Cyberbullying is linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, not only in victims but perpetrators as well, according to a new study of over 2,000 UK teens.
PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, an accident, a terrorist act, combat, rape, or other violent assault.
There have been warnings about a potential spike in the spate of internet blackmail, cyberbullying, and other cybercrimes amid the social realities that have manifested in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
But new research published on Tuesday in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood has now attributed over a quarter of some cyberbullying cases to those who suffer from PTSD symptoms.
Scientists in the UK questioned 2,218 teens — aged between 11 and 19 — across four secondary schools in London and found that cyberbullying was associated with multiple and varying PTSD symptoms.
Using the Bully/Victim Questionnaire to narrow down bullying types, they found cyberbullying was less likely, with one of four teens being involved, versus one in three for traditional bullying.
Nearly 75 percent of the participants also filled out the Children’s Revised Impact of Events Scale to screen for PTSD and 35 percent of the victims scored above the threshold for the mental disorder.
About 29 percent of the teens who did the cyberbullying showed signs of PTSD and cyberbullies were less likely to also be traditional bullies, although some teens did fall under both categories.
Speaking on the findings, Ana Pascual-Sánchez, a clinical psychologist, who doubles as one of the authors of the study at Imperial College in London, said her team was surprised by those results.
“Aggression exposes bullies to potentially violent situations in which they can lose control and even feel vulnerable at some point or regret from it, having intrusive memories,” the expert said.
“It seems the anonymity provided by online means could increase the risk of cyberbullying perpetration, providing a platform easy to access, and that can reach others quickly and easily.”
While no answer was given as to why exactly some cyberbullies displayed PTSD symptoms, Ana noted that more research is needed to understand causation and dive deeper into the symptoms.
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