18 Aug 2022

Ask the Expert: What is ghosting and why do people do it?

Ask the Expert: What is ghosting and why do people do it?

First off, what is ‘ghosting’?

For those of us born before the turn of the millennium, it may very well be a new phrase for our ever-expanding vocabularies. For others, they know all too well what it is.

With that in mind, we turned to the expertise of one of our favourite lockdown discoveries in Trainee Health Psychologist Joe O’Brien’s increasingly popular Head First Instagram page (@headfirst0) and Podcast dedicated to promoting evidence based psychology and mental health information - both of which provided useful tips and advice during a period of great uncertainty.

According to Joe, by definition, it means “totally withdrawing from communication without explanation”. 

Ignoring people online is so easy these days, but what are the repercussions of being ghosted? ⠀

Being ghosted is a form of social rejection. Remember that emotional pain activates the same pathways in the brain as physical pain. This social rejection can be damaging for someone’s self-esteem and mental health. ⠀

As well as that, a host of difficult questions can pop up for us, and these things can play on our minds and our emotions. ⠀

Did I do something wrong? ⠀

Are they okay? ⠀

What do I do now? ⠀

Do I contact them again? ⠀

This makes us question ourselves and leaves us with that discomfort and uncertainty. As we know from this pandemic, uncertainty can be really difficult. We can end up responding negatively, through no fault of our own. ⠀

Why does it happen? ⠀

  • Ghosting lets someone avoid the repercussions of their actions. ⠀
  • Ghosting is a way of avoiding someone/something/a conversation that might bring up some emotional discomfort for that person. ⠀
  • We live in a society where it’s the norm and we become indifferent to it.⠀
  • We don’t realise, or we ignore, the impact that it has on someone. ⠀
  • When it comes to dating, unless you don’t have close social ties with the person, you might choose to ghost someone, rather than giving them the closure they might need. ⠀⠀

It means the ghoster doesn’t have to see the impact it has. They don’t see how it might hurt. And it hurts coming from a friend or family member as well as from a romantic partner. ⠀

We are in a time where we all need each other, so do your best to get back to people, even if it’s to give them clarity/closure that everyone deserves.⠀

If you’re someone who has been ghosted, remember that it says nothing about you. Remember, it’s a way of coping for the other person, who may not perceive themselves as capable of managing the situation more appropriately. ⠀

Just remember to treat other people with the respect they’ve treated you with. If someone is mistreating you, abusive or not respecting your boundaries, it can be appropriate to ghost.


If you liked this piece or found it helpful, head over to the Head First Instagram page or give the Head First Podcast a listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

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