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.
12 thoughts on “When ghosting is a sign of suicide or relapse”
My friend attempted suicide and admits that it is hard for him to talk to the people he cares about because he is ashamed. And he said he is not ghosting or ignoring me. And he’s sorry he rarely responds to my text messages. But I know he reads them. What more can I say to him? I try to stay positive and send him messages of love. It’s been almost 7 months since the attempt. And 3 1/2 since he last responded.
What a great friend you are. Just keep telling him you are in his thoughts, you care and you want to talk when he is ready. I did this with a relative for 6 months. She called around 6.5 months.
And she read every message and like your friend she was ashamed. So when he says this, just say, “To help me to understand, why do you feel shame?” When he answers don’t say “he shouldn’t feel that way” but instead say, “That must be really hard to feel that way. I didn’t know.” But ASK questions. So if he says he is worthless, say, “What makes you think you are worthless? I am listening.” Don’t refute what he things even though it’s distorted thinking.
He could still suicide but his risk is greatly reduced if someone like you is communicating and he knows you care. Chances are greater he will pull out of this. If he mentions someone in his family, don’t say how much they would miss him. He’s not in that frame of mind. Instead say, “You mentioned your sister and how special she was. Tell me what is special about her.” When you do that they have to think about it and put it into words and something clicks. Wait until he mentions a parent, sibling, best friend, dog, his youtube channel. There is always SOMETHING that makes the suicidal person ambivalent and unsure of dying.
I know you can’t say any of that if he is not responding. But keep it up. He’s reading. Send a stupid video that you think he might like. Persistence works. What’s more recovery is not only possible it’s probable! Below are a list of phrases you can use. Avoid toxic positivity and send normal stuff, too. Below are just examples as I don’t know much about you other than you are an amazing friend.
I like you just the way you are.
I miss talking to you. Even if you are in pain it helps me to hear from you.
You don’t have to answer but I just want you to know I’m thinking of you now.
I am having a rough day. Thank god tomorrow is another day.
I have a dilemma I was hoping you’d help with if you can. (insert dilemma which can be deciding on a class to take or what car to buy)
Check out what my cat found in the woods. This dead animal was my “present” today.
I was thinking of going rock climbing. It’s a bit outside my comfort zone. What do you think?
Check out this bug I saw today. I don’t even know what it is but it’s definitely something that doesn’t belong in my house.
I hope that helps. 🙂
Finally someone who understands
Thank you Isabel. So many think it’s about them when it’s not. So that brings me to you. What’s up with you? How are you feeling?
Ze zeggen dat als iemand ghost dat diegene zich geen raad weet met z”n gevoelens en daarom maar niets van zich laat horen. Ik denk dat je het niet persoonlijk op moet vatten en dat het niets met je persoon te maken heeft en dat het niet aan de persoon zelf ligt die het overkomt. Het kan een ander ook gebeuren of misschien heeft diegene wel meer mensen geghost om onder moeilijke situaties uit te komen. Ze voelen zich vast en geclaimd en willen niet met moeilijke emoties te maken hebben en die gaan ze uit de weg en geven geen tekst en uitleg. Emotioneel onvolwassen en onbetrouwbaar en het is een vorm van verraad of lafheid gevoelsn van anderen niet te erkennen of te beantwoorden want dat vinden ze te ingewikkeld. In eens zijn ze weg en laten dan niets meer van zich horen en voelt je weggeworpen. Als ze jou weer nodig hebben komen ze weer. Ze komen wanneer het hun uitkomt en als het aan je zelf toekomt zijn ze weg.
English Translation from site owner: They say that if someone ghosts that they don’t know what to do with their feelings and therefore don’t let them hear from you. I think you should not take it personally and that it has nothing to do with your person and that it is not the person who it happens to. It can also happen to someone else or maybe that person has ghosted more people to get out of difficult situations. They feel fixed and claimed and do not want to deal with difficult emotions and they avoid them and do not give any explanation. Emotionally immature and unreliable and it is a form of betrayal or cowardice not to acknowledge or respond to the feelings of others because they find it too complicated. All at once they are gone and then don’t hear from them anymore and you feel thrown away. If they need you again they will come again. They come when it suits them and when it comes to you they are gone.
In Dutch: Het spijt me zo dat iemand je spookte. Maar het is niet persoonlijk tegen je, al voelt het wel zo. Maar ik waardeer je standpunt en ik denk dat het uitdrukt wat veel mensen denken als ze ghosted zijn, wat erg belangrijk is en niemand heeft dat hier nog gedaan. Dus het helpt me te begrijpen hoe je je voelt in deze situatie.
In English: I am so sorry that someone ghosted you. But it isn’t personal against you although it feels that way. But I do appreciate your point of view and I think it expresses what a lot of people think when they are ghosted which is very important and no one has done that here yet. So it helps me understand how you feel in this situation.
so I have been battling with depression four months and I always see my self ghosting people I really care about and is really difficult because I i dont know how to control it and it has cost me alot
I even feel like I’m losing many of friends and romantic interest. I really need help
Hey Leah. I am so sorry. It must have snuck in and become a habit. Is there one person you can confide in?
And where are you located? USA? If so what city and state? I can look up resources.
I’m glad I came across this. I was recently talking to my ex for almost two months. We were working on re-building our relationship and felt like we were in the same page until 2 weeks ago. He has a history of drug addiction and has been clean for a year. We were supposed to meet up and see each other but days before he vanished. I’ve reached out a few times by a letter and text but no response. I’m assuming he may have relapsed or this is his way of just ending it. I don’t know the truth but if he did relapse, I hope he’s getting the help he needs and I’m not sure if I should try reaching out again.
Marie- Do reach out and at least text words of encouragement. Things like, “I sense things are not going well. You may have relapsed. You may be thinking of suicide. Just know that no matter what, I do care about you and always will.” The message is that as much as you want him to get well, you care about him even if he does not. You do not need to go back into an unhealthy relationship but he is struggling right now and shame is blocking his recovery and he’s isolating. I’ve had this happen a few times. Every single time it’s due to either relapse or deep depression with suicidal thoughts. But just hearing from those he loves helps. Believe me. Even if he’s not responding, he is reading. Those messages matter. Just keep at it. And encourage his friends to do the same. You CAN and should have boundaries. Ours was, we weren’t giving any cash but we could buy a bus pass or take someone out to lunch.
I texted a relative for 6 months. And at month 7, she finally responded. Things are going well with her now. But at the time, she had a mental health crisis and was suicidal and was embarrassed that I witnessed her manic episode. My reaching out did make a difference. But of course, this is up to you. You are a kind and thoughtful person and I appreciate your comment.
Thanks for writing this. I have been dealing with a situation with an ex romantic partner, who has been suffering depression for a few years now and has been having suicidal thoughts. He is currently in a very harsh COVID lockdown and has been for months now. I have been trying to stay in contact and encourage him through it, but he has not replied to a message or email for 5 weeks now. I’m exceptionally worried about him, but I also find it very difficult not to take it personally.
You are welcome. And you have done what you can given the situation. And you are right not to take it personally. We don’t know if he is alive or not but one thing is for sure, had you not tried he surely had no shot. Let me know if you hear from him. My guess is that he had just gone dark. Here is an article that helps with what to say because being with someone in their pain is a challenge. Here are two articles that might help.