New research done in Massachusetts has shown that being bullied in school can actually have long term impact on your brain. Researchers have discovered that brain chemistry is altered in adults who experienced childhood teasing from peers. The neurological impact closely resembles those borne by children who were physically or sexually abused by adults in early childhood.
Recent research has also shown that the emotional impact of peer victimization is just as damaging as emotional abuse by parents. Both are now linked to greater levels of depression, anxiety, and low self esteem in adults.
I believe the research has special significance for gay men, many of whom were teased by classmates for being “too feminine.” In my LGBTQ affirming therapy practice I find that my gay clients at first tend to minimize the impact of being bullied. They assume that since they received good enough love and care from their parents that their current difficulties are not related to their childhood experiences, even if their peers made school a nightmare.
If you experienced bullying as a child I suggest that you take a look at your experiences with all the compassion you can muster. Healing begins when we truly understand what it felt like to go through those experiences. We grow when we accept the anger we feel towards the victimizers and the grief we feel for what happened to us when we were too young to deal with it.
Now’s the time to validate your own experiences. Thankfully, the new brain research is providing societal validation of the impact of bullying, and is fueling a renewed effort by many parents and educators to provide greater protection to the next generation.