When the other vanishes: 'ghosting' in the ended relationship

What is ghosting? This term has been introduced into the common vocabulary in recent years and literally means “ghosting – disappearing like a ghost”, it is a phenomenon that has developed with the massive spread of social media and dating apps that make it easier to engage in this behaviour

It is actually called ‘ghosting’ because the person disappears like a ghost from the other person’s life without giving any explanation

Ghosting is the sudden withdrawal from a relationship, with an abrupt termination and without any explanation or specific event that motivates the termination of communication, but also without allowing the other person to understand what has happened.

All forms of communication are interrupted and shut down, phone calls, messages, email, apps, sites, ignoring any attempt by the other to re-establish interaction.

It concerns not only love relationships, but can affect different types of relationships: sentimental, friendship, family and work.

Research shows that it is a widespread phenomenon among 18-30 year olds, regardless of gender, and indicates that about 23% of people in the United States have been the victim of at least one episode of ghosting.

Why is Ghosting carried out?

Understanding all the motivations that drive people to ghosting is quite complex.

Certainly, one aspect is related to the ease with which one can hide on social media, which is why it is a behaviour that is more common when people meet online and not in person.

It is a mode of behaviour that allows the person not to have to face their own feelings and those of the other person, and allows them to feel free not to have to explain their reasons for ending the relationship.

The ‘ghoster’, the person who engages in ghosting, does so primarily to avoid taking responsibility and having to face a sometimes difficult conversation, such as having to tell the other person ‘I don’t like you!’

In other cases, the ghoster feels an increased affective involvement with the other person and fears being judged or rejected and therefore engages in behaviour that avoids the possible pain of being rejected.

The ghoster was probably a child who received an insecure avoidant attachment that led him today to be an insecure adult who has little trust in relationships and limited emotional involvement with the other so as not to risk rejection or abandonment.

This is why closing the relationship in an extreme manner without any possibility of contact, so as not to face any conflict either internally or with the other, becomes easier than getting involved.

Certainly there is little emotional investment and limited interest in the other that does not deepen in understanding and understanding who is really on the other side of the connection or relationship.

Furthermore, the possibility of talking to many different people online every day facilitates this extreme relationship breakdown.


Although everyone reacts differently to different situations, experiencing ghosting creates unpleasant emotions and makes the person feel destabilised and confused.

Experiencing ghosting and having feelings of love and trust towards someone who disappears like a ‘ghost’ makes one feel a strong sense of unease that can manifest itself both emotionally and behaviourally.

The emotions we feel are mixed because we do not understand the motivation or what went wrong, and we remain suspended in the wait for an answer that will never come.

Qualitative and quantitative research analyses have found that experiencing ghosting on dating apps is very painful, impacting a person’s self-esteem and mental well-being.

One of the emotions that accompanies those who experience ghosting, is anger at the lack of explanation for the sudden and unexpected disappearance, and for having spontaneously given and trusted the other person.

One feels a sense of guilt as the complete silence and the disappearance of the person makes one think of having done something wrong in the relationship or towards the other person, so much so that it led them to engage in this behaviour towards us and one wonders “what did I do wrong?” or “what did I do that was wrong?”.

This unpleasant experience can diminish the desire and the possibility of relating in new acquaintances because one is afraid of suffering another ‘abandonment’, creating insecurities and distrust towards the other, to the point of sometimes feeling inadequate for something that in reality one did not do.

One can fall into the risk of taking energy and time away from one’s life by engaging in obsessive behaviour in search of the other or having fixed thoughts about the other wondering “where did he go?” or “what happened to him?” or “what is he doing?”.

How to deal with ghosting

It can happen to everyone to be “ghosted” in various social media and this unpleasant experience should not limit the possibility of getting to know other people or being able to think and imagine a new meaningful relationship in one’s life.

It is useful not to think and look for the ‘ghosted’ person, but to spend one’s time on pleasant activities, including making new acquaintances, but being careful to check the social profile of the person one is talking to.

Be careful not to isolate yourself for fear of being ghosted again.

If one cannot get over the idea of having been rejected, of having suffered the closure of the relationship without the possibility of confrontation, of not being able to stop thinking about the other person, or of continuing to try to contact or seek them out, one must recognise that the situation has created a great deal of discomfort and that one needs psychological help to deal with this unpleasant situation.

One has to realise that one is not to blame for having been subjected to this attitude and one has to go through a process of re-elaboration and acceptance of the situation, and this is possible through cognitive-behavioural therapy and ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy).


Freedman G., Powell D. N., Le B., Williams K. D. (2019). “Ghosting and destiny: Implicit theories of relationships predict beliefs about ghosting”. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 36(3), 905–924

Navarro R., Larrañaga E., Yubero S., Víllora B., (2020). “Psychological Correlates of Ghosting and Breadcrumbing Experiences: A Preliminary Study among Adult”. Int J Environ Res Public Health, Feb, 17(3), 1116

Timmermans E., Hermans A. M., Opree, S. J. (2021). “Gone with the wind: Exploring mobile daters’ ghosting experiences”. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 38(2), 783-801.

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