Study Suggests Bullies Are At High Risk For Bulimia

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Being the victim of bullying as a child is known to be associated with an increased risk for anxiety, depression, and even eating disorders, but a new study suggests the bullies may also be at risk for psychological disorders.

Source: The Bullying Project

Source: The Bullying Project

A new study from researchers at Duke Medicine and the University Of North Carolina School Of Medicine indicates individuals involved in bullying as a child are twice as likely to develop show signs of bulimia, as well as being at increased risk for other eating disorders.

For the study, the researchers sued data collected over two decades from over 1,400 children between the ages of 9 and 16.

“For a long time, there’s been this story about bullies that they’re a little more hale and hearty,” lead author William Copeland, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University School of Medicine, said in a release. “Maybe they’re good at manipulating social situations or getting out of trouble, but in this one area it seems that’s not the case at all. Maybe teasing others may sensitize them to their own body image issues, or afterward, they have regret for their actions that results in these symptoms like binge eating followed by purging or excess exercise.”

The researchers categorized the children included in the study into four groups; children who weren’t involved in bullying, children who were the victims of bullying, children who were bullies, and children who had been both victims and bullies.

To the researchers’ surprise, the findings indicated that those who had bullied others showed the highest rate of bulimia symptoms, with 30.8 percent of bullies reporting signs of the disease. In comparison, 17.6 percent of children who were not involved in bullying showed the same symptoms.

The results also indicate that those who were victims showed increase risk for both bulimia and anorexia.

“Sadly, humans do tend to be most critical about features in other people that they dislike most in themselves,” study co-author Dr. Cynthia M. Bulik said in the release. “The bullies’ own body dissatisfaction could fuel their taunting of others. Our findings tell us to raise our vigilance for eating disorders in anyone involved in bullying exchanges — regardless of whether they are the aggressor, the victim, or both.”

The team says they hope further research will provide more insight into the long-term effects of bullying and the potential link between social behavior and health.

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