Dealing with Depressive Outcomes Stemming from                                   Cyber-bullying, Bullying, Violence, and Isolation in Teen and Young Adults

                                                             By: Shavonne Y. Rich LMHC,MA, ATSA

         Gaming and social media exchanges have become very popular among youth that we adults now refer to as the millennial generation.  Youth have become technologically savvy and increasingly knowledgeable about new trends in social media and the like.   Though adults admire and are very often impressed with the fast-thinking fast-moving pace that we admire in this generation, it often becomes very difficult for adults to intervene in, or to determine behavioral effects and outcomes stemming from these very secretive exchanges between youth.   Cyberbullying has become of major concern in regard to its effect on the mental health of youths who partake in it (Hofmann Asnanni & Fang, 2012).  Many youths choose social media as a means of acting out aggressively for the purpose of social dominance with anonymity.  It is often a means of cultural expression as well (Hofmann Asnanni & Fang, 2012) .

           A number of mental health issues, relationship issues, and self-esteem concerns arise as a result.   Major depressive disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 2013) is one of the most pervasive effects of bullying.  Victims suffer from extreme feelings of sadness, hopelessness, diminished interest in pleasure, oversleeping, experiences fatigue and loss of energy, increased isolation, feelings of worthlessness, loss of concentration, and recurrent suicidal idealizations. Clinically significant distress is on the rise among youth, acting to impair the victim's ability to socialize, or maintain grades, or have successful interpersonal relations (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

        Some of the most prominent concerns are the inability to connect with individuals in their peer group, science fiction preoccupations that encourage virtual experiencing of success rather than actual experiencing,  decreased patience, refusal to accept social invitations due to feelings of inadequacy and social awkwardness, not having confidence in their ability to have trusting or supportive relationships with others.     

          According to Markowitz & Weissman, (2004), positive relationships and social engagements are protections against depression and other would-be emotional imbalances.  Porchaska & Norcross, (2010)  believes that interpersonal skill deficiencies increase the likelihood of depression in humans, as humans are found to have a biological need for attachment.  Freud and other theories mainly focused on the impact of bonding on social functioning and success later in life.   Children who do not develop communication and social skills early on, later develop fear when confronted with engaging socially with others in relationships.  

          Children who experience overabundances of emotional and or physical violence in life tend to avoid engagements or have mainly negative engagements as a defense mechanism or out of fear of being judged or ridiculed.   In extreme cases, negative engagement becomes normative and victims engage in bullying behaviors with others in an effort to regain their sense of importance.  Often victims develop perfectionist behaviors as a defense mechanism that shows up as lacking tolerance for imperfection.  They begin to harshly judge themselves and others.   Cognitive Behavioral therapy could address his lack of mental flexibility and the thoughts that are associated with his feelings of inadequacy and vulnerability as emotional detachment and depersonalizing are very real outcomes.

             In order to remedy the harmful outcomes of bullying, both cyber and in-person, direct and in-direct, youths need to have avenues to address their adopted negative judgments and beliefs about themselves, be able to identify cognitive distortions that justify self-harm or the harming of other, develop social norms that include shifting pattern of isolation and distancing, develop healthy eating and sleeping habits, seek the assistance of a trained therapist (through adult supports) for on-going mental health and wellness, and be willing to venture into activities that could challenge their negative beliefs.  Locating a therapist who will approach the youth in a way that encourages combating defense mechanisms such as projections, denial, undoing, and repression without internal conflict as a focus during treatment is of extreme importance.

           Feelings of cultural awkwardness is very prevalent in American society.  Being a minority, oftentimes come with feelings of isolation, distancing, feelings of inadequacy, helplessness, hopelessness, anger, and depression.  There is a very real possibility that feelings of difference could be due to not having had positive interactions with others within one's own cultural group due to macro aggression imposed on a cultural/ethnic group, as well as negative socially reinforced negative stereotyping that seems permanent and immovable to the group.

           It is very important that youths are able to identify social supports in their lives, and are able to achieve real-life goals and objectives surrounding interpersonal functioning, social engagement skills, communication skills, and personal goal setting to increase leisure and personal success and achievement. focus attention on avoidance reduction, increasing awareness of areas in need of improvement, being more present in the here and now, re-examining thoughts surrounding losses, addressing feelings of difference, creating a positive mental space for social exchange, assisting in the building social skills and engagements that support life in a diverse environment, creating opportunities for positive reinforcement, and restructuring negative thought patterns (Farchione, Boswell & Wilner, 2017),  Children should be made comfortable to take steps of exploring their interests in life, setting realistic goals, and taking small steps to achieve real feelings of success.