Tag Archives: Signs Of Stress

Freaky Friday: Bully Brains

by Richard

This is actually kind of scary. We know that being bullied makes for some big-time backlash for the young dudes who get bullied. What we didn’t know until recently is that being bullied also makes some physical changes in the brains of those kids who get bullied.

Yeah, that’s right. Young dudes who get bullied actually suffer permanent changes to the structure of their brains because of the bullying.

If we thought there was a reason to crack down on bullying in schools before, brother, you’d better believe there’s more of a reason now.

They lurk in hallways, bathrooms, around the next blind corner. But for the children they have routinely teased or tormented, bullies effectively live in the victims’ brains as well — and not just as a terrifying memory.

Preliminary evidence shows that bullying can produce signs of stress, cognitive deficits and mental-health problems.

Now University of Ottawa psychologist Tracy Vaillancourt and her colleagues at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario plan to scan the brains of teens who have been regularly humiliated and ostracized by their peers to look for structural differences compared with other children.

“We know there is a functional difference. We know their brains are acting differently, but we don’t know if it is structural as well,”said Vaillancourt, an expert in the biology of bullying.

According to Vaillancourt, she finds changes to the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for memory.

Bullied young dudes have already been found to score lower on tests that measure verbal memory and executive function, a set of skills needed to focus on a task and get the job done. Mental-health problems, such as depression, are also more common.

Come on, dudes. This is ridiculous. We need to have a zero-tolerance policy for bullying in schools that’s actually enforced all the time, every time.  Kids need to feel safe when they’re at school, trying to learn.

I mean, come on. How can you learn if you’re constantly looking over your shoulder, fearing the next push or the next time someone starts name calling?

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Freaky Friday: Popularity Not So Great

Back in high school, I wasn’t what you would call popular. I wasn’t a pariah, but I certainly wasn’t up there on the A-List of kids others followed around and wanted to be with. Turns out, that’s probably a good thing.

In another example of scientists doing research that validates their years spent locked away in a lab torturing mice and watching their hair fall out clump by clump, it seems as if becoming popular or good looking isn’t all that good for your mental health. That is, you can be too thin or too pretty.

Aspirations were identified as either “intrinsic” or “extrinsic” by asking participants how much they valued having “deep, enduring relationships” and helping “others improve their lives” (intrinsic goals) versus being “a wealthy person” and achieving “the look I’ve been after” (extrinsic goals). Respondents also reported the degree to which they had attained these goals. To track progress, the survey was administered twice, once a year after graduation and again 12 months later.

What’s “striking and paradoxical” about this research, he says, is that it shows that reaching materialistic and image-related milestones actually contributes to ill-being; despite their accomplishments, individuals experience more negative emotions like shame and anger and more physical symptoms of anxiety such as headaches, stomachaches, and loss of energy. By contrast, individuals who value personal growth, close relationships, community involvement, and physical health are more satisfied as they meet success in those areas. They experience a deeper sense of well-being, more positive feelings toward themselves, richer connections with others, and fewer physical signs of stress.

So, if we can put it into more colloquial terms: It turns out that geeks and dorks will end up being happier than their more popular or good-looking brethren. No, there’s no way that this could be the sort of self-serving science we all know and love so very, very much. I mean, sure, it makes me feel good, but what about the good-looking people. What about them? Who’s going to be there to help out the wealthy, or those poor famous folks? I think we happy masses need to do our best to help them out by making sure they get even more money and fame. It’s only fair.

— Richard

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