Ghosting is a term we’re hearing more and more nowadays. As technology use increases, it’s easier than ever to cut all communication with another person without explanation – especially in the dating scene.
Yet, common as it may be, being ghosted can be a painful experience that damages your self-esteem. While it may be easy to slip into a pattern of self-blame, it’s reassuring to know that people ghost for many reasons, most often relating to themselves (not you!).
Whether you’re a person who often ghosts or keeps being ghosted by others, ghosting can be tricky to understand.
To help answer any questions you may have on ghosting, this page will cover:
Ghosting refers to when one person suddenly cuts off communication with another with no forewarning or explanation. While we often associate ghosting with dating, it can also happen in friendships and professional relationships.
Ghosting has become extremely common in the modern dating scene – some even call ghosting a “new breakup strategy.” Evidence suggests that around 65% of people report ghosting a partner, and 72% claim they have been ghosted at one time or another.
However, other researchers find much lower numbers, with around 25% of people reporting they have experienced ghosting and approximately 20% admitting they have ghosted others.
While the statistics vary, it’s well-known that the practice of ghosting has been made easier by technology. Before, ghosting may have involved avoiding someone you have close proximity to (such as the same school or workplace). Whereas now, you can ghost someone by simply pressing the “Block” or “Delete” buttons or ceasing to reply to their attempts at contact.
Some consider ghosting an effective way to stop communicating with someone – one that requires little effort from the ghoster. However, ghosting can be a painful and confusing experience for those on the receiving end. When someone is ghosted, they’re often left with no explanation or closure, possibly leaving them feeling hurt and rejected.
Ghosting can even have long-lasting effects on people’s mental health, potentially lowering their self-esteem and making them more distrustful of others. Some “ghostees” report less satisfaction with life and greater feelings of loneliness and helplessness after being ghosted. For a small number of people, being ghosted may even lead to panic attacks and depression.
Our attachment styles impact how we view ourselves and interact with others. Because of this, we may show different behaviors toward others, both in the middle of a relationship and when ending them.
Keep in mind that the disorganized attachment style tends to alternate between traits of anxious and avoidant attachment – which may influence their ghosting patterns depending on the person’s mood and circumstances.
If you don’t yet know your attachment style, take the free quiz on our website.
Research finds that someone high in attachment anxiety is more likely to be ghosted by a romantic partner than someone high in attachment avoidance. What’s more, anxiously attached people may also be more likely than those with the other attachment styles to be on the receiving end of online – rather than in-person – breakups.
Anxiously attached people may also be less likely to ghost other people as they tend to use different breakup strategies than avoidant attachers. Evidence suggests they prefer to keep a line of communication open, not ruling out the possibility of getting back together in the future. This finding may be due to how those with an anxious attachment style typically have low self-confidence. As a result of this low self-confidence, anxious attachers may doubt their decision making skills – possibly explaining why they may not use long-lasting breakup strategies like ghosting.
People high on attachment avoidance are typically more likely to be the ghoster than the ghostee. According to research, they tend to use more “indirect” ways to end a relationship, such as avoiding their partner, withdrawing, or distancing their communication.
This pattern is unsurprising when we consider the behaviors associated with the avoidant attachment style. Evidence suggests that people with this attachment style may be more prone to using less prosocial behaviors and compassion toward others than securely attached people. An avoidantly attached person may also be more likely to keep a “safe” distance from their partner using indifference or unresponsiveness.
It’s important to recognize that few people intentionally hurt others. Evidence shows that once the distress of a breakup activates our attachment systems, we’re more likely to act in line with the behaviors associated with our attachment style. So, in essence. we use such behaviors to protect ourselves from pain.
Those with a secure attachment style typically readily show care for others, prosocial behaviors, and compassion. These characteristics make these people more likely to have higher quality – and longer-term – relationships than those with an insecure attachment style. This finding extends to ghosting – securely attached people are less likely to experience or participate in ghosting.
Ghosting can be an incredibly painful experience, especially if you develop what you believe is a close emotional bond with the ghoster. If someone ghosts you, it’s essential to recognize that being ghosted isn’t a reflection of your personality or worth.
In addition to the reasons below, it’s important to note that ghosting in relationships may also relate to safety. Someone may choose to ghost another if they believe they are in danger, are being stalked or harassed, or are in an abusive relationship. In these circumstances, ghosting may feel like the best option to keep yourself safe.
Regardless of the reasons behind ghosting, being ghosted can leave you with many unanswered questions and a sense of, “I guess I’ll never know…” These feelings can be challenging to manage if ghosting happens repeatedly.
There are countless reasons why one person may choose to ghost another. Some potential explanations include:
Communication difficulties: If someone struggles with communication skills, they may use avoidance strategies like ghosting instead of speaking to you directly about how they feel. Ghosting may also be a way to prevent the ghoster from feeling overwhelmed and uneasy in complex social situations.
To avoid challenging encounters: People have been using avoidance strategies to break up with their partners for decades – this isn’t a new phenomenon. However, technology makes it increasingly easy to end communication with someone, especially when you’re not geographically close.
Lack of interest: The ghoster may have lost interest in the person they were talking to – this can happen for many reasons; it’s not the fault of the ghosted person. You may have different goals, values, or ideas about commitment.
Emotional development: A person who’s working on their emotional understanding may struggle to recognize and deal with their own emotions, especially in potentially conflictual situations. Therefore, they may take the “easy way out” and cease communication altogether to avoid difficult conversations.
Self-protection: Fear of confrontation, self-doubt, hurtful past experiences, and fear of emotional vulnerability are all potential reasons why someone may choose to protect themselves by ghosting others. Self-protection through ghosting may be more common in insecurely attached individuals, as they may believe others are untrustworthy because their primary caregiver didn’t consistently meet their needs.
If someone has ghosted you, remind yourself it’s not your fault. You deserve others to treat you with kindness, respect, and consideration. Nevertheless, it’s normal for our self-esteem and confidence to take a hit when we’ve been ghosted. Luckily, we can take specific steps to soften the blow.
Being ghosted can trigger multiple feelings, including hurt, anger, sadness, frustration, confusion, loneliness, and anxiety. It’s normal to feel this way when someone suddenly cuts off communication.
Acknowledging your emotions is integral to feeling confident again after someone ghosts you. Allowing yourself to experience and process your feelings also helps you move on healthily rather than look for someone else to fill the gap.
Journaling, talking to a trusted friend or family member, or taking time for self-care are great ways to help yourself start feeling A-OK again after being ghosted.
It’s common to experience self-blame after being ghosted, especially if it’s happened multiple times with different people. It’s not unusual to have thoughts like, “what did I do?” and “this happens because I’m not good enough,” running through your head.
However, it’s important to remind yourself that you are not to blame for the communication breakdown. There are many possible alternative explanations for why they may stop contact – their choice to ghost isn’t a reflection of who you are or what you did.
Try to catch yourself when self-blaming and replace this with self-compassion. You could practice self-compassion through mindfulness, taking care of your physical and emotional needs, and mantras such as:
We all need emotional support, especially after losing a connection without explanation. When talking to a close family member or friend, you can process and make sense of your feelings, which can help lessen your emotional load and make you feel less alone.
Seeking support from family and friends can also help you receive valuable feedback and new perspectives on the situation. Gaining a new perspective may allow you to develop solutions to manage your emotions and look after yourself if you get ghosted in the future.
While ghosting is never a healthy or necessarily “valid” way to end a relationship or communication with someone, it may be worth considering the situation from the ghoster’s perspective (remembering to stay away from self-blame!).
Some behaviors may make ghosting more likely, such as:
We often develop unhealthy coping strategies such as these due to insecure early relationships. Knowing your attachment style and understanding how this influences your behaviors can help you build self-awareness and figure out if there’s anything you’d like to work on.
Remember to be kind when asking yourself, “did I do any of these behaviors?” If you did, these actions were unlikely to be the sole cause of ghosting – a variety of factors may influence the sudden withdrawal of contact.
Knowing when you’re ready to start dating again can be challenging, especially if being ghosted left you feeling hurt, confused, and hesitant to open up again to someone else.
Once you have processed your emotions, learned from the experience, and feel confident, self-assured, and open to new experiences, you may be ready to move on.
One indication that you perhaps need more time is if you’re still seeking closure and validation. If you’re focusing on the ghoster’s reasons for ghosting rather than your growth and happiness, you may need more healing time.
Everyone takes different amounts of time to heal. If you’re not ready, that’s OK! Taking the time to feel confident and rebuild your self-esteem may make you more likely to find a long-term partner.
Abruptly stopping communication with someone without explanation can leave people with more questions than answers – “what happened?” “what did I say?” “what did I do wrong?” A person may ghost for many reasons, none relating to your value or you as a person, even though it may feel like it at the time.
In this way, ghosting can cause many emotions, including pain and confusion. Fortunately, you can follow simple steps to take care of yourself after being ghosted, such as acknowledging your feelings, getting support from close friends and family, and avoiding self-blame.
Taking the necessary steps to look after no. 1 (yourself!) may protect you from potential heartache in the future.
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LeFebvre, L. E., Rasner, R. D., & Allen, M. (2019). “I Guess I’ll Never Know. . .”: Non-Initiators Account-Making After Being Ghosted. Journal of Loss and Trauma, 25(5), 395–415.
Navarro, R., Larrañaga, E., Yubero, S., & Víllora, B. (2021). Individual, interpersonal and relationship factors associated with ghosting intention and behaviors in adult relationships: Examining the associations over and above being a recipient of ghosting. Telematics and Informatics, 57, 101513.
Timmermans, E., Hermans, A. M., & Opree, S. J. (2020). Gone with the wind: Exploring mobile daters’ ghosting experiences. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 38(2), 783–801.