Bullying—It Can Happen at Work Too

Bullying—It Can Happen at Work Too

When you hear about bullying, you probably think about kids or teens getting teased or tormented at school. But did you know that bullying can also occur between adults in the office? And it’s more prevalent than you might think.

According to a survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute, 27% of employees say they’ve been bullied in the workplace, and 21% say they’ve witnessed bullying. The main culprits? Bosses are the most common workplace bullies. What’s really surprising is that 72% of employees get in on the act by denying it happened, downplaying it, rationalizing the behavioral problems, or even encouraging the perpetrator.

Is someone willfully sabotaging your performance, giving you unwanted and undeserved harsh criticism, spreading rumors about you, humiliating you in front of coworkers, or intentionally excluding you from work activities? You could be the victim of bullying.

Workplace bullying can take a toll. People who have been targeted by a bully in the workplace are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease, according to a 2019 study in European Heart Journal. with people complaining of headaches, nausea, insomnia, and burnout. Being targeted at work can also lead to anxiety and depression.

When Bullying Leads to Anxiety Disorders

People who are victimized at the office can experience a variety of anxiety disorders that remain long after the intimidation has stopped. The main forms of anxiety that affect victims include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): If you’re filled with worry, anxious thoughts, and fears that interfere with your daily life and your ability to do your job, you may have GAD. You may go to work in the morning with the expectation that something bad is going to happen, or you might have bullying scenarios looping in your head. You may also be plagued by physical symptoms, such as headaches and stomachaches.
  • Panic attacks: For some people, being targeted can make you vulnerable to panic attacks. With this condition, you may suddenly feel a sense of terror and be overcome by physical symptoms, including a racing heart, sweating, and a heaviness in your chest that won’t go away. Since you may associate your office or work environment with the bullying you experienced, you may experience panic attacks at the office or even just thinking about going there.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): For most people, once a traumatic event has passed, they are able to overcome negative feelings and move on with their lives. For others, however, the effects of bullying linger and develop into PTSD, which is characterized by flashbacks, being easily startled, and being hyper-vigilant. Avoiding the people and places associated with a traumatic event is common in PTSD sufferers, so you may find yourself wanting to avoid going to work.
  • Social anxiety disorder: Being exposed to bullying that involves public humiliation, being blamed for business failures that weren’t your fault, or other negative verbal assaults may lead to an intense fear of being judged negatively or being rejected in a social or performance setting (like giving a presentation at work), which are common signs of a social anxiety disorder. This causes people with this condition to experience extreme anxiety and distress in social settings or to attempt to avoid them altogether.

Unfortunately, exhibiting anxious behavior makes victims more vulnerable to continued abuse, which compounds the problem, according to a 2015 study in Anxiety, Stress, and Coping: An International Journal.

When Bullying Makes You Depressed

Depression is another unwanted outcome of bullying at work. People who have been subjected to intimidating or aggressive behavior at work are more than twice as likely as their peers to develop the condition. Among those who have experienced frequent bullying? They’re 10 times more likely to become clinically depressed, according to a 2014 study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Depression—which can drain your energy, make it hard for you to concentrate, and make you feel irritable and cranky—can prevent you from performing at your best on the job. This creates a downward spiral that can negatively impact your career and your life.

When to Seek Help

Every company has its own policies regarding bullying in the workplace. You may want to speak with someone in your HR department to discuss how to put an end to the behavior. But if your feelings of anxiety or depression are getting in the way of your daily life, or if the aggressive behavior has ended and you’re still reeling from its effects, it’s time to seek help.

At Amen Clinics, we have helped thousands of people learn to overcome feelings of anxiety and depression. The Amen Clinics Method takes an integrative approach to diagnosis and treatment that includes brain SPECT imaging as well as looking at the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual aspects of your life to identify areas that can be optimized.

If you want to stop suffering and start feeling better, call 888-288-9834 to talk to a specialist today or schedule a visit.


  1. Such a relevant issue to address! My only comment is regarding advice that if you’re being bullied, that you should go to HR as a first step. Having worked in corporate environments for over 20 years, going to HR can be the kiss of death in a job, unless you are ready to turn in your badge when you go. HR exists to protect the company, not the employees. And what you share with them is NOT confidential. In my opinion, the best advice is to build your assertive communication skills and deal with the bully (or bullies) directly. Figure out exactly what you need to say to let them know you are aware of what they are doing. Write down a few bullet points and memorize it. Be diplomatic. Then at the end, let them know you would appreciate it if they would stop doing it, whatever they are doing. Stated in a calm, professional way, the bully can’t complain that you are doing something wrong, and he/she will lose momentum. Suddenly, bullying you no longer works for them. They may still not like you, but they will definitely see you in a different light. If the job still sucks after that, look for other opportunities. Maybe the culture is not a good fit and you deserve better.

    Comment by Maria — November 29, 2019 @ 4:29 AM

  2. I’m wondering if a person has dealt with a form of bullying for a few years
    If once it stops if it can also cause a difference phase of depression and anxiety?
    I seem to be more depressed with more anxiety now that the person is gone there is of course other factors of life involved as with us all being different humans and different things happening in our lives i have seemed to get worse just saying

    Comment by Cindy — November 29, 2019 @ 5:32 AM

  3. I planned to retire next month, but I won’t be retiring next month. Why? Because I’m already retired. I retired right after turning 62, against all the advice I see on the Internet. There was no way I was going to make it until I was 63.5. I’m a healthy active but overweight woman who works out 4-5 times a week. So what happened? After spending 6 years in college (a BA plus 2 more years) my last job was a data entry clerk. I admit I was not put on this earth to be a data entry clerk but I worked very hard at it. I could make quota but I was on the lower end. Then work I was assigned was more difficult and I was not able to make it. There were two of us and my coworker was given the easy work while I was given the more difficult work. I was put on PIP. I was very close to turning 62 so it was time to retire. I work part time as a substitute teacher. Most of the time it goes well but sometimes there are teachers who love to make my life miserable such as a teacher who said I was mean and unfair. She didn’t say how I was mean or unfair.

    Comment by Shasta Jones — November 29, 2019 @ 9:02 AM

  4. Obviously, we are entering the world of peace and love…If anyone makes you uncomfortable or causes you any undue stress, find a psychological hook to hang your diagnosis and feel better…Life is tough…get over it and stop looking for excuses to make yourself a victim…

    Comment by Dr Henry Sinopoli — November 29, 2019 @ 9:47 AM

  5. There is always the possibility that occasionally someone makes themselves a victim. Bullying is real however, and there are personalities who want to exert power and control over another.

    Comment by Anni — November 30, 2019 @ 3:22 AM

  6. I waa bullied for 5 years at NSW Ministry ofHealth it was supported by the Secretary, Executive Director and Directors and HR after I with the support of the PSA took legal action against them at one stage I was made to directly report to the very director that had largely been responsible for bullying me despite strong advice by my treating psychiatrist that this was not to happen and would seriously jeopardise my mental health they made me return to work and she was allowed to continue to bully me. I did breakdown and had to go home.

    That executive director I believe is now in charge of mental health policy.

    Comment by Rosemary lee — November 30, 2019 @ 7:05 PM

  7. Wow. Didn’t take long for the first bully to show up with some advice.

    Comment by Catherine — December 2, 2019 @ 7:43 AM

  8. This does not happen to me, yet I see it happening in our female management. It only happens when our Male managers are off.
    The two females being treated wrongly are the best. The one female, new to management, is overriding the other females. Constantly repeating what they say over our walky system, communication radios. This person does not have my respect at all. I support my managers, and am kind, but this overbearing, usurping her authority, female, will be found out by our Male managers & hopefully & Prayer fully, moved out. One bad apple isn’t good in any business.

    Comment by Carole Christine Flynn — December 2, 2019 @ 1:13 PM

  9. I am an unfortunate victim of office bullying by my manager. There was not a day when she was in the office that she did not scream at the top of her lungs at me in front of everyone. She would accuse of something that “somebody” told her. Would state other managers were furious over something that I did and when I went to them to explain how and why they each told me without either one aware I spoke to the other one that they understood why what I did and had no problem with it. Seche treated her division as if it was a separate entity from the corporation so when the corporation approved an employee’s participation or institute a corporate-wide internal campaign she would not have her division have no participation or in the case of the employee deny their participation even when using their own time and not interfering with their work. I became extremely sick with depression, anxiety, stress that lead to a seizure disorder. I would have anywhere from 10 to 50 seizures at one time in a manner of minutes, Once I left there the seizures stopped, The mental illnesses took a little longer to get a handle on but life is so much happier and settled now. My HR was totally useless, they never saw my side on anything. I was a one-woman army for myself.

    Comment by PEG BITTNER — January 11, 2020 @ 8:16 AM

  10. I read your article on workplace bullying, and was diagnosed with GAD, panic disorder. I filed workers compensation was on a medical leave for 1 year.
    HR returned me to my bully boss and he again harassed. I was afraid to report I contacted HR and they had another job available but it was a demotion. I accepted and now reported the retaliation to HR and my supervisors and want to get my job back but in another department. I interviewed for a position the manager asked questions of about working with my boss I respond with appropriate answers. The interviewer then tells me they will contact my bully boss to discuss my performance. I am retraumatized.
    I was not offereddid the position. My WC case is now in settlement. My bully boss is still working for the company.

    Comment by Linda Charmaine Davis — December 15, 2021 @ 6:29 AM

  11. Some truly interesting information, well written and broadly user genial.

    Comment by gralion torile — December 6, 2023 @ 7:19 PM

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