Ghosting is when someone cuts off all communication without explanation, either by text, email, phone, in person, or all of the above.
If it’s a hot, new relationship, you might get mad. “That jerk, he’s ghosting me. Why can’t he be a man and just tell me he’s not into me!” So it can be a weak way in which one person dumps on another.
Whatever the case, the ghoster usually has some kind of issue. Which means the issue is not you, but them. It’s probably not their first ghosting event. So take yourself out of the equation and by that I mean don’t take it personally.
Don’t get mad or give up yet either
In some cases, ghosting might be the clue to a more serious issue.
It’s common for those struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide to isolate (a.k.a ghost you). People who live with addiction also tend to ghost their loved ones when they relapse.
Sometimes we become offended when what we really need to do is reach out — be helpfully nosey and find out what’s going on.
Let’s say you have a sister
You invited her to Thanksgiving and she didn’t have the courtesy to call or respond at all. You sent multiple texts, emails and left a phone message. And then she not only never answered, she didn’t even show. You might think, “What did I do?” Then you get pissed. “My own sister ghosted me. After all the work I put into this family dinner.”
Think about what your sister might be going through. What is her current situation?
Maybe this sister is struggling with separation you don’t know about yet or if she just had a baby, maybe she feels shame for her postpartum depression. If you don’t know what’s going on lately it might be because it’s so big it’s weighed her down and plunged her in a dark hole.
He may be ghosting you because he is depressed
So let’s say you’ve been ghosted by someone with whom you’ve been friends with for a long time and there is no incident you can put your finger on. He drifted out of your life so gradually that best friend now feels like background noise.
It’s been a pattern for a year now, multiple no-shows and no replies to your messages. You might even think that’s how he is now and have accepted it. Along the way maybe you made up excuses about his lack of engagement. After all, you’ve been really busy.
If they’ve had years of being some other way and this behavior is new, that’s suspect. Even if it’s a sudden change, you should question it. What is your gut telling you?
But you left messages and they didn’t call back.
How are you going to find out what’s up if they are not answering you?
Change how you are communicating and try something like this.
“Hey Mark, I feel concerned because I have not heard from you and it’s really unlike you. Can we talk? I’m here to listen. You don’t have to sugar coat for me. I want to hear what is really going on. What time/place is good for you?”
Don’t give up easily. Keep reaching out, focusing on them, not making accusations or passing judgment. You are concerned and worried so come at it from that angle. And when or if they do answer, don’t offer advice. Really listen.
When ghosting is a sign of suicide or relapse
With some people, the more they don’t answer, the more they may be asking for help.
I’ve known someone who isolated and didn’t answer because she was starving herself to death in a suicide attempt due to a major depressive episode for which she is now gotten treatment. Thanks to a helpfully nosey aunt who was suspicious when she had not heard from her in a while.
Our friend Chris, who later died from accidental overdose, ghosted for almost a year when he relapsed. Shame pushed him underground as we made appeals even by video that we loved him no matter what.
I knew another who didn’t attend any family events he normally attended for almost a year and ended up killing himself. Both ghosted and it wasn’t because they were mad at anyone they loved, they were in a place of extreme despair.
Ghosting is typical of those who attempt suicide or die by suicide, those who feel shame for a substance use disorder relapse or even worse, an overdose.
They often feel worthless, like their presence doesn’t matter. And even if you do reach out to a friend and they aren’t suicidal, just busy, they’ll appreciate that you cared enough to reach out.