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Bullying and harassment

Bullying can affect anyone. It can happen at school, in the workplace, in the home or online.

The person who is bullied can often feel angry, hurt, humiliated or threatened.

The main types of bullying include:

  • verbal (includes sexual harassment)
  • physical (includes sexual abuse)
  • social
  • psychological
  • cyberbullying (online bullying)
  • bullying at work

Verbal bullying

Verbal bullying can be face-to-face, written or over the phone. It includes name-calling, put-downs, slagging and threats.

Physical bullying

Physical bullying can include being punched, tripped, kicked and having things stolen or damaged.

Social bullying

Social bullying is often one of the hardest types of bullying to identify and deal with.

Social bullying includes being left out, ignored or having rumours spread about you.

Psychological bullying

Psychological bullying can be hard to identify. It is often less direct and can feel like it is in your head. It can include intimidation, dirty looks, stalking, manipulation or unpredictable reactions.


This type of bullying happens online. It can include receiving offensive and abusive messages. It also includes hacking into other people's accounts or spreading rumours online.

Cyberbullying can be difficult to deal with. You may not know what to do at first. But many new laws have been introduced to protect people from online bullying.

Learn more about cyberbullying

Being bullied at work

Bullying at work can take the form of psychological or social intimidation.

No one should feel intimidated or threatened at work. Employers and employees have a duty by law to provide a safe and healthy work environment.

Learn more about dealing with bullying at work

Sexual harassment at work

Sexual harassment can be physical or emotional, and can happen to anyone.

If someone makes you uncomfortable, tell them. You could also inform human resources (HR). Sexual harassment in the workplace is against the law.

Learn more about dealing with sexual harassment at work

Why bullying happens

People may use bullying as a way of exerting power to make themselves feel better.

The person may bully as a way to deal with their own problems. It is not because of something you have done.

Difference between bullying and harassment

People who bully and people who harass other people often behave in slightly different ways.

A person may bully when there are no witnesses present and use methods which can seem fairly harmless. Sometimes a pattern of behaviour will have to be identified to prove that the bullying has happened.

A person who is guilty of harassment often uses more obvious tactics. For example, they may use offensive language, or harass someone in front of other people. This can make harassment easier to identify and confront.

Finding support when you are bullied

Being bullied or harassed can leave you feeling vulnerable and alone.

It can be helpful to talk to someone about what is happening. Speaking to someone can help you feel less alone. Try to talk to someone who is completely separate from the situation.

Find out what to do if you are being bullied

Page last reviewed: 1 September 2022
Next review due: 1 September 2025