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What to do when a close friend ghosts you, according to experts

  • As we get older, we have fewer but more genuine friendships.
  • Losing a friend can come with grief, which makes it tougher to recover from. 
  • Friendship experts says some friendships are worth fighting for.

Insider Today

In budding romantic relationships, being ghosted after a date or two seems to come with the territory these days. Sure, it stings, but it's relatively easy to bounce back from a failed love connection, especially one that started online. But when we're ghosted by a longtime trusted friend , our grief can be intense and difficult to navigate. 

By the time we become parents, our friendships feel more solid and reliable. We might have fewer friends, but they're more genuine. It's no wonder that losing a friend can be a tough blow to recover from . Here's why ghosting happens and how to find closure.

Why do friends ghost us?

Friendships break down when one person is consistently considering their needs over the other person's, said Dr. Marisa G. Franco , a psychologist and friendship expert. "There's a concept called identity affirmation. The idea is, I'm able to see my friend for who they are. I am able to respect the ways that they want to live their life," she told Insider. That means supporting a friend's dreams even when their values don't align with our own. If we can't, the friend probably won't stick around.

We rarely break up with somebody who leaves us feeling good, said Shasta Nelson , a friendship expert and author of " Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness ." "Research shows that we need five positive emotions for every negative emotion for a relationship to stay healthy. By the time we're breaking up, that ratio has usually gotten reversed," she said.

In friendships, we tend to avoid conflict at all costs. "If we can think about conflict as a way to enlighten each other so that we can treat each other better, it can be a healing force rather than a destructive force," Franco said. Addressing our issues is the only way through them. 

How to let go and when to hang on

There's a lot of shame surrounding friendship breakups, Nelson said. "We feel like every single friendship is supposed to last forever, and if they don't there's something wrong with us. But not every relationship is going to last," she said, so learn to let your relationships ebb and flow.

It's important to recognize your loss and grieve it in a healthy way. Holding in our feelings leads to "the rebound effect," Franco said. "When we try to suppress something, it ends up coming back stronger. Your feelings have to be felt for them to pass," she said. 

Friendships that have brought you happiness in the past are probably worth fighting for. Even a difficult conversation is worth having if the person has added value to your life, said Smiley Poswolsky , a friendship expert and author of " Friendship in the Age of Loneliness: An Optimist's Guide to Connection ."

"Take the time to send a handwritten letter and just say, 'Hey, I've missed you. I wanted to reach out. You mean a lot to me. I'd love to have a conversation about our friendship.' Then your cards are on the table and you've made the effort, and that's a beautiful thing," Poswolsky said. 

"We can't force somebody to interact with us, but we can reach out to say, 'Is there any chance you'd be willing to tell me what happened between us or what you're feeling right now? I want to try to fix it or at least apologize to you,'" Nelson said, and if our friend isn't open to a conversation, we have to forgive ourselves and our friend, doing our best to learn from the experience.

ghosted by depressed friend

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Why Depression Made Me 'Ghost' You

ghosted by depressed friend

There are at least six of you. That’s the number I have settled on.

I am talking about those of you I retreated from quickly, without explanation — even at a time when our friendship was robust and fulfilling for both of us. That’s right. I ghosted you.

I know this doesn’t make sense. But it also offers a clue to my mental state each time. Here’s what I have learned about my depression .

First of all, I can become self-absorbed. Typically, I am a caring, empathetic person. When depression comes into play, I stop thinking about you and begin thinking only of me. I worry about having something to add to our conversation and that you’ll judge me when I pause and stumble over my words (since a stutter is an early sign that I am getting sick). I am mad that this is happening to me and I obsess about what what will happen if I dip further. I start hearing your complaints and struggles as trivial compared to mine. I start to wish my life were so simple and predictable.

Next, I start to shrivel. You walk down the street with ease. You read books and are able to concentrate. You make eye contact and you are witty. You can find joy in a tennis game or a movie or gardening or a hug. Your normalcy becomes painful for me. And your triumphs?They kill me, and I’m embarrassed by this fact. I used to be like you and now I’m not. And because I am starting to feel hopeless, I don’t think I’ll be able to spring back to my typical self. I begin to hate the fragment of a human I feel like, now.

Finally, I isolate. I know you can’t understand my mental health. I don’t want to go to parties or for coffee or discuss books. I can only think of curling up in a silent, distant ball on the couch and binging on “Girls” episodes. You will probably grow tired of me canceling plans, because really, how often can a person have a migraine or stomach flu? I want to be left alone, but I desperately don’t want to be left alone. This is when I stop returning your calls and texts and Facebook messages. I am the first to pull away, because you leaving me would be unbearable.

  If you search “effects of ghosting a friend,” you will find many, many internet hits. Jennice Vilhauer, in Psychology Today, writes , “One of the most insidious aspects of ghosting is that it doesn’t just cause you to question the validity of the relationship you had, it causes you to question yourself. Why didn’t I see this coming? How could I have been such a poor judge of character? What did I do to cause this? How do I protect myself from this ever happening again?”

Strangely, I try to have a smidgeon of sympathy for my depressed self, because I was injured too. I know I missed out on laughter and camaraderie. And to be honest, I have lost so many dear friends to my “pathological ghosting” that I feel lonely too much of the time.

Regarding you, I can try to rectify these abandonments with explanations and apologies. Sincerely, I am sorry I acted this way. I feel selfish and callous. My actions might have been the product of a sick mind, but I sometimes feel they were cowardly and shouldn’t have been an option. I’ll never have an excuse for my behavior, just a reason.

However, no matter how hard I try, I feel I will again exit your life, or someone else’s, inexplicably. And, again, it will be my fault. When this undoubtedly happens, try to remember one thing: It’s not you, it’s me.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide  prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741 .

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Unsplash photo via freestocks.org

I found The Mighty when I was at my sickest. The articles offered understanding and hope. What better way to give back than to try and reach a brother or sister facing their own struggle?

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Being Ghosted: Why It Happens and How to Cope

Barbara is a writer and speaker who is passionate about mental health, overall wellness, and women's issues.

ghosted by depressed friend

Verywell / Laura Porter

Why Do People Ghost?

  • How to Cope

What Does Ghosting Say About a Person?

Is ghosting emotional abuse.

Ghosting occurs when someone you are dating or getting to know disappears without a trace. This could happen at the very beginning of a relationship or in the middle of one, whether in person or online. Dealing with being ghosted is incredibly difficult—especially because you usually don't know the cause or know how to react.

The person suddenly quits all contact with you—they won’t respond to texts, emails, calls, or social media messages. The mental health effects of being on the receiving end of these actions can be very challenging.

Learn more about why people ghost and how to move forward if it happens to you or someone you know.

People ghost for a variety of reasons. Relationship experts and psychologists agree that people who ghost are avoiding an uncomfortable situation. This evasion, while perceived as a lack of regard, is often because they feel it’s the best way to handle their own distress or inability to clearly communicate .

Ghosters themselves admit they don’t want to hurt you or they don’t know what to do. Sometimes they don’t think discussing a situation was necessary or they became scared. Ghosting is a passive way to withdraw.

But some ghosters perceive that to disappear completely might actually be the easiest and best way to handle the situation for all. Others ghost because now that it’s common, it’s an almost justifiable way to exit a relationship nowadays.

In today’s dating culture, being ghosted and ghosting is common.

How to Cope When You've Been Ghosted

It's not always easy, and it often takes time, but there are things you can do to start to feel better even if you've been ghosted by someone in your life.

Rid Yourself of Blame

After someone disappears suddenly, it’s hard to not feel regret, embarrassment and shame. After all, you risked for the sake of growth and it backfired. While ghosting feels so personal, it’s not about you. It’s about them.

Because you usually can’t find a cause and there is no explanation furnished, you may blame yourself. You might want to put up walls so you don’t get hurt again in the future. Or you may tell your friends you will stop dating completely, using a cognitive distortion like all-or-nothing thinking .

Now is the time to regroup, be kind to yourself and take a break. You are not to blame for someone walking away without a peep. Nor is it your fault that the other person couldn’t maturely give you the truth.

Nix the Shame

Shame comes about sometimes when we are reminded of previous rejections. But is ghosting rejection?

Meredith Gordon Resnick, LCSW

Ghosting carries an echo of old rejection. It's painful because it activates—and emulates—a previous hurt or betrayal by someone we didn't just think we could trust but whom we had to trust, often during our formative years. Here's the catch: It's not necessarily about the betrayal but about our not having processed and integrated that early memory, and what it meant to us.

Resnick, whose trauma-informed books about recovery from the effects of narcissistic relationships have helped tens of thousands of readers, reassures those who were ghosted and bids them to take care.

“Understood this way, we can see why self-compassion is in order,” she says. “Being dropped and feeling unseen is always painful, and there is never shame or embarrassment in feeling what is real.”

Choose Self-Care

How do you move forward? You need self-compassion and self-care. Invest in time with friends and family who can support you. Also, you might indulge in activities that make you happy like taking a yoga class or returning to a hobby that you love. You can also try homeopathic treatments or acupuncture.

Elena Klimenko, MD, and Integrative Medicine Specialist sometimes uses a "broken heart" homeopathic treatment for a heartfelt loss . She says, “In traditional Chinese medicine like acupuncture, the heart meridian—which starts at the heart and runs to the armpits, then down each arm—is responsible for heartfelt matters and some deep emotions. Proper acupuncture treatment can also facilitate recovery and take the edge off the difficult feelings."

When you think of the ghoster, be sure to reframe your ideas about them and the relationship. After all, they violated the contract of what it takes to be in a mature, healthy relationship. That includes mutual respect, good communication and thoughtfulness. Therefore, this wasn’t the right person for you, anyway.

Build Resilience

David C. Leopold, MD DABFM, DABOIM, and Network Medical Director for Integrative Health and Medicine at Hackensack Meridian Health says, “When patients experience any emotional or mental health challenges, I focus on helping them build resilience and enhancing their self-compassion and self-care."

Dr. Leopold uses a comprehensive approach, including engaging in physical activity, prioritizing sleep, optimizing nutrition, cultivating meaning and purpose, and, reducing stress through practices like mindfulness and meditation.” 

Therefore, if you’re emotionally exhausted and stressed, where do you start in taking care of yourself? “Multiple studies clearly show that eating healthy improves mental health—reducing stress, anxiety and even depression. And any form of exercise, even just walking, is a potent natural anti-depressant,” says Leopold. 

If you’re ruminating too much, use an app to increase mindfulness or begin a meditation practice . Leopold suggests you don’t forget about finding meaning and purpose. “Studies show focusing on meaning and purpose increases oxytocin, our 'feel good' hormone, which increases feelings of connection and improves mood.” Overall, he advises that you take this time “as an opportunity to focus on you and enriching your resilience.”

Despite ghosting being normalized, it's more about the problem the ghoster is having than it is about you. Ghosting says a lot about the person in many different ways. For instance, it could say that they lacked the courage to do the right thing by explaining why they could no longer continue a relationship with you.

The person or people who ghosted you didn’t treat you with integrity, therefore, did not consider the implications of their actions. It could also signal that they may not care about their actions and are inconsiderate or unreliable.

Or, it could be none of the above. The ghoster may be dealing with a mental health or medical condition (of a loved one or their own) that is making it difficult for them to reach out at the current time.

Whatever the case may be, being ghosted is not a reflection on you or your worthiness. Nor should it render you powerless.

Ghosting is a form of silent treatment, which mental health professionals have described as emotional cruelty or even emotional abuse if done so intentionally. You feel powerless and silenced. You don't know to make sense of the experience or have an opportunity to express your feelings.

This cowardly act, unfortunately pretty normalized by our culture, can cause immense pain. As you have no clue about what happened, your mind first jumps to many possibilities. Was your new love interest injured in a car accident? Is their family okay? Maybe it’s just a crazy busy time at work and they will contact you again soon? 

You might feel a wave of different emotions: sadness, anger , loneliness , confusion. Mental health professionals find that no response is especially painful for people on an emotional level. You feel helpless and shunned without information that could guide your understanding.

Being ghosted might result in exhibiting a variety of negative emotions and questioning yourself. Don't play the blame and shame game. Hold your head up high, hold onto your dignity, and let them go. Someone better could be out there looking for you.

Practice self-care and build your resilience during this painful time. If you’re still struggling to cope after being ghosted by a romantic interest, a friend, or someone in the workplace, reach out to a doctor or a mental health professional for assistance.

Press Play for Advice On Dealing With Negative Emotions

Hosted by therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares how to stay mentally strong when you're dealing with negative emotions. Click below to listen now.

Follow Now : Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts

By Barbara Field Barbara is a writer and speaker who is passionate about mental health, overall wellness, and women's issues.

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Why Friends Ghost On Even Their Closest Pals

ghosted by depressed friend

I n high school, I was part of a trio: Marlene, Susan and I were constant companions–until one day, for reasons she did not disclose, Susan refused to have anything more to do with me. Marlene tried to stay friends with both of us, but since that meant sticking with Susan, I was locked out. Being cut off by a close friend, someone integral to my daily life, was shattering. But I learned, as I interviewed over eighty girls and women (ages 9 to 97) for a book about friendship , that cutoffs are a common calamity. And so is ghosting .

I heard many accounts of cutoffs and ghosting — both from those who’d suffered from it and those who’d done it. The ugliest stories were about being ousted by a group of friends in middle school or high school. And it haunted not only the ejected but also the ejectors. For example, a woman, Annie, said she still feels regret and shame for not speaking up when, in tenth grade, her entire friends group turned on one member. Annie wasn’t the ringleader, but, she said, “I went along. And we had been very, very close friends.”

Most of those who had been cut off said they didn’t know why. But those who said they’d cut off a friend always told me the reason. For example, a woman, Linda, said she had let a friend stay with her for what was supposed to be a brief time. As the days became weeks and then months, she finally asked the friend to leave. Instead of thanking her for months of hospitality, the friend exploded in anger. “If your boyfriend moves in,” she snarled, “you’ll probably kick him out after a few months, too!” Linda never spoke to her again.

Even when a cutoff is traced to a single outrageous thing said or done, that supremely tellable violation usually caps frustrations that had been mounting over time. For example, a college student recalled a high school friend who “was great and funny and just a riot. She was a hoot, and great to be around.” But the friend’s jokes were often barbed — and made her feel terrible. “It just kind of built up,” the student said. “I didn’t want to keep enduring it.”

Comments about erstwhile friends included: “She made me feel inadequate and intimidated, correcting my grammar and always having done one better”; she “did a number on me, made me feel inadequate, awkward, unattractive”; “She made me feel inadequate and depressed.” All these descriptions include the word “inadequate” — that universal fear that we are just not good enough. And the same fear is part of why it is so painful to be ghosted.

Why cut someone off without saying why? For one thing, explaining opens a conversation, implying you want to work things out, which you don’t. But there’s another reason, too. Many of us find it hard to say anything negative outright, so we swallow our hurt—until it chokes us. Ghosting means still not saying anything negative. Someone told me he calls this “stamp collecting.” When a person you’re close to does something you don’t like, you say nothing, but put a stamp in your book. When the page is filled with stamps, you slam it shut and throw the book at them.

For those who are pondering what they did to cause them to be ghosted, it may help to know the answer may be: nothing. A woman was relieved when–-decades later— a friend who had disappeared reconnected and explained that she’d been going through a tough time and had cut everyone off. Another woman recalled her own habit, when she was younger, of cutting friends off: she’d pursue a friendship , then feel overwhelmed by the closeness she’d created — and flee. A particularly unjust—and pernicious — reason may have been why Annie’s high school group turned on one of their own. Annie recalled that the victimized friend “was good at every sport and cute.” Sadly, it is common for girls to reject a girl who stands out or excels, labeling her “stuck up” or “a snob.”

Sometimes the decision to end a friendship wasn’t made by the friend herself, so both are victims. When young adults live with parents or guardians, the adults may demand a cutoff, because they disapprove of a friend, or — though they probably don’t think of it that way — because they envy the attachment and feel displaced by it. And that, it turns out, is what happened with my friend Susan.

In the years since she ended our friendship, I made many attempts to find Susan, to ask why. But, as often happens with women who marry and change their names, she couldn’t be found. From the moment I decided to write a book about friendship, I was determined to solve this mystery once and for all. When the book was pretty much done, I enlisted the aid of my friend Paul, who has a gift for finding people online. Luckily, Susan has a brother whose name has not changed and whose email address Paul found online. I emailed him, and he replied immediately, cc’ing his sister. Within a few hours — 54 years after our last conversation — I was talking to Susan on the phone. And the very first thing she said was that it was her older brother — not the one I’d emailed, but a different one — who had insisted she stop seeing me, because he felt I had too much influence over her. But looking back, she said, she thinks he was just jealous. And it broke her heart at the same time that it broke mine.

One of the wonderful things about friendship is that we get to choose our friends, an option we don’t have with family. But that also means we can choose to end a friendship — and a friend can choose to end it too. When that happens, it might help to know that others have suffered the same fate, and that sometimes it really is —as I learned was the case with Susan — not because of anything we did wrong. It might, in fact, be a testament to how important the friendship was.

Tannen is a linguistics professor at Georgetown University and the author of You’re the Only One I Can Tell: Inside the Language of Women’s Friendships

ghosted by depressed friend

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I Admit It – Depression Has Made Me a Ghoster

I admit it, I'm a ghoster: A depression lack of coping mechanism - image of a ghost

Yes, that’s right, I’m guilty—I’m a ghoster. Ghosting is socially frowned upon, although it happens quite a bit. A LiveScience article cites research in which about 25% of participants had been ghosted, and 20% had ghosted someone else. It’s often talked about with regards to romantic relationships, but it may be even more common in friendships. That’s where I come in, or at least where I have come in since depression has been in the picture.

I’d like to propose two different types of ghosting: offensive ghosting, which serves to actively reject another person, and defensive ghosting, which is done for the purpose of self-protection. I say this because depression has made me a ghoster.

If I’m feeling uncomfortable or invalidated in an interpersonal relationship while I’m depressed, I get really overwhelmed, and my first instinct is to retreat into my hermit cave. It’s not that I want to hurt the other person; I’m just trying to feel safe. Depression means that some of my more mature coping mechanisms just aren’t available to me. When I’m feeling really low, avoidance is about all I’ve got to draw on.

Ghosting friends

I used to have friends, although now that seems like a whole lifetime ago. When I became depressed a couple of years ago after experiencing workplace bullying, my depressive urge was to isolate. I tried the opposite action direction to push through and try to socialize anyway. But these friends, though I know they were trying to be helpful, were being really invalidating.

The pressure of trying to stay connected with these people eventually became too much, and I snapped. I blocked numbers on my phone and didn’t respond to emails. I tried to hide from the world, and I became a full-on ghoster. It’s not that I was trying to reject these people; I was just trying to hold onto a shred of sanity.

Ghosting family

I also ghost my family. It’s very hard to feel connected to them when I’m unwell, so it feels quite uncomfortable when I have contact with them. That means that when I’m feeling really low, I just fall off the grid completely. Unsurprisingly this is very stressful for them, and they worry that the next thing they’re going to hear about me is a call from the police. I know that, yet when I get the phone call and see the number on my call display, the thought of answering makes me feel ill. They love me, but I make it very hard for them.

Alone is just easier

I suppose ghosting can be appealing because it feels safer than any alternatives. It’s very hard for me to feel safe with people, and especially hard for me to feel safe in any sort of conflict with people. I wish that I didn’t frequently feel under attack when interacting with others, but that’s a sense of safety that I just haven’t been able to rebuild.

And until I do, I’m sorry to the people that I run away from, but I’m the only one that can look after me. So I retreat to my fortress of solitude, because that’s where I feel the safest and most comfortable.

Are you ever a ghoster? Do you think your illness plays a role?

Related posts

  • Does Mental Illness Make You Hard to Love?
  • Feeling Like a Stranger in My Own Family
  • My Hermitification: Depression & Social Isolation
  • Why Depression Makes it Hard to Be Around People

book cover: Managing the Depression Puzzle, 2nd Edition, by Ashley L. Peterson

Managing the Depression Puzzle takes a holistic look at the different potential pieces that might fit into your unique depression puzzle.

It’s available on Amazon and Goo g le Play .

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35 thoughts on “i admit it – depression has made me a ghoster”.

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Self esteem issue? I mean, i don’t understand ghosting to begin with as my brain cells dissipate. If i reach out to someone, who says they care, dismiss me, not because they want to, but need to… ghosting? But i feel im doing something wrong… my self-esteem issues at work, and blame myself for the lack of interaction. ?

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Yeah I don’t think it’s easy in either direction.

That sounds about right.

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I wouldn’t ghost people, but when I’m depressed I tend not to initiate contact with people if they don’t contact me. Partly depression and social anxiety, but also that I get so caught up in myself that I forget that other people exist.

Yeah it can be hard to keep that in perspective.

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Don’t know that I ghost people in the sense of disappearing without replying to contacts. Like Luftmensch I initiate stuff less and tend to turn down invitations when I’m depressed or anxious, and over time that has resulted in many people giving up on inviting me in the first place – but mostly those were people I was a bit ambivalent about the relationship anyway. Over the last couple of years of working on assertive communication in therapy I’ve got a lot better at actually explaining to people what’s going on and asking for what I need, and my family in particular are good at accepting and working with that. They’re okay with me saying “thanks for thinking of me, not up to it right now but could you try again tomorrow/next week”, or “got your message, no brain space to think about that right now, I’ll get back to you in a few days”. I do sometimes think it would be handy to have a text message template saved in your phone to say exactly that, so that you can acknowledge that you’ve at least got their message (and they don’t feel abandoned or dismissed themselves) but you don’t have to put too much mental effort into crafting a reply on the fly.

I really like the text message template idea.

It’s something I’m thinking of discussing with my friend who keeps disappearing in the middle of conversations.

Certainly worth a try.

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I USED to ghost people (both family and friends) and I’ve been ghosted. I actually didn’t know what that was until I read your post and was motivated to go look up the term. My own version of mental illness does play a role. I’m not good with boundaries nor social clues that others seem to pick up without a second thought, therefore I tend to sometimes unwittingly offend somebody or become offended myself from someone’s words or actions. But. With therapy and as long as I take my meds on a regular basis, I can cope and I’m finding I’m getting better at at least learning not to ghost. I merely confront the problem with someone if there’s one, and for myself resolve the issue. If someone ghosts ME? Their problem if they can’t/won’t confront me about something they find unpleasant that I’ve done or said. Maturity and healthy communication seem to be key, but I think we all learn communication skills differently and some of us? Aren’t very good at it.

I’m glad it’s getting easier for you.

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I don’t know if I “ghost” people or not lol, but I am a hermit!

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Oh sweetie, I’m a huge ghoster as well. I would always (well I still do it) ghost on my so called friends (that would eventually say that I was an abuser to them and went on Twitter to say how horrible I am and all of that stuff). They never tried to understand that sometimes, I just need time alone. I need space to recharge and just let me sit in silence. My now friends completely understand when I need time alone and they will check up on me every once in a while to make sure I’m okay. I personally think there’s no shame in ghosting (if you don’t do it in such an aggressive form). We all need alone time every once in a while

I’m glad your friends now have figured out what’s really going on.

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This is really insightful and brave to write about. I think it gives me some understanding for some people in my life who tend to isolate when they get depressed. Sending you hugs 💞

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Not alone 🙋🏾‍♀️! Sometimes I think I’m being annoying and it keeps me from texting back. Most times, I expend so much energy throughout the day that a short phone call or a text seems like too much. I can easily go six months without speaking to a pal, it’s not that I don’t like them but there’s only so much of me to go around.

Yeah contact with others can feel pretty exhausting.

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I have ghosted several friends this past 2018 and cut off contact with them (aka deleting them from Facebook and blocking their numbers). I cannot say I regret my actions; mainly because I feel the friendships I had fell at the waysides and I no longer connected with those people like I used to. None of them except one attempted to contact me again after I ghosted them, so I assumed either they noticed I left without saying anything to them and don’t care or they wanted to ask why but didn’t.

I remember being friends with this one girl who wanted to keep in touch with me on a daily basis. There were parts during the friendship it got intense like this where we were spending so much time together and talking like all the time. I did thrive from the socialization but then I started to come down from it and realize it was too much for me. We weren’t on the same page in terms of what it meant to be friends.

Yeah having that kind of mismatch can be very hard to manage.

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I can understand you. I have some good friends and family but when I feel bad I don’t want to talk to anyone and ignore everyone. Then they begin to get worried which I also feel guilty of sometimes. We are always friends lovely 💕

Thanks for your support ❤️

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I remember when ghosting was reverse trick or treating. You left a bag of candy and a note at someone’s door.

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I had not heard this term before. I ghost and I am not ashamed of it. It is my sanity saver. It is how I keep myself going. I now control more my going out into the world so to speak. (I can not work). I am actually more content in knowing with help from my phsycologist that is right for me, and the way I live is OK as it makes me be me. I socialise how and when I desire. I always drive myself with my dogs. So I can leave when I want to or need to. I will very rarely take anyone else with me as I then feel an obligation to stay for as long as they wish too.

I find it very very tiring exhausting being out in malls, shops, where ever. I am content with my discontent,

For the most part I’ve always been pretty good at setting boundaries around socialization. The problem when I ghost is that I totally fall off the face of the planet, and people that care about me feel worried and hurt.

I can imagine that Ashley. It is hard looking after yourself yet at the same time others concerned about you. It is hard fo others to really understand our needs and the self preservation.

Yes, it really is.

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You are so brave to post this message. For mamy many years I ghosted everyone. When I was down I really avoid everything. Even during the day I picked and choosed weather or not I answered my husbands calls. Friends in my view where very disposable. The only contact I had with them was them phoning me and that was when I answered the phone. Family I only saw on holiday occasions. I avoided all attempts of contact.

I think that kind of ghosting is a lot more common than people realize, and people can get caught up in thinking that ghosting is always intended to hurt others.

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I have been trying to understand depression and this post helped me not to take my friend’s ghosting personally. This definitely explains his actions. It has been months and it’s tough on my part because I care for him. Anyway, thank you so much for this post!🥺❤️

Thank you 💕

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Jennice Vilhauer Ph.D.

Why Ghosting Hurts So Much

Ghosting says nothing about your worthiness for love..

Posted November 27, 2015 | Reviewed by Lybi Ma

  • Ghosting means one person cuts off contact with another after a period of friendship or dating, usually to avoid one's own emotional discomfort.
  • Ghosting upsets the one ghosted because people are wired to regulate their emotions partly through social cues from others.
  • Those with low self-esteem can take longer to get over ghosting because they have less natural opioid released into the brain after a rejection.

Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock

The opposite of love isn’t hate; it's indifference. Ghosting , for those of you who haven’t yet experienced it, is having someone that you believe cares about you, whether it be a friend or someone you are dating , disappear from contact without any explanation at all. No phone call or email, not even a text.

Ghosting isn’t new—people have long engaged in disappearing acts—but years ago this kind of behavior was considered limited to a certain type of scoundrel. In today’s dating culture being ghosted is a phenomenon that approximately 50 percent of men and women have experienced—and an almost equal number have done the ghosting. 1 Despite how common ghosting is, the emotional effects can be devastating, and particularly damaging to those who already have fragile self-esteem .

Why do people ghost?

People who ghost are primarily focused on avoiding their own emotional discomfort and they aren’t thinking about how it makes the other person feel. The lack of mutual social connections for people who met online also means there are fewer social consequences of dropping out of another’s life. The more it happens, either to themselves or their friends, the more people become desensitized to it, and the more likely they are to do it to someone else.

  • “I didn't understand exactly how I actually felt at the time, so instead of trying to talk it out, I ghosted.” 2
  • “I used to disappear when it was all I thought it was [a fling], or I got scared of finding what I wanted… Or some kind of fear factor from a past relationship kicks in.” 2
  • “Looking through the lens of a coward, passive withdrawal from dating seems like the easiest and nicest route… until it’s done to you.” 3
  • “I kind of think that it's part of what makes the online dating scene so appealing. Since you don't have friends in common or weren't introduced through some other channel, it's not the end of the world if you just drop off the face of the earth.” 4
  • “I, for one, consider myself to be an honest and straightforward person. And yet I’ve ghosted... And I’ve told myself, time and time again, that it’s all the fault of the toxic dating culture we’ve created. And at the end of the day, I think that’s what we’re all telling ourselves.” 5

How does it feel to be ghosted?

For many people, ghosting can result in feelings of being disrespected, used, and disposable. If you have known the person beyond more than a few dates then it can be even more traumatic . When someone we love and trust disengages from us it feels like a very deep betrayal.

  • “I felt like an idiot. Like I had been played a fool. And more so I felt disrespected. Take the romantics away, to have a great connection with a new friend and then all of a sudden never hear from them again? That’s painful and really disappointing. No one deserves to be blown off.” 6
  • “It still felt a bit like someone had punched me in the gut when it happened. The disregard is insulting. The lack of closure is maddening. You move on, but not before your self-esteem takes a hit. The only thing worse than being broken up with is realizing that someone didn’t even consider you worth breaking up with.” 7
  • “Going from texting every day and seeing each other a couple of times a week to nothing without the slightest hint of why was a kick in the gut.” 8
  • “Ghosting is one of the cruelest forms of torture dating can serve up.” 9

Why does it feel so bad?

Social rejection activates the same pain pathways in the brain as physical pain. 10 In fact, you can reduce the emotional pain of rejection with a pain medication like Tylenol. 11 But in addition to this biological link between rejection and pain, there are some specific factors about ghosting that contribute to psychological distress.

Ghosting gives you no cue for how to react. It creates the ultimate scenario of ambiguity. Should you be worried? What if they are hurt and lying in a hospital bed somewhere? Should you be upset? Maybe they are just a little busy and will be calling you at any moment. You don’t know how to react because you don’t really know what has happened. Staying connected to others is so important to our survival that our brain has evolved to have a social monitoring system that scans the environment for cues so that we know how to respond in social situations. 12 Social cues allow us to regulate our own behavior accordingly, but ghosting deprives you of these usual cues and can create a sense of emotional dysregulation where you feel out of control.

One of the most insidious aspects of ghosting is that it doesn’t just cause you to question the validity of the relationship you had, it causes you to question yourself. Why didn’t I see this coming? How could I have been such a poor judge of character? What did I do to cause this? How do I protect myself from this ever happening again? This self-questioning is the result of basic psychological systems that are in place to monitor one’s social standing and relay that information back to the person via feelings of self-worth and self-esteem. When a rejection occurs your self-esteem can drop, which social psychologists propose is meant to be a signal that your social belonging is low. 13 If you have been through multiple ghostings or if your self-esteem is already low, you are likely to experience the rejection as even more painful, and it may take you longer to get over it as people with lower-self-esteem have less natural opioid (painkiller) released into the brain after a rejection when compared with those whose self-esteem is higher. 14

ghosted by depressed friend

Ghosting is the ultimate use of the silent treatment, a tactic that has often been viewed by mental health professionals as a form of emotional cruelty. 15 It essentially renders you powerless and leaves you with no opportunity to ask questions or be provided with information that would help you emotionally process the experience. It silences you and prevents you from expressing your emotions and being heard, which is important for maintaining your self-esteem.

Regardless of the ghoster’s intent, ghosting is a passive-aggressive interpersonal tactic that can leave psychological bruises and scars.

How do you move forward?

The important thing to remember is that when someone ghosts you, it says nothing about you or your worthiness for love and everything about the person doing the ghosting. It shows he or she doesn’t have the courage to deal with the discomfort of their emotions or yours, and they either don't understand the impact of their behavior or worse don’t care. In any case, they have sent you an extremely loud message that says: "I don’t have what it takes to have a mature healthy relationship with you." Be the better person, retain your dignity, and let him or her go peacefully.

Don’t allow someone else’s bad behavior to rob you of a better future by losing your vulnerability and shutting yourself off from another relationship. Keep your energy focused on doing what makes you happy. Know that if you are someone who treats people with respect and integrity then the ghoster simply wasn’t on your wavelength and someone better is coming your way, as long as you keep your heart open and your focus forward.

For more, see " When Is It OK to Ghost Someone? "








Krossa, E., Bermana, M., Mischelb, W., Edward E. Smith, and Wager, T. 2011. Social rejection shares somatosensory representations with physical pain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), 108 (15), p. 6270–6275, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1102693108.

DeWall, C., et al. 2010. Acetaminophen Reduces Social Pain: Behavioral and Neural Evidence. Psychological Sciences, 21 (7), p. 931 -7

Cynthia L. Pickett, C., Gardner, W., and Knowles, M. 2004. Getting a Cue: The Need to Belong and Enhanced Sensitivity to Social Cues. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30 (9), p. 1095-1107.

Leary, M. R., Haupt, A. L., Strausser, K. S., & Chokel, J. T. 1998. Calibrating the sociometer: The relationship between interpersonal appraisals and state self-esteem. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, p.1290-1299.

Hsu, D. et al. 2013. Response of the μ-opioid system to social rejection and acceptance. Molecular Psychiatry , 18, p. 1211–1217.

Williams, C., Richardson, D. Hammock, G., Janit, S. 2012. Perceptions of physical and psychological aggression in close relationships: A review. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 17, (6), p. 489–494.

Jennice Vilhauer Ph.D.

Jennice Vilhauer, Ph.D. , is the Director of Emory University’s Adult Outpatient Psychotherapy Program in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science in the School of Medicine.

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How To Confront A Friend Who Ghosted You

Say no to getting left on read.

Woman in car at night, waiting for text message after being ghosted by a friend.

Your last four messages have gone unanswered. You convince yourself they’re having a tough time with work. But they just posted an Instagram Story, so they can’t be that busy. Your mind races: Are you getting ghosted by a friend? Confronting a pal who’s abruptly faded into thin air isn’t an intuitive endeavor, because friends are supposed to stick around. (Even Friends the TV show came back after almost 20 years.) And yet, some people do opt to ghost in lieu of talking through an issue or explaining why the friendship is no longer working for them.

This very millennial phenomenon, according to clinical therapist Caroline Given , L.C.S.W., is not always as malicious as it might seem. Given says that while many people unintentionally ghost thanks to forgetfulness, having too much on their plate, or legit technical mishaps, others choose to pull a quick fade instead of actually, you know, communicating. After a year of reflection inspired by social distancing, Given says people might be ghosting as a means to cut back on weakened friendships. “The pandemic sped up so many processes that would have maybe taken years to occur gradually,” Given says of friendships that seem to have been abruptly cancelled.

But why is friend-ghosting even a thing? “I’ve worked with many clients who tell me they wanted to respond but ended up ghosting due to feeling that they didn’t know how to express themselves adequately ,” Given says. She adds that the ghoster might “think that having an honest conversation will lead to conflict or discomfort and they feel that avoiding that entirely is the easiest option.”

A woman looks at her phone after being ghosted by a friend. If you want to confront a friend who gho...

While it might be the most painless route for the ghoster, it can be incredibly hurtful for the friend on the other end of the phone. “When the person who is ghosted is left without closure or understanding of what happened, they are left to fill in the blanks with their own reasons that can lead us to feeling confused, rejected, or inadequate,” says Given. Friends are the people you go to to complain about harsh ghosting is in the dating world. Like, shouldn’t they know better?

Given says there are only so many ways to deal with ghosting : move on or confront your (now ex) pal. If you’re going to move on, Given says to be prepared for some lingering hurt. “It’s hard to move forward from something painful when you don’t even know what happened,” she says. She adds that you can remind yourself that if a former friend is ghosting you, “it shows that they were unwilling or incapable of communicating with you in a way that was respectful and mature and their behavior is not a reflection of your worth.”

If you choose to confront someone who’s ghosting you , Given cautions against coming off as defensive or resentful. “It’s definitely possible to be transparent about your feelings without being aggressive or passive aggressive, she says. If this friendship means a lot to you, you’ll want to set a vibe that says “Hey, this is a safe space, level with me,” so that you can have an honest, potentially friendship-saving, conversation.

Here are some therapist-approved prompts to consider when reaching out to a ghoster.

If The Ghosting Is Abrupt

If your friend typically responds at a reasonable rate, and things seemed good the last time you spoke, Given says it’s crucial to give them the benefit of the doubt and not try to fill in the blanks for them. “Address it through inquiry to show you are invested in the friendship and care about what happened, while also indirectly highlighting that it felt out of character for communication to come to a halt.” This could sound like:

“Hey, I stopped hearing from you and it felt sudden. I wanted to check in to see if you were OK and that everything was alright between us?”

If There Was A Fight

If the last time you talked to your friend, it was for them to bail on plans (again), Given suggests approaching the conflict head on. “It might feel uncomfortable or tense but it is much healthier and more productive to be kind but direct.” This could sound like:

“I feel like things haven’t been the same between us since the last time we saw each other. I care about our friendship and was wondering if we could talk about it, or if there’s anything we could do to address it?”

If There Was A Slow Fade

If your friend has slowly but surely been icing you out — maybe they reply with one word or simply a tapback — Given says to call out the situation. This could sound like:

“Hey, I feel like we’ve been distant from each other. Do you think we could reconnect? I miss your presence in my life.”

If your outreach isn’t fruitful, take an inventory of what was said and done — by both of you — leading up to the crickets. “Reflect on whether or not there is any aspect of this that you can take accountability for so that you can potentially make amends if you decide to reach out again.” If the friendship’s meaningful to you, Given says to stay focused on problem solving so you can move forward, together. But that at a certain point, she says, you’ll need to prioritize your own boundaries, “good 4 u”-style , and make sure you’re not putting too much energy into a one-way reconciliation effort.

Caroline Given , L.C.S.W., clinical therapist and millennial life coach.

ghosted by depressed friend

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Ghosting friends linked to increased depressive tendencies over time, study finds

(Photo credit: Adobe Stock)

(Photo credit: Adobe Stock)

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A two-wave panel survey of young adults revealed that ghosting friends and ghosting partners are two different phenomena. Ghosting romantic partners is predicted by communication overload i.e., receiving more messages than one is able to handle and had no impact on well-being, while ghosting friends was predicted by one’s self esteem and increased depressive tendencies over time. The study was published in Telematics and Informatics .

Ghosting happens when one terminates communication with another person without explanation. Thanks to blocking features of modern digital communication applications and devices that allow one to completely block communication attempts by another person, ghosting has become a novel relationship dissolution strategy in the modern age.

Many people, particularly young, have first-hand experience with ghosting. Studies show that roughly 30% of young people have ghosted someone, that 25% had been ghosted and that 44% have been in both positions. The few studies that explored the phenomenon of ghosting mostly focused on being ghosted and studied it in the context of romantic relationships. Ghosting has been found to be associated with a lack of psychological well-being and increasing levels of distrust in the relationship.

Study author Michaela Forrai and her colleagues wanted to explore the factors that precede ghosting and those that develop as a consequence of ghosting in romantic relationships and in friendships from ghosters’ perspective.

“My interest in the topic was sparked by seeing many people post about seemingly similar experiences with ghosting on social media,” explained Forrai ( @ElaForrai ), a pre-doctoral researcher within the AdMe Research Group at the University of Vienna.

“In particular, I was intrigued by ghosting among friends as well as the perspective of ghosters, both of which have received relatively little scholarly attention. Admittedly, I have some personal experience with the topic too: Like many other people, I have also ghosted others.”

For their new study, the researchers conducted surveys at two timepoints, 4-months apart. Answers of a total of 978 participants were analyzed from the first survey. Of these, 415 participants completed the second survey. The average age of participants was around 19 years, and there were a bit more females than males.

Participants were asked about how often they ghosted others in romantic relationships and how often they ghosted others in friendships. Researchers paid attention not to use the word ghosting, but to ask participants about behaviors that constitute ghosting i.e., breaking off contact on social media with someone without letting them know why.

Additionally, participants completed assessments of communication overload on social media (3 items, e.g., “I often feel overwhelmed by the flood of personal messages on social media”), self-esteem (4 items from the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale), and depressive tendencies (based on the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale).

Results showed that communication overload predicts ghosting others within romantic relationships, but not within friendships. In other words, participants ghosted romantic partners when they felt overloaded, but not friends. In the same manner, participants with greater self-esteem were more likely to ghost friends, but not romantic partners.

“I was particularly surprised that communication overload predicted ghosting romantic partners, but not ghosting friends,” Forrai told PsyPost. “This is one of the aspects that I saw mentioned on social media rather frequently, but as we argue in our paper, temporarily taking more time to reply to one’s friends might be more acceptable. Interacting with romantic partners can be more demanding and ghosting can present a way to avoid harms due to communication overload, so perhaps this is why it may occur more frequently.”

Ghosting others did not affect self-esteem over time regardless of whether one ghosted a friend or a romantic partner. But participants who reported they ghosted their friends in the first survey tended to have greater depressive tendencies in the second. Finally, older participants were more likely, while highly educated participants were less likely, to ghost their romantic partners.

“My co-authors Kevin Koban, Jörg Matthes and I were able to show that ghosting within friendships and ghosting within romantic relationships are separate phenomena that are rooted in different antecedents and have distinct detrimental outcomes,” Forrai explained.

“Another key result is that ghosting others can have negative effects on one’s well-being: People who stated that they had ghosted friends in the past were more likely to report increased depressive tendencies four months later. Based on these findings, we would like to encourage people to reflect on their ghosting behavior, especially within friendships, so as to avoid negative consequences for themselves as well as potential ghostees.”

The study sheds light on important psychological mechanisms of social relationships. However, it should be noted that it was done on emerging adults – young people only. Results on other age groups might not be the same.

“Overall, research on ghosting is just beginning, so more insight is needed to paint a comprehensive picture of this phenomenon and we have a myriad of ideas for further studies within our team,” Forrai told PsyPost. “For instance, while we chose to investigate ghosters’ perspective in this publication since most extant research focuses on ghostees, investigating the interplay between ghosting others and being ghosted is something we would really like to do in the future.”

The study, “ Short-Sighted Ghosts. Psychological Antecedents and Consequences of Ghosting Others within Emerging Adults’ Romantic Relationships and Friendships “, was authored by Michaela Forrai, Kevin Koban, and Jörg Matthes.

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ghosted by depressed friend

"It utterly blindsided me." I was ghosted by my best friend. Here's what I did to recover.

Anthony J. Yeung

"I’m free on the weekend," my best friend said to me after we finished hanging out. "Just hit me up."

"Sounds good," I replied.

I texted him that weekend, but he didn’t respond. Hmm, weird. Later, I gave him a call. No answer. A few days later, I messaged him on Facebook and saw a "seen" notification from him, but no response.

What is ghosting? We explain. Post continues below.

He never talked to me again.

It was one of the most painful moments in my life. It utterly blindsided me. I knew this person for years; we were even roommates in university; we hung out all the time, and we knew each other’s families. Our mutual friends — and even my parents — were shocked and confused.

To this day, I still have no idea why it happened. But fortunately, I learned some powerful lessons during that saga, which helped me emotionally overcome the situation and build stronger friendships down the road. Here’s what I did — and didn’t do — to help me recover:

I didn’t criticise him.

When I was younger and I had difficulties with my parents, the thing that always poured salt in the wounds was they nagged and admonished me for not reaching out to them. 

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ghosted by depressed friend

Shut Up. The Weight-Loss Chat You Can’t Have.

ghosted by depressed friend

Introducing Lowbrow: Zac Efron & The 2012 Condom Incident

They would guilt me — even though they didn’t reach out to me either — and it always made the problem worse.

I knew I didn’t want to do the same thing so, instead, I reached out in a friendly way. I didn’t even acknowledge the ghosting; after all, I had no clue what was going on and we had a great friendship for so long. Maybe he just needed some space, some support, or someone to listen to him.

I could’ve attacked his behavior and said things like, "You’re being rude/mean/immature/etc.," but it would’ve killed the odds of him replying, so instead, I just continued to wish him well.

I didn’t personalise it.

I’ve battled low self-esteem for most of my life so it would’ve been easy to blame or second-guess myself. "He found better friends, he got tired of me, I did something to offend him, etc." And even though he didn’t say any of those things, my mind could’ve concocted a million reasons why I was a terrible person and this was all my fault.

By rereading my messages and looking at the situation as objectively as possible, I really couldn’t see how I did anything wrong. 

Listen to The Undone, a show about navigating the "adult" world without a GPS, friendship, love, sex, personal politics, and... air fryers. Post continues below.

We didn't have a disagreement, argument, or anything like that; if anything, we had a great time during (what would be) our final meetup. So I had to continually remind myself of that fact to maintain my sanity.

It was another kick in the groin when I ran into my ex-friend’s friends who were still regularly meeting with him. But again, I couldn’t blame myself — I simply had no idea what happened so any conclusion would just be a story.

I acted in a way I could be proud of.

The first two points had an extra benefit to help me move on from the ghosting: I was incredibly proud of how I handled it.

I was extremely deliberate and conscientious about every message. I didn’t say one negative thing about him and I was as nice as possible. 

In fact, a few months after the ghosting, I wished him a happy birthday via Facebook Messenger. (It said he read it too.)

But if I did the opposite and insulted, condemned, or attacked him, I probably wouldn’t feel that same pride. 

Maybe I would’ve felt guilty for my actions or for stooping to his level. And because I didn’t want to have those second-thoughts, I made sure the way I handled it was unimpeachable.

I learned how to communicate.

Getting ghosted by my best friend taught me to never let things get to that point in the first place. No friendship is perfect: You will have ups and downs.

In the years after, I committed myself to always communicating in a fair, respectful, and open way. I was willing to be vulnerable, uncomfortable, and even wrong about my assumptions, and I never made things personal. And by doing that, I could also watch how people responded. 

Did they listen and have a calm discussion? Did they get defensive? Or did they blame and attack me?

The true mark of a person isn’t how they act when things are going well; it’s how they act when things are not going well. 

Sadly, I’ve had to let friends go because of this, but it was the right decision because I wanted my friendships to align with my values.

I made new friends.

My emotions were still raw after the ghosting so it wasn’t easy to just "go out and find new friends." (The hard part about being ghosted is, even though you know when the communication stopped, it takes time before you realise you’ll never hear from them again and you have to move on.)

Thankfully, I got lucky with my timing. 

First, I started hanging out with a friend I met while we were both living in South Korea. 

Then, I randomly met a study-abroad student at a nearby university and we became great friends — we hung out all the time and I even invited him to dinner with my family.

I wasn’t deliberately trying to forget about my ex-friend, but I found it a lot easier to move on as I filled the emptiness — in my life and social calendar — with new friends. And by having fun with new people, I gradually stopped thinking about my loss.

I became a new person.

The last moment I saw my ex-friend was over 10 years ago. Since then, everything in my life changed a thousand-fold.

It was a decade of self-improvement and personal development. I worked on myself and transformed my mental patterns, habits, body, career, lifestyle, hobbies, finances, social circle, outlook, and even country of residence.

Who I was 10 years ago was long gone, and I stopped thinking about the past as much. But I didn’t simply "bury" those memories; I did years of deep work to process my past and learn from it. And through that hard work, I was able to reframe those memories so I could embrace a better future.

Now, looking back on that ghosting is almost like watching a different person.

My overall thoughts on real friendships.

Sometimes, friendships fall apart. Maybe you get into a disagreement or maybe they ghost you. It’ll sting in the moment, but as time passes, you’ll hopefully grow and improve. Yet with each setback, it will become more obvious who your real friends are.

Years ago, I was at a conference and I asked a  New York Times bestselling author on stage for advice. 

I was a remote entrepreneur (like him) and asked if constantly relocating to different cities would affect my social life?

He said he used to have a home on the West Coast and East Coast. When his friends on the other coast invited him to events, he had to decline — but after he declined a few times, they eventually stopped asking him.

That’s why his advice to me was, 'If you keep leaving your friends, they might not reach out again.'

A few minutes later during a break, my friends at the conference came up to me. "Don't worry," a friend said kindly. "We won't ditch you like [the speaker’s] friends did."

I smiled and laughed.

He was right. While the speaker had a valid opinion, the fact was he just projected his experience onto me. I didn't know who his friends were, how strong their friendships were, or how much they cared for him.

But I do know that if my friends left for some time, when they came back, I would roll out the red carpet. I would change my schedule just to see them.

Because they’re my real friends.

Hard moments suck, yes, but sometimes you need those moments to remind you of exactly what you’re looking for in your friendship and relationships.

And just know that when you find the right one, it’ll all be worth it.

This post  originally appeared on medium and has been republished with full permission. You can read more from Anthony J. Yeung  here .

Feature Image: Getty.


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ghosted by depressed friend


War does not wait for young love to bloom.

In Ukraine, young people on the brink of adulthood now bear its costs instead.

It hangs like a shadow over their homes and their work, their relationships and their passions.

We spoke with six young Ukrainians about their altered reality.

“There is a feeling that you are losing your life, your future.”

But how does someone take back a life they’ve never had?

What It’s Like to Be Young in Ukraine Now

Photographs by Laetitia Vancon

Text by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Laetitia Vancon

Leer en español

The years of young adulthood are often associated with opening horizons. Making friends. Having adventures. The first independent steps into work, or study, or love. For many young Ukrainians, though, war with Russia has upended that reality, replacing it with danger and death, depression and dislocation.

In these photographs and interviews, six young people who live in and around the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, explore the pressure of experiencing young adulthood at a time of conflict. A few have seen and felt the cost of war painfully close. Others say their daily lives are, for the most part, mundane. But all agreed that it has indelibly altered what should be their formative years as adults.

ghosted by depressed friend

“I'm with my kids 24/7 and I have to manage everything. I am so tired. I dream of victory.”

Maryna Bodnar, 24

Maryna Bodnar grew up in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol. She was, she said, an “untameable girl” — a daredevil who spent her adolescence seeking thrills and adventure. She met Vitalik on a dating site and they fell in love. Two children followed.

Maryna and Vitalik had planned to marry, but only when they were very old. “We didn’t see the need,” she said. “He was a father. I was a mother. We were comfortable.” Their priority was to raise the children, build a home, see the world.

But Vitalik was a soldier. He had joined the armed forces in 2014, when the Russian military annexed Crimea and seized territory in the east. When Russia invaded again in February 2022, Vitalik was deployed to Mariupol. His death there, one month into the fight for the city, shattered the couple’s dreams. It also left Maryna to raise their boys, Matviy, now 3, and 2-year-old Gennady, alone.

Clockwise from top: Young blond woman standing behind her children, two blond toddler boys, playing in a bedroom; same woman making candles; photo montage of woman’s children and deceased husband.

She lives with the children in an apartment in Vitalik’s hometown, Chernihiv, around 80 miles northeast of Kyiv. There, the children are close to their grandparents, and she runs a shop selling candles: a bit of light, literally, in her darkness.

Her emotions swing between grief and a faith that one day might offer a brighter future. “I don’t feel strong,” she said. “But I am looking for strength to continue.”

ghosted by depressed friend

“A part of my youth and my easiness have been stolen.”

Emilia Devoe, 18

Emilia and Denys met at a birthday party in Kyiv. What blossomed was their first serious relationship, a time filled with excitement and possibility. Then the bombs began to fall, and everything changed.

As Moscow’s troops advanced on Kyiv in the war’s first weeks, millions of Ukrainians fled. Emilia, along with her family, escaped to the Netherlands, with a plan to continue her studies there. As an adult male, though, Denys was prohibited from leaving Ukraine. “I had to leave everything behind,” Emilia said. “My love, my friends.”

The separation proved shattering. Missing Denys, she found that she was unable to throw herself fully into a new life. So four months after she left she returned to Kyiv. Now, she and Denys are building a life together, in her old home. Music and songwriting are a big part of their new lives, filling the spaces around her studies and his work. “I started to enjoy simple things,” she said.

The war’s presence is unrelenting, though, and has forced them to embrace adult responsibilities more quickly than they ever had expected. She admits she was scared to return at first, but she has come to embrace her independence. “A part of my youth and my easiness have been stolen,” she said. “I didn’t have time to process all of it.”

ghosted by depressed friend

“I strongly believe there will be a breaking point in this war, mainly because of us, because of youth who don’t lose their faith and strength.”

Kateryna Plechystova, 25

For more than a year, Kateryna Plechystova’s life was defined by an absence.

Ukraine’s Azov Battalion had led the defense of Mariupol, and her husband, Oleh Krisenko, was one of its fighters. In May, in the final act of the battle for the destroyed city, Russian forces besieged the Ukrainian fighters trapped in underground bunkers at the Azovstal steel works. When the siege ended, Oleh and hundreds of others were forced to surrender as prisoners of war.

Their captivity became an international cause. Kateryna campaigned for their release as part of The Association of Azovstal Defenders’ Families. “I came to understand the concept of being a ‘friend in misfortune,’” she said. At the same time, she lived with months of uncertainty, which led to anxiety and depression.

Then one day in May, she received a phone call from the military. Oleh was being released in a prisoner exchange. The next day, he walked back into her life.

She had been afraid she might not recognize him. He arrived on a bus with other prisoners, looking gaunt and scarred by the abuse he had endured in detention. But he was home.

They have tried to go back to their old life. But the challenges — emotional, physical, mental — sometimes make it hard for both of them to know how to react, how to behave, how to live. In the months while her husband was missing, Kateryna’s work as a physical therapist had become a comfort and a lifeline. She leans on it still. “Healing people,” she said, “somehow helps me to heal myself.”

ghosted by depressed friend

“Because of last year’s bitter experience, there is a bit of desperation.”

Ruslan Kushka, 23

In the years when his dreams still felt possible, Ruslan Kushka set his heart on studying chemistry in the Czech Republic. It was an unusual ambition, but hardly an outlandish one. To make it happen, he had studied hard at school. He had started to learn Czech. When the time came, he had even won a place at a university in Prague.

Accepting that place is now impossible. In the midst of a national emergency, a lost opportunity to study abroad might seem manageable, and hardly one to complain about as men his age are dying by the thousands.

But for Ruslan, the dashed dream was not a mere abstract. It was his own. Now, trapped in the gap between disappointment and duty, he has wrestled with depression as well as confusion and listlessness.

His redrawn path led him last fall to Bucha, outside Kyiv, where this spring he began working at a pharmacy. He started to save money to buy a microscope and worked out at a gym three times a week. “I have to move on,” he said at the time.

Months later, the Czech Republic remained a dream. His struggle for mental health continued. His reflections became bitter. Old men start wars, he said, “but the youth suffer.”

ghosted by depressed friend

“I always had this internal strength in me. I am a determined person.”

Oleksandr ‘Teren’ Budko, 27

In his teens, Oleksandr Budko read stories about heroic Ukrainian fighters from history. The stories fueled his patriotism and made him want to serve his country in battle. On the first day of Russia’s invasion last year, Oleksandr, known as Teren, joined the military. After initial training and service in the defense of Kyiv, he was assigned to participate in a campaign to reclaim territory in the northeastern region of Kharkiv.

He was living his dream. It all changed in an instant, when a shell landed near him and severed his lower legs. “There were ambiguous emotions,” he said of his initial reaction. “This pain, panic, and fear. And at the same time, misunderstanding how it happened. The brain refuses to believe it.”

Now, after a long period in hospitals and in a rehabilitation center, he is adapting. “I started to think of my situation not as a disability, but as an opportunity,” he said.

He retained his passion for sports, including weight lifting, and in September he represented Ukraine at the Invictus Games. But he is also writing a memoir, which he titled “Story of a Stubborn Man,” and cultivating a growing social media presence. He uses it to promote not only the importance of a positive mental outlook but also reform of the army’s care of wounded soldiers. It is, in many ways, his new mission. “I always had this internal strength in me,” he said. “I am a determined person.”

ghosted by depressed friend

“To get into the army, we wrote a report, ‘Please send us to the front line, to the first line, to the first front line.’”

Mykhailo Panchyshyn, 25

By definition, war is the worst of times. Even so, some people are drawn to its intensity. Conflict can give their lives a sense of direction. Mykhailo Panchyshyn eagerly sought it out. “I wasn’t happy in my life,” he said. “I couldn’t find a reason to live. I couldn’t find a purpose for my life.”

Five years earlier, he had been riding high, the newly crowned winner of Ukraine’s version of the musical reality show “X Factor.” Fame and fortune beckoned. But the music industry that had built him up soon brought him back to earth. He wanted to be a rock star. The industry viewed him as a pop star. From the outside, it might seem like a small distinction. But to a sensitive artist thrust into the public eye, it was an existential moment. Despondent and distrustful, Mykhailo stopped making music altogether. Days after Russia invaded, he joined the territorial defense. War, bizarrely, seemed like a way forward. And so he leaned into it.

Frustrated by a lack of action, though, he and two friends requested places in the army, and roles closer to the fighting. “Please send us to the front line,” they begged. “To the first line. To the first front line.” The request was granted but service in Bakhmut came at a cost: Under days of heavy shelling, he and his friends sustained severe concussions. They were eventually discharged. But war had already changed Mykhailo, and restored his passion for music.

He had resumed writing lyrics in the trenches. He sang for wounded soldiers in hospitals. He was performing again, raising funds for the military.

“The war has shaped my future,” he said, “and also my understanding and perspective of the future. It was like I was rolling and didn’t know what to do.” He now views his fame, once a burden, as an asset.

“Our generation did not know what to do next or how to live, and the war gave us a powerful impetus,” Mykhailo said. “That’s how our generation went to war and grew up.”

Oleksandra Mykolyshyn contributed reporting.

Produced by Mona Boshnaq.

Matthew Mpoke Bigg is a correspondent covering international news. He previously worked as a reporter, editor and bureau chief for Reuters and did postings in Nairobi, Abidjan, Atlanta, Jakarta and Accra. More about Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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Our Coverage of the War in Ukraine

The Future of Ukraine : The European Union and NATO  have promised a path to membership for the country . But real partnership will hold risks and benefits .

Photos : Photographers with The New York Times and other news organizations have been chronicling the war , capturing a slice of how soldiers and civilians have experienced it. Our photographers say some images will never leave them .

Defying Isolation:   After the invasion of Ukraine, the West tried to cut Russia off  from the rest of the world. But wealthy Russians continue to rely on a network of middlemen to circumvent the restrictions .

A Wartime Partnership: The alliance between President Biden and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has become critical to the world order .

Zelensky’s Rise: The Ukrainian president, once brushed off as a political lightweight, has become a household name , representing his country’s tenacity.

How We Verify Our Reporting

Our team of visual journalists analyzes satellite images, photographs , videos and radio transmissions  to independently confirm troop movements and other details.

We monitor and authenticate reports on social media, corroborating these with eyewitness accounts and interviews. Read more about our reporting efforts .



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