Bullying Has Negative Implications For Eating Disorders

The Huffington Post recently reported that more than 75 percent of people with eating disorders cite bullying as a significant cause of their disorder.

How does bullying affect natural development, self-esteem and eating behaviors?


Bullying has many negative effects for adolescents. Verbal and physical aggression can devastate perceptions of self-worth and self-esteem by cutting people down and making them feel worthless. Teasing and taunting about weight in particular can cause depressive thoughts, contemplation of suicide, and/or eating disorders in many children and teens.

Bullies tend to pick on the more sensitive, quieter, “weaker” kids who they think will be easy targets. According to Anorexia Reflections, it just so happens that the stereotypical targets tend to develop eating disorders much more than the rest of the population.

Symptoms of Bullying

The Stop Bullying website lists some signs that may indicate a child has been bullied. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Unexplainable injuries
  • Lost or destroyed personal belongings
  • Frequent illnesses, real or fake
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Declining interest in school
  • Avoidance of friends or social situations
  • Decreased self-esteem
  • Self-destructive behaviors

Emotional Effects of Bullying

As stated earlier, bullying can lead to depressive symptoms and thoughts of suicide. Depression and anxiety often coincide with the development of an eating disorder. Bullying can directly contribute to these feelings, making young children susceptible to eating disorders.

Online bullying is becoming especially prevalent among young girls, where the offensive language cannot be easily removed but spreads virally. This type of bullying may lead to feelings of helplessness, and disordered eating can be seen as a way of reinserting control over the situation.

Bottom Line

Bullying damages emotional and physical health. Self-esteem and self-concept are still developing during adolescence, so this is a very vulnerable time. Bullying sends the message that the victim is worthless and unimportant, which goes hand-in-hand with the dangers of eating disorders.

Eating disorders themselves have terrible consequences on the mind and the body, so this is a vicious chain that needs to be broken in order to promote healthy living and healthy bodies.

Sources: Huffington Post, Anorexia Reflections

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