“Mobbing is like a rape of the spirit. It destroys a person from the inside,” Elliot said. “Before I found out about this, I used to wonder why someone would go into a work environment and spray the whole area with bullets. Why do people go postal? This is one reason why. You know who your friends are not, but you don’t know who your friends are. Everybody is suspect. These people become so paranoid. They can suffer extreme anxiety disorders and also, in extreme cases, post-traumatic stress disorder.”From the links at Workplace Mobbing, I especially recommend Mobbing and the Virginia Tech Massacre. It's easy to think the writer's taking the outsider's side too much, so I'll note this, from his conclusion: "This does not mean trying to excuse Cho's inexcusable crimes. Nor does it mean trying to shift blame and scapegoat somebody else. It means trying to get at the truth of what happened: empirical identification of the sequence of events, what led to what. Sound scientific explanation honors those who wrongly and unnecessarily lost their lives or suffered injury at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007, and gives promise of preventing repetition of the tragedy."
It’s easy for people to become caught up in mobbing an individual, Elliot said. They want to belong and don’t want to become targets of abuse themselves. Elliot admitted that not only has she been the target of mobbing in the workplace, but she also engaged in the behavior herself on one occasion before she recognized that what she was doing was unacceptable and apologized.
“People think it’s funny, and they think it doesn’t have a lasting impact,” Elliot said. “Mobbers make fun of people behind their back. They spread rumors that are unkind. They get other people to gang up on someone. They humiliate someone and act like it is a joke. They withhold information the person needs to make decisions. They hold their targets to a different standard than they do everybody else. It’s engineered to confuse the target. It’s engineered to discredit.”
From The Culture of Cults:
...when established members leave or are expelled, they may develop a particular kind of cult-induced mental disorder, marked by anxiety and difficulty in making decisions. The disorder exhibits similarities to (but is not identical to) post-traumatic stress disorder, and certain types of adjustment disorders.
What exactly is mobbing? According to authors Noa Davenport, Ruth Schwartz and Gail Elliott in Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace (Civil Society Publishing, 2004):
...Through innuendo, rumors, and public discrediting, a hostile environment is created in which one individual gathers others to willingly, or unwillingly, participate in continuous malevolent actions to force a person out of the workplace.
These actions escalate into abusive and terrorizing behavior. The victim feels increasingly helpless when the organization does not put a stop to the behavior or may even plan or condone it.
As a result, the individual experiences increasing distress, illness, and social misery…Resignation, termination, or early retirement—the negotiated voluntary or involuntary expulsion from the workplace—follows. For the victim, death—through illness or suicide—may be the final chapter in the mobbing story.
...At times mobbing is done as a bully revels in animosity, gaining pleasure from the excitement that it creates, giving the bully what Westhues (2002) calls “the euphoria of collective attack”.
...the target may find that he/she is less productive, creative, and self questioning. Mobbing can leave the target’s life in turmoil (Glass, 1999), feeling embarrassed, frustrated and untrusting. Symptoms may include crying, sleep difficulties, lack of concentration, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal problems, excessive weight loss or gain, depression, alcohol or drug abuse, avoidance of the workplace, and/or uncharacteristic fearfulness (Namie & Namie, 2000; Davenport, Schwartz and Elliot, 1999). For some the degree of symptoms may become severe and include severe depression, panic attacks, heart attack, other severe illnesses, accidents, suicide attempts, violence directed at third parties and symptoms of PTSD (Namie & Namie, 2000; Davenport, Schwartz and Elliot, 1999). These symptoms may lead the target to feel who they are as a person is being stripped away.
...According to Leymann (n.d.) roughly ten to twenty percent of those mobbed in his study seemed to contract a serious illnesses or committed suicide.
Changes take place in relationships inside and outside of work. When the target fails to “bounce back” from the impact of being mobbed, family and friends may begin to abandon the target (Namie & Namie, 2000). According to Westhues (2002) “Not infrequently, mobbing spelled the end of the target’s career, marriage, health, and livelihood.”
The study shows that those aged over 45 are more likely to be the victims of such abuse.'Mobbing' Can Damage More Than Careers, Professors Are Told at Conference - Chronicle.com
The "Bitch" Evolved: Why Girls Are So Cruel to Each Other: Scientific American:
Findings from this study indicated a clear difference in aggressive responses between the genders, with women overwhelmingly compelled to retaliate by attacking the offender’s reputation, mostly through gossip. This gender effect panned out even after controlling for participants’ evaluation of the social appropriateness of such acts. In other words, in spite of the fact that the women realized malicious gossip wasn’t socially appropriate, this was nevertheless their preferred first point of attack. Men, on the other hand, were more evenly divided in their response, but failed to show the same preferential bias for acts of “informational warfare”...Women Really Are More Socially Aggressive Than Men (With Apologies to Jezebel.com ): Scientific American
When Digital Shaming Goes Too Far: Lessons From the Seattle Tip Stiffer - Media - GOOD
Bitter behavior is so common and deeply destructive that some psychiatrists are urging it be identified as a mental illness under the name post-traumatic embitterment disorder.This makes sense to me. PTED isn't the only response to mobbing, of course, but it may be the most obvious one.
ETA: How to survive a mobbing (that mostly happens online)
What to Do if a Coworker is Mobbed, Part 2 | Psychology Today
ETA: The "Bitch" Evolved: Why Girls Are So Cruel to Each Other - Bering in Mind - Scientific American Blog Network:
Findings from this study indicated a clear difference in aggressive responses between the genders, with women overwhelmingly compelled to retaliate by attacking the offender’s reputation, mostly through gossip. This gender effect panned out even after controlling for participants’ evaluation of the social appropriateness of such acts. In other words, in spite of the fact that the women realized malicious gossip wasn’t socially appropriate, this was nevertheless their preferred first point of attack.