Ghosting is when a person ends a relationship or cuts off communication without an explanation.

The phrase “ghosting” has become more commonplace in recent years. It is generally associated with dating, especially in the current digital age.

However, it can refer to any type of communication that is cut off without explanation. This can include both working and social relationships.

People call this ghosting because the person appears to vanish out of one’s life like a ghost. This can have various short-term and lasting effects on the receiver’s life and mental health.

This article discusses the signs of ghosting and why people may do it. It also goes over alternatives to ghosting, its effect on the receiver, and how to cope with those effects.

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Ghosting may often be an obvious experience. However, other times it may be more subtle and gradual. A person may begin by ‘soft ghosting.’

Anecdotally, people consider soft ghosting to be a milder form of ghosting. It occurs when a person does not completely disappear. They may respond with vague or one-word answers. They may also simply leave the other person on ‘read.’

There may be some early signs that someone is beginning to ghost. These include:

  • finding it difficult to keep commitments
  • hesitating to share personal information
  • bailing out on plans regularly
  • disappearing from social media
  • hesitating to introduce the other person to friends or family
  • rarely responding to texts or calls
  • seeming disinterested in conversations or conversations lacking depth

Ghosting can also involve unfriending, unfollowing, or blocking a person on social media.

According to information from 2023, 25% to 33% of young people have experienced ghosting. Some attribute the rise in the prevalence of ghosting to the growing advances in technology and higher usage rates of dating apps.

Have you ghosted someone or been ghosted?

You are not alone. The following are some statistics on ghosting:

  • ghosting is the preferred form of rejection on dating apps 1/3 of the time
  • 13% to 23% of adults have experienced ghosting in a romantic relationship
  • 20% to 40% of the general population have been ghosted, the ghostee, or both
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There are various reasons why a person may choose to ghost someone. They include:

  • avoiding confrontation
  • loss of interest or disillusionment
  • passive aggressiveness or vindictiveness
  • apathy or a feeling of laziness

The 2023 information notes that those who have been ghosted seemed to attribute three categories of reasoning to the event. These were:

  • personality flaws, commitment issues, or other relationship breakdowns of the ghoster (59%)
  • self-blame, the ghostee felt that they had said or done something wrong or was unworthy of the relationship (37%)
  • dating apps facilitate ghosting (37%), which overlaps with the other two categories

Ghosting can have various effects on the receiver’s mental health.

These effects can include:

However, some of these effects may depend on the length of the relationship. Some people who experienced ghosting reported that they felt less negative impact if the relationship was shorter.

This does not change the fact that ghosting can negatively affect the receiver. Ghosting can cause a person to overthink the reasons behind it and question their self-worth to the point where they begin to ruminate, and it can affect their sleep, which can affect overall well-being.

Research has also shown that rejection, such as ghosting, can physically affect a person. Rejection, especially unexpected rejection, can activate pain networks within the brain. Research from 2019 also showed that romantic rejection is associated with cardiac deceleration. Cardiac deceleration is often associated with heart failure and can indicate a possible future issue.

Are you considering ghosting?

Ghosting can have negative effects on both you and the person you are ghosting. For example, you may begin to think it is acceptable to avoid communication. You may also hinder your own self-growth by not having difficult conversations.

A healthier way to communicate and an alternative to ghosting includes:

  • Being assertive, kind, and direct: The other person deserves kindness and respect. Be direct about your decision to end the relationship and wish them well.
  • Keeping it simple: It may be tempting to tell the other person all the reasons why you are choosing to end the relationship. However, it may be better to simply tell them you have decided it. You may even be tempted to blame it all on yourself. The goal, though, is to be direct and honest. This also honors your own values and decisions.
  • Doing it sooner rather than later: While you may need time to think about your decision, try not to overanalyze it once you have made it. Once you have made the decision and it brings you peace, have the conversation with the other person and allow both of you to move forward.

Once you make the choice to not use ghosting to end a relationship, remember to be proud of yourself. It may not be a perfect situation or conversation. However, you chose to do something many people run away from. It can help you begin a path to self-growth and healthy communication. It can also give the other person a sense of closure about the relationship.

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Some may think of ghosting as a type of silent treatment, which can be a form of emotional abuse. Silent treatment in a relationship, especially a romantic relationship, is often a type of relational aggression, manipulation, and power tactic.

There are some mental health professionals who refer to ghosting as “emotional cruelty.” It can leave the ghostee powerless to respond to a breakup and confused or ignorant as to why the breakup occurred.

Sometimes, a person may withhold attention or affection as a punishment or as a way to get the other person to do what they want.

There are various other signs of emotional abuse within a relationship. These include:

  • name calling or demeaning
  • controlling time or actions
  • gaslighting
  • making threats to hurt the other person or people they care about
  • threatening a divorce or breakup during an argument
  • love bombing

Learn more about the signs of emotional abuse.

Help is available

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger of domestic violence, call 911 or otherwise seek emergency help. Anyone who needs advice or support can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24/7 via:

  • phone, at 800-799-7233
  • text, by texting START to 88788

Many other resources are available, including helplines, in-person support, and temporary housing. People can find local resources and others classified by demographics, such as support specifically for People of Color, here:

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Experiencing ghosting can be difficult. It can make a person question themselves and what they may have done. Focusing on ghosting as a trait of the other person can help an individual overcome this self-questioning.

Some people have found that rationalizing ghosting as an inevitable part of online dating may help. Others may choose to delete the dating app, which led to them being ghosted.

Other ways that can help a person cope with ghosting include:

  • Expanding their social support: It may be a good time for a person to reach out to the people in their life they feel safest with. It may also be a time to reconnect with people they have lost contact with. This can help them turn their focus to their own well-being and not worry about why they were ghosted.
  • Focusing on self-care: Focusing on self-care, such as exercising, getting enough sleep, and relaxation techniques, can help a person not turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms like substance misuse.
  • Reviewing personal boundaries: Strong boundaries can help everyone and every kind of relationship. Being direct about individual needs is a kind thing for the other person. Taking the time to review personal boundaries after being ghosted may help in future relationships.

If the experience of being ghosted has led to persistent feelings of anxiety or depression, a person can contact a mental health professional for support.

Ghosting is when someone ends a relationship or cuts off communication with a person without explanation or context.

It has become a common part of online dating. Ghosting can have various mental and physical effects on the recipient. It can also have negative effects on the person doing the ghosting.

If a person is considering ending a relationship via ghosting, they can consider alternative options. An individual who has been ghosted can cope by reaching out to people they trust, focusing on self-care, and reassessing their personal boundaries.