7 Essential Psychological Truths About Ghosting

ghosting

These people don’t believe it’s possible for relationships to grow and change, or for attraction to deepen as time goes by; they do not have a growth mindset about romance.

People who see dating this way are more likely to ghost when they decide that the person they’re dating is not 100 percent right for them. (According to the New York Times, the opposite is true as well: People who believe that attraction can grow and change in good ways, and who don’t hold their dates up to a hypothetical ideal, are less likely to abruptly disappear on their partners.)

When the person you like stops returning your texts, the emotional consequences can run from unpleasant to severe. There’s a profound lack of closure to the relationship, an ambiguity that makes it impossible to interpret what went wrong.

Related: When A Guy Suddenly Goes Silent On You: This Is What You Should Do

The social cues present in a traditional breakup — reduction of time spent together, lack of eye contact, a change in the tone of interaction — are disorientingly absent. You may think your partner has begun dating someone else — or, worse, that they’ve finally recognized the things you hate about yourself.

Ghosting Causes You To Question Yourself, Which Can Be Devastating To Your Self-Esteem.

It deprives you of any chance to work through what went wrong in the relationship. In other words, it’s altogether too easy to draw troubling conclusions when you’ve been ghosted. Some even see it as similar to the silent treatment, which has been described as a form of emotional cruelty.

Ghosting is even more hurtful to people who have low self-esteem in the first place. If what one person believed was a substantial relationship ends suddenly — without even the effort it would take to have a traditional breakup — the results can even produce a traumatic reaction.

In psychological studies, social rejection has even been found to activate the same neurological pathways as physical pain. People with low self-esteem also tend to release less internally generated opioids into the brain after rejection, as compared to those with higher self-esteem. In other words, low self-esteem means less ability to tolerate the pain of being forsaken or abandoned.

So ghosting is, by and large, not a great way to treat people you respect. It’s passive-aggressive, it’s self-protective at the expense of other people’s feelings, and it’s hard to stop: People who are ghosted become more likely to do the same to someone else.

If you don’t like the experience, perhaps you should try to counter this trend and work against a disposable, low-investment dating culture. There’s nothing easy about explaining to someone why you aren’t interested in them romantically, but even a brief explanation is much, much better than none at all.

Closing a relationship openly is good for you, too: Disclosing your feelings can lower your blood pressure and reduce your subjective experience of stress. “I had a fun time,” you might say, “but I don’t think this is going to go in a romantic direction for me.” Or “I don’t think we’re really right for each other, although it’s been good to get to know you this week.”

Even that much can help the other person close your chapter and move on. (Be careful about saying you’re sorry unless you believe you have done something wrong; otherwise, “sorry” strikes a false note, or may even prolong someone’s emotional connection with you.)

And if you are hurting from having been ghosted? Remember that the message you’ve received is more about the other person than it is about you. Someone who ghosts you is declaring that they aren’t ready to treat you like an adult or to be honest about their feelings in anything approaching a delicate situation.

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Loren Soeiro, Ph.D. ABPP

Dr. Soeiro is licensed as a psychologist in New York State and board-certified as an expert by the American Board of Professional Psychologists. He has been a fellow of the American Academy of Clinical Psychology since 2013. He got his doctorate in clinical psychology from Long Island University after earning a bachelor’s degree at Harvard. After that, he worked for a long time at Montefiore Medical Center and as an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He has also written a little bit about psychotherapy on PsychCentral.com, GoodTherapy.org, and Psychology Today.View Author posts