Several people have experienced firsthand the emotional stress of being bullied. As Namie and Namie report (2009) bullying happens to about 37% of the workforce. Yelling, insults and a constant barrage of disrespect can make any one feel overwhelmed with stress. Medical studies show that constant emotional stress can clinically be bad for your health. Dr. Ilan Wittstein of Johns Hopkins University confirms that emotional stress can indeed release stress hormones to the heart and lead to symptoms that mimic a heart attack. The condition is called ‘broken heart’ syndrome. The body is designed to have a fight or flight response under stress. However at work, fighting is not the appropriate option, neither is flight (or walking off the job). Therefore, the target of bullying is trapped, with stress hormones potentially pouring into his or her system, literally causes heart problems. Other systems of stress include weight swings, moods swings, hair loss and restless sleep.
What can someone do?
1. First and foremost, strive to protect your health. If you are feeling stress symptoms, seek medical help and have the doctor clearly document what is causing the stress.
2. Read the HR manual. Many organizations have anti bullying policies along with the anti-harassment and anti-retaliation polices.
3. Seek support from friends and family. Often targets become overwhelmed with the stress and isolate themselves. Support from friends and family can help the target think clearly about healthy next steps.
4. Keep a journal. Documenting the times and places of the bullying can create a record your performance slips under the stress of a bully.