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?

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.

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35 thoughts on “I Admit It – Depression Has Made Me a Ghoster”

  1. 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. ?

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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

  6. 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 💞

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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 💕

  10. 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,

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

  11. 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.

    1. 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.

  12. 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!🥺❤️

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