Psychological bullying can be defined as any kind of intentional and purposeful mental abuse. Sometimes people may feel as though they've been abused because something happened that hurt them emotionally, but it would generally only qualify as bullying if it were done purposefully, especially with malicious intent. People have many reasons for bullying others, including personal gain, vengeance, and self-esteem issues. Those who endure psychological bullying often have emotional problems that can linger for many years after the abuse happens.
One of the most common tactics used during psychological bullying is to personally attack people. When this happens, the bully may make jokes about some weakness or physical flaw in an individual. This is often done in front of other people for comedic purposes, or as a way to elevate the bully above his victim in the eyes of his peers.
Another thing that bullies often do is purposely make a big issue out of differences between people. For example, the bully might make jokes about a person's religious beliefs or race. Usually, the bully will only rely on these tactics if he can find some obvious way in which the victim is different from most of his peers.
Some bullies take a more indirect route to harming victims. They may rely on rumor and innuendo, and often may even spread intentional lies about someone. In some cases, this may be done without the victim's knowledge, with the bully going out of his way to keep his identity secret.
Children are generally well known for problems with both physical and psychological bullying. Among adults, physical bullying still happens, but the psychological type is usually more common. This is partly because the punishments for physical abuse often become much more severe for people as they mature, with jail being a possibility.
Physical and mental abuse often go hand in hand. In fact, physical abuse can almost be seen as a kind of psychological bullying because it has a traumatic psychological effect as well. In addition, most physical bullies rely on the same tactics as psychological bullies to further torment their victims in addition to their physical assaults.
What generally separates the two is that while physical bullying almost always includes a mental component, psychological bullying can potentially happen without any physical component at all, and in many situations, it does.