Why Is Ghosting So Painful?

Author Tracy Smith
April 28, 2019

A popular radio segment called “Blown Off” airs every morning on 95.5 PLJ.  The purpose of this segment is to help a listener make contact with a person they recently dated and have not heard back from.  Every morning, in case listeners have never heard the segment before, the boisterous announcers explain the purpose of it by questioning viewers if they have ever went on an amazing date only to have that person “go ghost.”  If you are not privy to the term “ghosting”, perhaps the name of the segment will provide you with a valuable hint as to its definition.


Ghosting is a term used to describe a situation where a person that you care about, whether a friend or romantic interest, suddenly disappears from your life without any reasoning or justification.  In the bluntest and simplest terms possible, ghosting occurs when one is “blown off.”  People who ghost do so to avoid confrontation and to alleviate their own feelings of guilt and uneasiness.

Ghosting is accompanied by a complete lack of contact or communication, which is pretty atypical in today’s society of social media and constant connectedness.  In the past, ghosting was not prevalent, but appears to be on the rise in today’s day and age.  Ghosting is emotionally painful and can be highly detrimental to a person’s confidence and self-esteem.

Ghosting can cause a person to feel disrespected, used, and discarded.  It is hurtful when ghosting occurs by someone that you have known for a short while, but can be even more painful and shocking when it occurs by someone that you have known for a longer time period.  When someone who we love and trust goes ghost, it feels disloyal and downright duplicitous.  It is just as hurtful when a new friend goes ghost, as it can make a person feel like they are unworthy of even friendship.

Ghosting is emotionally painful because it implies that you were not worthy enough to even break up with.  It insinuates that you were insignificant and thus, easy to discard.  It suggests that your feelings were unimportant and did not matter.  What is worse is that ghosting leads a person to question themselves and their own judgment, especially if you thought that a new relationship or friendship was going well.

Ghosting implies disregard, does not allow for closure and takes away the opportunity to process and understand what has occurred.  This type of conclusion leads to confusion and painful speculation.  Is a person not responding because they are sick, because a close relative is ill, because they are busy and immersed in work and school, or because they accidentally dropped their cell phone in the toilet?  Or could it be that they were picked up for foreign espionage and had to quickly leave the country, that they were imprisoned and only allowed one phone call, or because they witnessed a major crime and were immediately accepted into the witness protection program?  Your mind is left to explore any and all possibilities, no matter how realistic or unrealistic they might be.  The fact of the matter is that you just don’t know.

While the radio segment “Blown Off” is intended to be entertaining and humorous for 95.5 PLJ’s listeners, which admittedly it always is, it can also highlight a person’s vulnerability and emotional pain.  Despite this possibility, it can also empower a person to confront the individual who went ghost by providing them with an opportunity to gain closure through answers.  These answers can assist them to preserve their self-esteem, to learn from their mistakes, and to move forward with confidence into their next friendships and relationships.

Author Tracy Smith

Tracy is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is a clinical supervisor for a Community YMCA. Tracy has over 12 years of experience working in many settings including partial care hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, community agencies, group practice, and school-based programs. Tracy works with clients of all ages, but especially enjoys working with the adolescents.