Being ghosted by a romantic partner is common, but it can also happen with friends and family. A 2018 journal study found that a quarter of participants had been ghosted by a friend and many people admit to having done the ghosting themselves.
Sometimes ghosting is justified, like when someone experiences a major life event such as the death of a loved one. Research shows that emotional pain activates the same brain pathways as physical pain.
What is Ghosting?
Ghosting is when a person suddenly stops communicating with you without explanation. It can happen in person, over the phone or on social media. It’s the opposite of a clean breakup and can leave you feeling confused and sad.
Claire AH, matchmaker and dating coach at Friend of a Friend Matchmaking says that people ghost because they feel uncomfortable communicating emotions and don’t like confrontation. She adds that it’s easier for them to stop responding than to have an awkward heart-to-heart about why they’re not interested.
Some people ghost because they believe in destiny and think that a relationship is either meant to be or not. A study from 2018 found that people who believed in fate were 60% more likely to see ghosting as an acceptable way to end a relationship.
Other people ghost because they have poor emotional intelligence and don’t understand how their actions hurt others. They may also be abusive and enjoy hurting people for their own gain.
Why Do People Ghost?
Ghosting is an easy way for someone to end a relationship without having to interact with you. But it’s also not a good way to treat someone. Ghosting violates the basics of healthy relationships—respect, thoughtfulness and clear communication. And it feels like emotional cruelty—studies have shown that social rejection activates the same brain pathways as physical pain.
People might ghost you because they’re afraid to talk about their feelings or they don’t want to be responsible for ending the relationship. But that’s a cop-out.
If you really don’t want to be in a relationship, you should tell the person. It’s better to end things on bad terms than to drag it out and make everyone miserable. Breadcrumbing, benching and slow fades may be less painful than ghosting, but they’re still bad for both parties. If you want to end things with a person, take the time to write them a note and explain why you’re ending the relationship.
How Do You Deal With Ghosting?
Ghosting can be painful and frustrating, but it is important to remember that it is almost always not about you. The person who is ghosting you likely has their own insecurities and fears about commitment that they are acting out on.
They may also have a fear of confrontation and have not learned to communicate their emotions effectively. If this is the case for you, then it may be helpful to seek out the help of a mental health professional who can teach you how to better express yourself.
It is also important to remember that ghosting is not a good way to end any type of relationship, even one that is virtual. It is unfair and cruel to treat another human being this way. If you are in a relationship with someone who is ghosting you, try to have a heart-to-heart conversation about where the connection stands and whether or not it is healthy for the both of you to continue communication.
What Can You Do About Ghosting?
You may not ever know why a person ghosted you and that’s okay. However, try to focus on how you can heal. Reaching out to friends or loved ones, focusing on hobbies, practicing self-care, and engaging in activities you enjoy can all help you find the strength to move forward.
You also need to remember that ghosting says more about the person who did it than it does about you. It might be a sign that they lack good communication skills or have an avoidant attachment style. It could also mean they have other things going on in their life that are taking up a lot of their attention.
The best thing you can do is to practice healthy coping mechanisms. Don’t use drugs or alcohol to numb your feelings because this will only make the rejection hurt more when you are ready to deal with it. And remember that the pain from social rejection activates the same pathways in your brain as physical pain does.