While the term “bullying” may conjure up images of the schoolyard—an older, stronger child overpowering a younger, weaker one for his lunch money—bullying is certainly not limited to elementary school. Bullying often occurs far into adulthood, although it can be much harder to recognize. And this is exactly where it gets complicated.

You may be wondering if you are truly the victim of bullying or whether you’re being overly sensitive. Accusing someone of abuse when no abuse is present can destroy relationships, separate families, or put your career at risk.

But the good news is bullying is very easy to identify—you just have to know what you’re looking for.

Here are 4 of the most common types of bullying:

Emotional Bullying

It is also referred to as relational bullying and includes repeated, aggressive behaviors that affect an individual’s relationships or social standing—gossip, slander, and even some forms of cyberbullying can fall into this category. When this type of abuse is present, it is with intent to coerce, manipulate, or intimidate an individual through damage to his or her relationships or reputation.

Verbal Bullying

It includes recurring and abusive language toward an individual, such as blaming, shaming, and name-calling. This includes repeated insults and putdowns toward one person, even when they are subtle. Verbal bullying is among the most common forms and usually refers to spoken communication over written. The intent of verbal abuse is to degrade, terrorize, coerce, or manipulate an individual toward a desired outcome.

Physical Bullying

It is among the easiest to identify. It includes recurring, aggressive actions that damage an individual’s physical body or personal belongings. The intent of physical bullying is to overpower and/or coerce an individual through fear and intimidation. This form of bullying is among the most destructive as it is often accompanied by other forms of bullying in addition.


It is an increasingly common form bullying among adolescents and young adults characterized by repetitive verbal abuse through technology. This can occur through text messaging, email, instant messaging, and across all forms of social media. Similar to verbal bullying, cyberbullying includes, blaming, shaming, and degrading an individual. It can also include terrorizing through threatening other forms of bullying or abuse.

It is important to note that in order for someone’s behavior to be determined bullying, it must be repetitive and aimed to influence or intimidate an individual toward a desired outcome. Rude, mean, inconsiderate, and disrespectful behaviors are commonly mistaken for bullying. While these behaviors are can certainly be associated with bullying, they cannot be deemed as such unless they are also aggressive, reoccurring, or aimed to intimidate or coerce.

Bullying can have detrimental effects that last for years if left unaddressed. Some of these are anxiety and depression, increased feelings of sadness and isolation, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and a loss of interest in things one used to enjoy. It is crucial that those being bullied seek help as soon as possible.

Still unsure if you’re being bullied? You can talk to someone today who can help.