Ghosting can cause trauma.
The word, “trauma,” comes from the Greek word for “wound.” If you were just ghosted, you may relate just how wounding it can be.
When Ghosting Doesn’t Cause Trauma
Ghosting can cause trauma but doesn’t always. The word trauma does mean wound but not all pain is stored as traumatic.
The key difference between pain and trauma is the perceived danger involved in a situation. Our primal brain assesses risk and threats to our survival. It quickly reacts. Your brain will respond the same way when a car is racing towards you or if you were rejected.
If your life experiences have been supportive enough, you can work through this more readily. You are better equipped to feel hopeful and secure in yourself.
You may find that you can feel pain after being ghosted without attacking yourself. It may be natural to practice being self-compassionate. You likely won’t personalize the rejection either.
When a person isn’t having a traumatic reaction to ghosting, they know being ghosted is not a reflection of their worth. They also understand that there are many other potential partners.
The Pain of Being Ghosted
Once you have established a relationship with someone, it’s natural to become more attached. This is true whether you have labeled the relationship or not.
You don’t need to diagnosis yourself with attachment issues if you feel hurt by ghosting. If someone has stopped speaking to you suddenly, it’s natural to feel confused. Or you may feel angry at how cold the other person is being. These reactions to ghosting are painful but not necessarily traumatic.
When Ghosting Can Cause Trauma
Depending on your life experiences, you may find that ghosting is traumatic. Typically, the trauma from ghosting occurs because past wounds and negative core beliefs were triggered.
If this is happening to you, please know you are not broken and there is nothing wrong with you. Different people have different life events which were more – or less – supportive. This impacts a person’s relationship with trauma.
Ghosting Can Trigger Past Trauma
Past traumatic memories may be triggered by the painful rejection of being ghosted. These traumatic memories can vary greatly.
However, common traumatic memories related to rejection which ghosting may trigger include:
- Bullying in your childhood,
- Moving a lot so you struggled to make or keep friends
- A critical caregiver who frequently made you feel “not good enough”
- Parents divorcing
- Having an absent, or neglectful parent, i.e., literally not knowing a parent or feeling like they were always “checked out”
- A relationship painfully ending in the past (break-up, friend break-up, divorce)
- Being cheated on (or witnessing a parent or caregiver being cheated on)
If any of these traumatic memories are familiar to you, please be gentle with yourself. You may find you are moving into fight or flight (you feel overwhelmed, your breathing is shallow, you can’t focus). If this is happening, please take a break to practice deep breathing.
If you find that deep breathing hasn’t helped in the past, please watch this video for more support:
Traumatic Effects of Being Ghosted
When ghosting causes trauma, you may experience numerous symptoms.
Trauma can manifest in many ways. Sometimes, the trauma may seem like depression. Other times, ghosting can cause anxiety and panic attacks. Still other times trauma may lead to obsessive thoughts and confusion. Finally, trauma may also make you feel profound shame.
Signs You May be Experiencing Trauma After Being Ghosted:
- A belief being ghosted confirms you aren’t “good enough,”
- You can’t stop trying to figure out why the other person ghosted you and even potentially trying to diagnosis their mental health or attachment issues,
- Feeling anxious because you believe that being ghosted means you will be single forever,
- Non-stop talking (or thinking) about the person who ghosted you,
- Fantasizing about confronting them or revenge,
- You believe that you can change their mind,
- Waiting for them to return because, deep down, you believe if you’re patient you are destined to end up together, and,
- Criticizing, or attacking, yourself for doing something “wrong” which led to the ghosting
Getting Stuck in the Trauma Caused by Ghosting
Ghosting can cause you to feel stuck. You may feel hopeless or worthless when ghosting causes trauma.
You may also believe that ghosting confirms negative beliefs you have about yourself. Or you may also find that trauma caused by ghosting makes you believe that you will never find “your person.”
Trauma and Core Negative Beliefs
Trauma can create negative core beliefs such as believing you are “unlovable,” or “worthless.” Or you believe you are not attractive, or smart, enough for example. Or you may believe that you are too loud or quirky for others. Fundamentally, the core negative beliefs that we develop due to trauma are about a sense that you aren’t “good enough.”
It’s also common for trauma to lead to core negative beliefs like being convinced that all relationships end in tragedy. If you were ghosted, and struggling with trauma, these core negative beliefs were likely triggered.
Feeling confused is understandable after ghosting. It’s also completely common to feel overwhelmed by a painful sense of rejection.
Preventing PTSD when Ghosting Causes Trauma
Trauma does not need to cause Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Although, if you already have complex trauma in your history, you may find that ghosting triggers PTSD symptoms. These symptoms include nightmares, self-destructive behavior, and feeling emotionally numb.
If you have PTSD symptoms, and you can afford it, I highly recommend you seek trauma therapy. Specifically, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) can greatly assist in healing trauma. Of course, finding the right therapist for you is also invaluable. For guidance on what to look for in a therapist, you may read, “What to Look for in a Therapist: 3 Tips By a Licensed Therapist.”
Caring for Your Mental Health
Unfortunately, mental healthcare can be prohibitively expensive and/or it can be hard to find the right therapist for you.
If you cannot afford therapy to address the trauma triggered by ghosting, you can still heal. There are many free, or affordable ways to care for your mental health. Furthermore, working on feeling more empowered can also help reduce the frequency of your negative core beliefs.
Connecting with Your Anger
When ghosting causes trauma, it’s common to feel disconnected with your anger. Unfortunately, gender socialization has taught many women that anger is scary and “ugly.”
Therefore, you may find it’s easier to attack yourself for what you did “wrong” than to be mad at the person who ghosted you. Reclaiming your anger, in constructive ways, is empowering and healing for trauma.
To reconnect with your anger, if you feel numb, take time to think about how the other person impacted you with their ghosting. Next, you may choose to write an angry letter to them in your journal. You are not writing this letter to send to them though – only to help you process your anger.
Trauma and Self-Destructive Habits
When someone you really liked ghosts you, you may find yourself thinking obsessively. You may believe, deep down, that you just need to be patient. When ghosting is traumatic, it’s common to find yourself waiting for them to return so you can be happy together.
However, to heal from trauma it’s necessary to intervene on self-destructive habits or actions. While it may not seem like it on the surface, allowing someone to return who has ghosted you is hurtful to yourself. It’s also a poor boundary.
Setting Healthy Boundaries
A person who ghosts you is showing you a fact about themselves. They are showing you, that no matter what they said, they do not have the relationship skills to support a long-term healthy relationship. No amount of wishing and hoping changes this truth. People with healthy relationship skills end relationships directly even if it’s awkward or painful.
To support your healing, it’s important to consider having boundaries with the person who ghosted you if they return. You may even want to imagine how you want to handle this from an empowered perspective beforehand.
False Hope and Trauma
If you find that you are having a hard time believing this person isn’t perfect for you despite their ghosting, you may benefit from learning more about codependency. A pattern of believing words, over actions, is a symptom of codependency.
I personally spent 11 years in an on-again, off-again situationship with a frequent ghoster. This is because I believed that his compliments meant more than his rejection. This was deeply painful – and never worked out. Ultimately, I had to accept his lack of relationship skills and set the boundary for myself to never return.
Thankfully, after 11 years, I was able to set a boundary and never allow him to return. This was an important moment in my codependency recovery. And this boundary allowed me to finally create the space I needed to manifest my husband.
Ghosting is Not Your Fault
Regardless of what your inner critic says, ghosting is not your fault.
Again: A person who ghosts simply does not have healthy relationship skills. You do not need to analyze this any further. Overthinking why someone ghosted you in fact only reinforces trauma.
Sometimes, an asshole is just an asshole.
Your Person is Still Out There
Trauma may make you think that this rejection of being ghosted means you will be alone forever.
Sometimes, it may feel like this is the last person you may ever connect with yet, the pain of ghosting is much deeper than this one person. It’s about what and who they represent.
Ghosting while deeply painful, at times, is not a confirmation you will be alone. Only that you have past trauma.
Healing from Trauma
It’s important to be kind to yourself – even if you don’t feel like it – after being ghosted.
Take time to practice meaningful and sustainable self-care. Practice self-compassion.
Learn more about your own triggers such as codependency or anxious attachment. You may also find learning more about trauma is invaluable to know you are not alone.
Take it step by step as you are gentle and kind with yourself and in time, this trauma (and your others as well) will heal.
About The Author, Krystal
Krystal Mazzola Wood, LMFT is a practicing relationship therapist with over a decade of experience. Currently, Krystal sees clients at her private practice, The Healthy Relationship Foundation. She has dedicated her entire career to empowering people to heal from unhealthy relationship processes. She does this by teaching the skills and tools necessary to have a life filled with healthy and loving relationships.
This passion led her to write her best-selling books and create courses. Her books, The Codependency Recovery Plan: A 5-Step Guide to Understand, Accept, and Break Free from the Codependent Cycle and The Codependency Workbook: Simple Practices for Developing and Maintaining Your Independence have helped many people heal.
Her third book, Self-Love Made Possible: The 5-Step Guide to Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy and Become Your Own Best Friend will be released late 2022. To be notified of its release, please join the waitlist here.
Her course, Confidently Authentic: Stop People Pleasing and Start Being True to Yourself, provides the skills necessary to have a healthy relationship. This course features over a year of relationship skills you would learn in therapy. Students share this course has been “life changing.”
Each week, she answers your relationship questions from a place of expertise and compassion. To submit your relationship questions, please DM her @confidentlyauthentic.com or you may send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to submit your question.