Nine Consequences of Name-Calling

Discover how name-calling impacts victims

teen girl very distressed

Name-calling is one of the most damaging and painful types of bullying. It leaves victims with negative messages about who they are ingrained on their minds. It's also harmful because it attempts to define people. For instance, calling someone “fat,” “retard,” “nerd,” or any other derogatory name chips away at the target’s self-esteem, sense of self-worth and self-concept.

Name-calling also makes it increasingly difficult for the victim to trust her perceptions about herself. And regardless of the names the victim is called, the underlying and repeating messages are “you’re not good enough” and “you don’t measure up.” Here are some other ways young people are affected by name-calling.

Erodes a Victim’s Sense of Self

Over time, name-calling and other insults can slowly eat away at self-esteem and the victim will no longer see herself realistically. For instance, if a girl is regularly called “fat,” she may view herself as overweight even after she loses weight. This type of distorted body image is often the beginning stage of an eating disorder.

Causes Kids to Compromise Their Beliefs and Values

When kids are insulted for having certain beliefs or values, this name-calling may cause them to bend to peer pressure and compromise their beliefs in order to escape the bullying. For instance, a teen that is called a “goody-goody” may try to shake this image by doing things that go against her belief system as she tries to prove she is not always a “goody-goody.”

Affects a Victim's Sense of Well-Being

Name-calling causes noticeable changes in personality and behavior of those impacted. For instance, teen victims may be more tearful, hostile or withdrawn. They also may invent excuses to avoid school and lose interest in outside activities. What's more, victims are often dissatisfied with life. They also may struggle with feelings of loneliness and despair.

Impacts a Person’s Identity

When a bully calls another person a name, they are attempting to control how others see the person. For instance, a bully may call someone “stupid.” This name-calling is usually done in front of others and is meant to encourage others to view the person as “stupid” as well. If the name-calling is repeated, over time others, including the target, may begin to associate the word “stupid” with that person. And eventually, that hurtful label can become part of who that person is.

Opens the Door to Violence

In severe cases, bullies who call others names often will act on their anger and lash out in a physical way. In fact, many hate crimes begin with name-calling. Never ignore name-calling. Instead, if your child is being called names at school, bring it to the attention of the teacher or the principal.

Encourages Internal Criticism

Name-calling often leads targets to take on the names as reality. As a result, they begin to criticize themselves instead. For instance, if a person is a called a “loser,” their internal voice will learn to call them a loser as well when they make mistakes. The problem is that this inner voice is hard to switch off and it’s not very objective.

Impacts Mood

It’s important to remember that sudden changes in mood can sometimes signal that bullying is taking place. Never ignore a child’s changes in mood or write them off as hormonal until you have determined why they appear sullen, angry or distant. Changes in behavior, sleeping habits and moods should always be considered the first warning signs that something is wrong. It is not uncommon for victims of name-calling and other types of bullying to experience anxiety and depression. If your child shows a change in mood, have him evaluated by a doctor right away. 

Affects mental health

Name-calling can have serious consequences on mental health. In fact, researchers feel it is one of the most damaging forms of bullying. For instance, some victims become so depressed from the name-calling that they begin to feel worthless, helpless and out of control. Some victims may even contemplate suicide. If your child talks about death or wanting to die, do not ignore his comments. Have your child evaluated by a medical professional right away. 

Affects Physical Health

Often, when kids are called names their physical health will be compromised. In addition to having trouble eating or sleeping, they also may complain of an upset stomach and headaches. Additionally, some victims may develop post-traumatic stress disorder, ulcers, or other stress-related conditions.