Psychological and emotional effects of cyberstalking

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Introduction

Cyberstalking pertains to the use of technology to pursue an individual severally to the point that the pursuit induces fear and discomfort in them. Stalking has become one of the major media concerns in the recent years as well as an area of serious scientific scrutiny in the last decades. Key among the issues researched in connection with cyberstalking include the various types of stalkers, online behaviors that are regarded as stalking and the potential impacts of stalking on the persons stalked (victims) (Mapple et al. 2012). This research investigates the emotional and psychological impacts of cyberstalking. Having outlined these impacts will help us to determine why or not these stalkings differ from those related to stalking.

Cyberstalking is manifested in different forms including the stalker creating intimidation, causing annoyance, frightening the victims, and creating hostile environments for the victims (Mapple et al. 2012). There is no specific behavior that defines cyberstalking as the practice varies from one person to another. The main victims of cyberstalking are the most vulnerable persons in the society. They include women, the ethnic minorities, children and the transgender individuals. According to Short, Guppy & Hart (2015), more than 53% of the young people who reported having been cyberstalked said that the experience was very upsetting. Cyberstalking has been associated with serious psychological and emotional impacts on the victims.

Effects of cyberstalking on victims

The emotional impacts

Research has established serious connections between cyberstalking and emotional well-being of the victims especially among the children and young people. Mapple et al. (2012) study revealed that the victims of cyberstalking exhibited withdrawal from the peer groups, loneliness and social exclusion. Such behavior is very disastrous to the affected persons. According to Short, Guppy & Hart (2015), the consequent withdrawal of the children from peer groups is highly likely to inflict depression and low self-esteem in the individuals affected. Depression is highly connected with suicidal results especially when the victims are largely isolated.

Avant, Davis & Cranston (2011) also studied the mental effects of cyberbullied young persons and concluded that online stalking is highly likely to cause mental health problems. According to the study, the young people can experience bullying due to mental health issues expressed in them. Consistently, the study highlighted that the young people who experience cyberbullying also exhibit outcomes such as depression, anxieties, psychosomatic symptoms, low self-esteem and suicidal thoughts. The suicidal thoughts are experienced especially when the period of stalking is extended beyond the limits that the victims can bear. The absence of intervention from the necessary authorities can also result in suicidal thoughts and sometimes attempts.

The majority of the cyberstalked persons who exhibit suicidal attempts comprises of the people who have exhibited emotional distress in the past. Moreover, the majority of the people who had survived suicidal attempts in the past are highly likely to exhibit suicidal results when stalked online. A lot of studies often discuss all types of bullying alongside effects such as suicidal attempts, depression and psychosomatic effects. However, there is no proof to link either cyberstalking or any other form of stalking to suicide other than past experiences and suicidal survival in the previous stages (Avant, Davis & Cranston, 2011). Stalking is not akin to the normal development of young people or part of life for the affected persons. Continued exposure to stalking, either online or by other means inflicts an abnormality in the victims and thus increases the mental risks in equal measure. Owing to this similarity in effects, it is clear that both cyberstalking and other offline stalking bear equal effects on the victims.

The psychological effects of cyberstalking on victims

There is little evidence in the literature concerning the psychological impacts of cyberstalking on the victims. Avant, Davis & Cranston (2011) study is one of the most remarkable ones in this sector. The study analyzed the behavior of 232 cyberstalked females. An assessment on the females revealed the symptoms of PTSD, depression, panic attacks and anxiety in the individuals. Avant, Davis & Cranston (2011) study also confirmed that about 20% of the cyberstalked victims exhibited an increase in alcohol consumption while 74% others responded that they had sleep disorders. According to Fleming et al. (2012), the psychological effects of cyberstalking and offline stalking are inseparable as they both exhibit similar social and psychological characteristics. Online stalking can sometimes be instigated by offline stalking or vice versa. For instance, Fleming et al. (2012) note that the majority of the female victims who reported being cyberstalked were stalked by their male counterparts with whom they had failed relationships. Continuous offline stalking on these females, therefore, most probably resulted to their online stalking.

Conclusion

Cyberstalking is one of the major media concern that experts and government agencies are continuously grappling to eradicate. Cyberstalking is increasingly becoming common in the wake of the technological era characterizing the present times. Cyberstalking has serious emotional and psychological effects on the victims as has been highlighted in this research. The major emotional effects include depression, suicidal thoughts, psychosomatic effects, etc. On the other hand, the most common psychological impacts of cyberstalking include PTSD, sleep disorders, etc. Based on the literature findings from the victims of online and offline stalking, the psychological and social effects on the cyberstalked individuals is similar.

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  1. Avant, E. M., Davis, J. L., & Cranston, C. C. (2011). Posttraumatic stress symptom clusters, trauma history, and substance use among college students. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 20, 539-555.
  2. Fleming, K. N., Newton, T. L., Fernandez-Botran, R., Miller, J. J., & Ellison, B. V. (2012). Intimate partner stalking victimization and posttraumatic stress symptoms in post-abuse women. Violence against Women, 18(12), 1368-1389.
  3. Maple, C., Short, E., Brown, A., Bryden, C., & Salter, M. (2012). Cyberstalking in the UK: Analysis and Recommendations. International Journal of Distributed Systems and Technologies, 3(4), 34-51
  4. Short, E., Guppy, A., Hart, J.A., & Barnes, J. (2015). The Impact of Cyberstalking. Studies in Media and Communication, 3(2): 23-37.
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