, will later possess the traits of antisocial personality disorder. These childhood and adolescent illnesses can be the precursor for antisocial personality disorder. Approximately, 3% of the population, or about 8,100,000 individuals in the United States have antisocial personality disorder. Even more people (especially those with addiction) have antisocial personality traits and exhibit antisocial behavior.
It is clear that early treatment of conduct disorder is essential for the well being of an at-risk adolescent. A recent article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association – Psychiatry indicated that bullies as well as victims of bullying are at the highest risk to think about and plan suicide. The relationship between bullying and mental illnesses were confirmed in a study done by Duke University last spring, revealing that effects of bullying are long-lasting for not only the victim but also for the bully.
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, when treated early with a comprehensive treatment plan, conduct disorder can be managed and a teen can eventually return to normal functioning. However, if not treated through therapeutic means, such as psychotropic medication and therapy, conduct disorder can become more and more complex, leading to antisocial behavior and antisocial personality disorder. Teens with untreated conduct disorder will have a very difficult time adapting to the demands of adulthood and will often have trouble holding a job, staying in relationships, and avoiding the law.
Because of the relationships between bullying and mental illness many states have bullying prevention programs, which are being implemented in schools. Of course, if you are a parent, your role is also essential. As mentioned at the start of this article, punishing a child for their bullying shouldn’t be as central as their psychological well-being. Sure, communicating that violence is wrong is an important part to parenting, and at the same time, securing the appropriate mental health support and treatment is just as important.
“Conduct Disorder.” American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2014.
“Born to Bully: Is Your Child ‘Wired’ to Harass Other Kids?” For Parents-By Parents. Retrieved on June 10, 2014 from: http://www.byparents-forparents.com/born-to-bully.html
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