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Ghosting is a modern term used in the dating world and is a heartbreaking fact. Ghosting can shatter self-esteem and hurt just as much as physical pain. Ghosting isn’t new though, people have always taken part in disappearing acts, but years ago it was only a small number of people who acted in this way. In today’s dating culture, being ghosted is an act that approximately 50 percent of men and women have experienced—and an almost equal number have done the ghosting.

What is Ghosting?

Ghosting is a relatively new term that became popular about 7 years ago when there was a surge in online dating. It refers to abruptly cutting off contact with someone without giving that person any warning or explanation. When the person being ghosted reaches out to the person to re-initiate contact or to gain closure for themselves, their messages or contact are not responded to. It’s called ‘ghosting’ because it involves someone essentially “vanishing” into thin air as if they were a ghost.

The term ‘ghosting’ is generally used in reference to a romantic relationship, but it can actually refer to any scenario where contact comes to an unexpected end and this can include friendships and family relationships.

Why Do People Ghost others?

People who ghost are only focused on avoiding their own emotional discomfort. Most of the time, they are not thinking about how it will make the other person feel. Professionals have talked about the fact that there are more people online nowadays and this makes it easier for people to ghost one another. As people have met online and not in person, there is a lack of social connection, and therefore it is a lot easier to cut communication with someone who is not in your social circle. There are not as many consequences for acting in this way if you have never, or hardly ever, met the person in real life.

There are 2 main reasons why people will choose to ghost someone:

#1 It is an easy route.

People don’t want to face confrontation, or have to deal with someone else’s feelings. To avoid having a long, heart to heart felt conversation, they will choose to completely cut off someone and avoid it all.

#2 Overload

This reason particularly refers to the online dating world. In this world, where it is easy to hold multiple conversations with different people, it may be that the person who chooses to ghost is overloaded with conversations. Unfortunately, it means that the person who gets ghosted hasn’t made the final cut.

Sadly, the more it happens, either to themselves or their friends, the more people become desensitised to ghosting, and the more likely they are to then do it to someone else.

How Does It Feel To Be Ghosted?

As you can either imagine or know from personal experience, ghosting can have a real psychological impact on the person who’s being ghosted. When someone we love and trust disengages from us it feels like a very deep betrayal. Research has shown that physical pain and emotional pain are on the same neural pathway and a lot of research has been done that shows that social rejection can cause the same level of pain that an injury can to your body. This is because it is activated in the same region of the brain.

Ghosting can be hard to process if you are the person it has happened to. This is because you are given no cue on how to react. You don’t know if you should be hurt or worried or confused. Being connected to people on a social level is what our brains are wired to need. We use social cues to allow us to adjust our behaviour and feelings in social situations but ghosting deprives you of these usual cues and can create a sense of feeling out of control.

Being ghosted also makes you question yourself. Questions such as why didn’t I see this coming? What did I do wrong? How can I make myself better so it doesn’t happen again? When you are subjected to rejection your self esteem can, and will, drop. If your self-esteem is already low, you are likely to experience this rejection as even more painful, and it may take you longer to get over it.

We all have heard of, or even used, the term “silent treatment”. This is essentially what ghosting is in an extreme form. Silent treatment is a known form of emotional cruelty to professionals. Not only has the person gone silent on you and is not giving you any answers or reasons as to why this has happened, you are also forced into silence as you are unable to express your emotions, thoughts or feelings to that person, or ask any questions yourself. 

How Can You Move Forward?

If this has happened to you, it is important to remember that it is not your fault this has happened. It says nothing about your worthiness or right to be loved at all. What it actually shows is that the person who has done it does not have the courage or strength to deal with the discomfort of your feelings. It also shows that they are more than likely not capable of thinking about the consequences of their actions on others. 

You should not allow this bad experience to rob you from building and creating meaningful relationships with other people. For some people, this situation would force them to build up walls to stop them getting close to other people again. That is understandable, but should not be allowed. Focus on what makes you happy. If you are a person who treats people with dignity, love and respect, then someone will come along who you deserve who also does those things.

All clinicians at Oxford CBT practice Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or are Psychologists, providing evidence-based interventions and support for a range of issues for both young people and adults. If you would like to book an appointment you can do so on our online booking portal. If you have a question please get in touch via our online contact form or call us on 01865 920077. 


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