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Psychologist takes on fight against major “plague” of the dating world

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Psychologist takes on fight against major “plague” of the dating world

“I think nothing will happen between the two of us” – that seems too concrete, too absolute. What if my date from last weekend finds me arrogant when I write something like that? Instead, maybe just radio silence, that makes it easier. But for whom? Mostly just for ghosters.

“Ghost” is English and means “spirit”. Ghosters are people who were once there but have become invisible. You simply break off a relationship unilaterally without officially informing the other person about it. They don’t respond to messages or calls. It’s not just normal people who have this experience – actress Drew Barrymore (“Charlie’s Angels”) has also fallen victim to a ghoster, as she told “People” magazine in 2022.

Ghosting is not the same as a breakup

In an interview with the German Press Agency, Berlin psychologist Anja Wermann explains that ghosting is not the same as a separation. “When you break up, you usually see it coming, you might have a farewell conversation. With ghosting, on the other hand, the reason for the end of the relationship is never given,” says the 40-year-old, who was ghosted herself at the end of 2020.

Since 2021, Wermann has been running an advice center for people who have been left behind in her practice in the capital. Women between their late 20s and early 50s usually come to her, and more rarely men. Some of those who seek help continue to chew on it for years after the sudden end.

“Being abandoned always hits the heart,” says couple psychologist Eric Hegmann from Hamburg. “If there is a phenomenon today that represents the fear of non-commitment when getting to know someone, then it is ghosting.” He also knows the shame of being left behind from his practice. For her, ghosting is “such a widespread phenomenon” that it is described as a “plague” in the dating world.

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Weight loss, dizziness, physical pain

Even though a short-lived relationship may be ended in this way, the silence leaves consequences for future relationships. “Those affected often complain that it became increasingly difficult for them to trust new contacts,” says Hegmann. And more: “I have clients who report severe symptoms: weight loss, dizziness, physical pain, loss of appetite and insomnia.”

This is why the phenomenon has become the focus of health offers: health insurance companies provide information about it online, and podcasts and profiles on social media are also dedicated to the topic. This makes it clear: It is a misconception that you save the other person pain by making yourself rare. “It’s the other way around: you nibble on ghosting much more than you do on clear announcements,” says psychologist Wermann.

Sure, ghosting sounds like a new phenomenon because of the English name. However, the dynamics behind it are well known. It used to be called just “letting someone sit” or “getting cigarettes.”

Focus on the positive

There is only one difference: “It has never been so easy to make contacts with other people,” says Hegmann. The Internet makes it possible to get to know people you would otherwise never have met on numerous apps. You can disappear just as quickly without a trace. That would be different if there was some kind of social control because you knew the person from your extended circle of friends. “But: It’s never the medium that ghosts, it’s people who do it,” emphasizes Hegmann.

“After I was ghosted once, my perspective changed,” says ghosting expert Wermann. “Now I would always write: I’m sorry, it doesn’t suit me. I think that a clear announcement is always better.” Personally, it also helped her to believe that she might understand this experience in the future. “And in the meantime you try to move on with your life and focus on the positive.”

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