How Does Bullying and Peer Pressure Contribute to Addiction and Suicide?

Bullying and peer pressure play a huge role in the increasing number of adolescents and young adults using illicit substances. In some instances, bullying and extreme pressure have led some individuals to do the unthinkable – take their own lives. Studies now show that young people who have been subjected to bullying are up to 3 times more likely to commit suicide than those who were not bullied. Incidentally, the number of teenagers using drugs and other illicit substances is higher when associated with peer pressure and bullying. So how does bullying and peer pressure contribute to addiction and suicide?

If one adheres to Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory of human development, the teenage years are characterized by an ever-increasing need to establish their own identity. Failure to do so will often lead to role confusion. The theory postulates that individuals in this age group are constantly searching for answers to the bugging question, “Who am I?” as well as “What can I be?” Most of those in the adult world now know this as the period wherein identity crisis is at its strongest.

Adolescents are, for the first time in their lives, experiencing greater freedom from their homes. In search of that ‘identity’ that will help determine who they are, teenagers begin associating with peers – fellow teenagers who may have exactly the same ideals, thoughts, and beliefs. Unfortunately, since peers typically belong to the same age group, their search for identity becomes more of a collective effort. What other members of the peer group will do should be made applicable to all.

This is the very essence of peer pressure and is one of the strongest reasons why young people take drugs, drink alcohol, and do other risky behaviors, all for the sake of being accepted into the group. If you’re not doing the same things that people in the group are doing, you’re considered an outcast. And this can lead to issues in the establishment of the person’s sense of identity.

Bullying, on the other hand, is becoming more rampant. Experts observe that bullied individuals have a much higher risk of suicide ideation and completion than those who have never been subjected to bullying. Bullying can come in many forms such as physical or emotional bullying or even sexting and cyber bullying.

Bullying is generally regarded as an attack on one’s personhood. For many it is believed as exploiting one’s weakness and vulnerabilities, which can further worsen the already-low self-esteem and self-worth that these victims have. In their minds, the bully is telling them that they don’t have a place here on earth. For young people, this can have devastating consequences since they are still at a point in their lives where they’re building the ideal self-identity. Now that identity is being put into question, these individuals would take matters into their hands.

Both bullying and peer pressure are issues that confront many of today’s youngsters. Interestingly, these two issues are also increasingly considered as very important factors in the increasing number of suicides and addictions, respectively.

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