Bullying and mental disorders

Most people reading the article "Father blames bullying for son's eating disorder" will see the issue as "is bullying bad" or "bullying isn't that bad."

It's a false choice. We don't need to blame anyone for the boy's illness, and we certainly don't have to see this child as a helpless victim.

Child with genetic predisposition for anxiety and eating disorders diets. Child's body goes into a self-perpetuating cycle of malnutrition. Mental symptoms ensue. That's the only part of this article that relates to eating disorders in my mind.

Bullying IS bad. But you should not have to have an eating disorder or become suicidally depressed for bullying to be harmful and unacceptable and OUR JOB to address - individually and as a society - period.


  1. I agree that bullying should not be tolerated and needs to be dealt with on it's own.
    Sadly though, even healthy persons would struggle with knowing what to do if they were taunted every day and bullied. A strong person might get mad and threaten to stop them in "worse ways" if they are fed up enough and don't have support from adults. A bully is often a sick person who has bigger issues than the one they pick on and no one can know how far they will go if left to harm others. Imagine the fear that they bring forth for a person who feels that there's no one to help them, that it hurts, that they may end up dead. We've all probably seen and known of situations where bullying is ignored UNTIL the victim gets mad and either fights back or something tragic happens. When the "victim" is being harmed adults tend to look away, almost as if the adults involved fear that the parent of the bully will eat them if they dare to deal to step in. I never understood how bullies always find others to join them but a wise friend of mine once comforted me when she reminded me that bullies always form gangs because they are weak people.
    While we can say it's genetics we may also want to recognize that abuse can alter and pound down most people, perhaps more so a growing person. Abuse can weaken. Those outside messages,especially from those in our social groups in life, can literally drive the car to a disaster if we don't step in from outside and change these things that go beyond normal disagreements, especially when it's growing children. It's not fair to suggest that they were genetically pre-disposed and weak. Are we being fair to assume that the genes were all lined up and he had a natural weakness. What if they were made weak?
    What if our genes are malleable? What if eating disorders is something we are all at risk for, perhaps in smaller ways for some of us. (like chocolate)
    The same boy in the article may have avoided anorexia if circumstances were healthy on the outside, IMO. In other words, I think our world expands beyond our skin. I also think that besides food this boy will need some counseling to KNOW that he was not the freak that the bullies made him think he was. Those messages need to be booted out of his head with the truth. In a way, bullying darkens the truth and lack of swift support adds fear. People are killed by angry people.
    I hope this young man becomes stronger with his recovery and responsible for himself. On the other hand I have no use for bullies so I hope they are helped too.
    So, these issues may be separate yet somehow there's a connection. I'm not sure but if the ED is an inner bully maybe the outer bullies also need to be quieted or at least put in their place.

  2. ED *is* a bully!

    And bullying of any kind is a horrible phenomenon with long-lasting consequences. And I think you are right, Mary, that the consequences are for both the perpetrator and victim.

  3. I was going to blog this story, but you beat me to it (and did a better job!).

    The bullying no doubt contributed to and triggered the boy's eating disorder, but it didn't cause it. He will likely need to deal with the mental consequences of the bullying. But doing so won't guarantee his recovery from AN.

  4. You are right- bullying does need to be addressed as a society before it manifests into something serious.

    I have seen many people turn to addictions because of lack of self worth- a lack of self worth that can come from being ignored AND/OR being bullied, etc. . .

  5. I am the parent of a 17 year old girl who has been battling anorexia for several years. While there are other contributing factors to this disorder including possibly a predisposition due to genetics, I can say with all truthfulness, my child was teased and bullied in 4th,5th, & 6th grades. She is beautiful, smart, and shy, I went to teachers, guidance councelors and finally the principal who sat on her fat ... and looked at me as if I were nuts telling her about the abuse in this school. It was ignored. I called parents, and in turn the school called me and got angry with me.
    Trust me bullying and teasing undermines a young person fragile self esteem.
    I hate the administrators of the school, for their lax attitude.
    7th & 8th grade were fine, then 9th grade, new school, no friends, and then we had school deans who were bullies, detention upon detention for uniform pants that were not from the proper company...damn, the kid was to skinny to wear their stupid pants.
    10th grade, total breakdown, into treatment center for 4 months.
    11th grade, very shakey ground.
    Say a prayer for us.
    A loving and tired mom.
    And yes, we do eat with our child, and she prepares some of her own foods.
    The hardest is the mood swings.
    with love,

  6. Loving mom,

    I am so sorry about the bullying - both of you and your dear daughter.

    Is she getting professional care? Is she nutritionally rehabilitated? Have you visited the www.aroundthedinnertable.org online forum?


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