Schools must do more to differentiate between physical and mental bullying if they are to beat the problem, a psychologist says.
Bullies were more likely to seek risks, the study found
Sarah Woods, of Hertfordshire University, found victims of physical bullying had normal amounts of friends and did not stand out from classmates.
But those who suffered "relational" abuse were more lonely and had problems making friends.
Dr Woods spoke to 401 pupils aged 11 to 16 at a London school.
She told BBC News Online anti-bullying strategies had to be tailored to the "individual needs of children", rather than applying an overall plan.
According to the research, being presented to a British Psychological Society conference in Leeds on Sunday, those at the edge of groups, such as non-sporting children and loners, were more likely to suffer emotional bullying.
Victims of physical bullying did not have the same underlying problems in making friends.
Of the pupils who answered Dr Woods' questionnaire, around one in 10 were purely bullies and one-third were purely victims.
A further one in seven were described as being both.
Dr Woods said: "A lot of the bullies enjoyed risk-taking in all ways, like taking drugs, smoking, risky sports and drinking.
"Bullying had many of the same characteristics. It raised the heart rate, was exhilarating and provided an audience."
Victims as a whole were less stimulated and had less self-esteem.
So anti-bullying strategies had to take these differences into account.
It would be no good offering bullies extra activities which stimulated their behaviour even more - making them the centre of attention - for instance.
Dr Woods said: "We need to tease out some of these subtle differences before we can address the problem more thoroughly."
A study published earlier this year found almost half of all pupils had been bullied at school.
Some 45% of eight to 13 year olds had been victims at school and 32% outside school, research at the University of Central Lancashire found.
The study, of 1,972 children in the north-west of England, also discovered there was little risk of bullies being caught by teachers.