Is There a Connection between Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Bullying?

Posted by on Nov 19, 2013 in PTSD | Comments Off on Is There a Connection between Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Bullying?

By: Dr. Cherrye S. Vasquez

Dr. Cherrye S. Vasquez

Dr. Cherrye S. Vasquez

All any child want in life is love, happiness and security. Living our lives without harsh intrusions and horrific sufferings is something most people would cherish as a great life – “Life can’t be a bowl of cherries” for ALL of us, right? We know the answer to my question all too well. The answer is “Right.”

But, suppose a child is on the outside looking in traumatized by the release of all the chaos and drama moving about them – They are a young, frightened and astonished into sheer awe and disbelief – OR, is it you – now all grown up who perhaps once lived within this chaos, but somehow found your way – Yes, you jumped out of a vicious life cycle (whatever one deems as such).

Although I’m speaking on the premise that not ALL of us experience the same issues in life, and I certainly can’t claim that each and every one of us will ever go through turbulence, however, there are those among us who have had, and who may still experience chaotic lives. There are variables in life and perhaps risk factors that cause a few among us to become probable to events that some may not ever experience. Yes, I want to preempt this message clearly prior to moving on.

We know however, traumatic experiences may be especially true for our children who are born into generational poverty. You may know people among us who, due to no fault of their on, experience life’s astonishing heartaches which sets them off into feelings of unawares they never thought possible.

Later in life, some might find themselves asking, what is this thing — this monster feeling that entrapped my very mind, soul, and body, that somehow lured me into thinking and perhaps doing the unimaginable. What things? Well, all sorts of crazes that may include, but aren’t limited to, acts of bullying, rape, molestation, hate, assault, physical abuse, kidnapping, war and attacks on others, and/or unruly, drastically inappropriate, deliberate, careless behaviors. Is this list disturbing to you? I meant for it to be because we must talk about on-the-edge issues and stop passing the buck, or putting band aids on matters of importance.

So what is this author speaking of? I’m speaking of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and its association with acts of violence, menacing and/or acts of bullying behaviors. Could there be a connection between PTSD and Bullying? Who knows for sure? Since this topic is very new in terms of its connection to bullying, I’d go on to say this subject is on my list of topics categorized as marginal, but it is worth investigating. When we inspect and consider issues that plague us, we become stewards of change, or change agents for a better tomorrow.

Now, am I saying that all people who experience PTSD disorder react in volatile ways described above? No, I’m certainly not suggesting this, but determining a connection and trigger of bullying and/or inappropriate damaging behaviors will help us offer hope. So, here goes:

What we know is this: Children aren’t born into this world destined to partake in acts of violence. There has to be variables or antecedents in one’s life that activates, and/or elicits such acts.

Let’s see if we can determine answers to the following questions? What was the trigger? What was the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back? What tipped this person (boy or girl) over the edge? What set them off? (So to speak.)

Of course, we all become stressed from time to time (it’s just life), but the quantum leap act that I’m speaking of here has one so traumatized that a person just loses all sense of direction to the point of giving up on self and life. These are the upsets that are so overwhelming to a person that they feel life isn’t worth living. Here, I’m speaking of a person that feels empty inside. They feel exposed to the world, scared, and they lose all sense of safety, belief, faith and hope.

Although PTSD can happen to anyone for a number of reasons (a normal life, but a sudden car accident in which a close loved one dies); again I want to remind you that my focus within this particular writing is to dialogue and discourse about the possibility and connection between PTSD and bullying. What is the effect on a person who turns toward acts of violence and bullying behaviors? What does this action do for them? Is it somehow a sense of relief, or “I got back at someone (regardless if the victim was the perpetrator, or not) for making my life such a mess.

When our children are born into or come into turbulent dysfunctional homes where they witness and/or are victims of an array of hurtful and harmful doings, they may become numb to healthy feelings. Children have the same needs that adults have for feeling safe. When they feel threatened and scared out of their wits, and thrown into a world-wind of shattered, fearful conflicts and battles, they may react haphazardly to these abnormal behaviors to a point of remaining in psychological disbelief, fright and distress.

O’er, not all children who experience PTSD experience major incidences as described below, but one can only imagine the plight of abnormal behaviors that may befall when these sorts of issues arise.


Think for just a moment on these Scenarios.


Scenario I

Suzy’s mom and dad just recently divorced. Although Suzy longed for her parents to remain together so they could continue dwelling as a family, her parents grew apart. Suzy’s parents always ensured her life was as normal as possible. Although they were divorcing each other, they weren’t divorcing Suzy. Suzy’s parents had a friendly divorce while respecting each other’s wishes for Suzy.

Months later, Suzy’s mom is dating again and decided to move her new boyfriend into their home. One morning when Suzy’s Mom left for work, she left Suzy home with her new boyfriend, and the unimaginable happened. Her Mom’s boyfriend beat, choked, and severely raped Suzy.

Now, Suzy has become very depressed, angry and feels ashamed of her body. She has outbursts and cries a lot at school. When children get too close to Suzy she becomes irritable. None of the other children seem to know what is going on with Suzy. The teacher doesn’t know how to help her.

Scenario II

Marks Dad is an alcoholic who becomes a drunken stupor on a daily basis. To top that off, he is very violent and becomes abusive. Marks Dad beats him, his Mom, and siblings all the time. Mark loves his Mom and siblings. He loves his Dad too, but hates his actions so badly he now despises him. Whenever Mark tried to intervene and help his Mom, his Dad turned on him giving him a beating for hours.

One day when Mark’s Dad was in a drunken rage, he took out his hunting rifle and shot his Mom in the head as she begged for her life. Mark witnessed this event. Mark’s Dad went to prison for 5 years. Mark and his siblings had to go and live with his grandparents. What a life disruption!

When Mark’s Dad was released from prison, he tried to come for his children. Mark doesn’t want to have anything to do with his Dad. Mark feels betrayed by his dad. For years Marked walked around numb with mixed emotions. How can his Dad say that he loves him and his siblings when he took their Mom away from them?

Important Points

We must also keep in mind that PTSD can occur when something as simple as a child’s fear of being separated from his/her parents. Again, we must ask ourselves an important question – “Why?” Did the parents give the child a reason to sense this fear? Was the child left alone often, or left with family members or friends who weren’t kind to the child in some way?


Could it be possible that PTSD is related to other health related concerns? This is yet another question worth our consideration.


These are just a couple examples and points of how sudden upsets may drive and instigate children into abnormal behaviors they may not have chosen to partake in when life was normal.

Children who become astonished at what they’ve experienced may have a very difficult time dealing with and managing their emotions. Wouldn’t you? Instead of dealing with their sudden disrupts normally, they may experience increased unease, and disturbing provocation. This may be the time when educators notice unrest and inappropriate bullying behaviors towards others. The child is now irritable, shame, harboring a sense of blame, guilt, hate and perhaps even jealousy of classmates who appear to have sound normal lives (a memory some once had). You’ve heard the old cliché, “Misery loves company.”

When children retort to unwarranted behaviors as a result of trauma, we must be willing and ready to aide and assist them with effective coping strategies. We may be able to help get therapy for children and their families. We must remember, however, our support must be ongoing, steadfast and consistent. Children that experience traumatic life upsets to the point of PTSD may need to talk. We must have listening ears that do not become weary of hearing their stories, and we must make undivided time for them.

Regardless of the spark that ignited or generated negative behaviors, the connection of PTSD and bullying is a topic that we must not bury in the back of our minds. Educators and health professionals alike must work tirelessly together for solutions unlocking the unknown and pledging to labor and toil closely with children and their families for hope and transformation.

Parents would be wise to consider, rethink and forecast important decisions which could adversely and negatively affect children and their overall safety. Children depend on us for safety. We are their advocates. Of course when things happen beyond our control such as death, car accidents and the like, we have to help our children cope with every day issues just as any other person, or child would have to under normal circumstances.


About the Author

Author Cherrye S. Vasquez is a public school administrator and an adjunct professor. She is a Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum & Instruction; a Master of Education in Special Education; and a Bachelor of Arts in Speech Pathology/Audiology. Vasquez specializes in Multi-cultural education and holds certifications in Early Childhood Handicapped, Mid-Management and Educational Diagnostician. She lives in Houston with her husband, Roy and her daughter, Kelly.

Vasquez’ platform centers on diversity and bullying issues. She feels strongly that children should love and have pride of who they are, and believe in themselves and their identity. Empowerment is essential to healthy wholesome development.

Author’s Contact Information

  • Website
  • 713-628-2908
  • Skype: BooksThatSow