You’ve dated someone for a few months, spent hours together, shared photos and even exchanged sappy messages. Then out of the blue, they stop texting you or answering any of your messages. What happened?
You’ve been ghosted.
Ghosting is when someone who used to be friendly or even romantic with you suddenly cuts off all communication without explanation. While most people think of ghosting in a digital context, meaning a friend or dating partner stops responding to texts, emails, calls, etc., it can happen across all social circumstances.
Regardless of how it’s done, ghosting is a heartbreaking reality in today’s dating world. Getting left hanging like that can be shattering to your self-esteem and have a huge impact on your emotions. In fact, it can even cause as much hurt as physical pain.
Can being ghosted activate the same pathways in your brain as physical pain?
Physical and emotional pain are on the same neural pathway in the brain. According to research studies, social rejection can cause the same level of pain that an injury to the body would cause because the pain is activated in the same region of the brain. Some studies have even shown that taking pain-relief medications like Tylenol can alleviate the emotional pain.
This may help explain why many people try to numb the hurt they’re feeling by drinking alcohol or taking other drugs or medications. What they’re doing is really just numbing the part of the brain that is creating feelings of emotional distress.
What feelings do people experience when ghosted?
It can be devastating. People who have been ghosted will often spend hours trying to figure out what went wrong, and the pain of that can be intense
Being ghosted can also cause anger, which may actually be a healthier response to the situation than wallowing in sadness.
Mental health professionals have found that ghosting can be classified as a form of emotional cruelty. In an online survey, those who experienced breadcrumbing (leading someone on) or a combination of breadcrumbing and ghosting were shown to have an increased feeling of loneliness and helplessness and/or a decreased satisfaction with life.
Why does ghosting happen so often in the dating world?
While ghosting has always happened on some level, it’s now on a different scale in the modern world. This likely has to do with the huge cultural shift that has occurred in dating trends, especially with the internet.
Not everybody looking for someone to date wants to be in a committed and exclusive relationship. And with dating apps like Tinder, many users are simply looking for something to relieve their boredom without fear of judgment. Because you’re often meeting people who aren’t in your social circle, there’s also less social accountability. It becomes a lot easier to play the field and move on from relationships quickly when there are fewer consequences for doing so.
Online dating apps also offer people access to a greater pool of potential dating partners with a wide variety of looks and personalities. When there are so many options to choose from, finding an ideal partner suddenly seems more possible. If a current relationship doesn’t seem to meet your ideal standards, you can just shop for the next person.
What personality traits cause people to ghost others?
Ghosting is very common. In fact, a 5-year-old observational study showed that almost 50% of people in the dating world have either been ghosted or ghosted someone themselves.
There are no specific personality traits that make one person more likely to ghost someone than another. Even decent, good people may ghost someone at some point in their lives, since cutting off contact with someone is often much easier than confronting them.
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American Psychological Association. Speaking of Psychology: What to Do When You’ve Been Ghosted. (J. Vilhauer, PhD, interview, February 2020). https://www.apa.org/research/action/speaking-of-psychology/ghosting
Navarro R, Larrañaga E, Yubero S, Víllora B. Psychological Correlates of Ghosting and Breadcrumbing Experiences: A Preliminary Study among Adults. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(3):1116. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7037474/5