What Is Narcissistic Ghosting And How To Respond To It

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Narcissistic ghosting is not a term or form of abuse we hear about often. Narcissism means someone who loves themselves a bit too much. Imagine someone always wanting attention and not caring about your feelings — That’s a narcissist. Ghosting is when someone suddenly stops talking to you or disappears without any warning.

Dealing with a narcissist is exhausting anyway. And when you witness a slow fading of their intimacy or when they suddenly vanish, it makes things even trickier. Spotting signs of narcissistic ghosting then becomes crucial for the partner at the receiving end of it. To know more about the narcissist ghosting pattern and how you can deal with it, we spoke to psychologist Anita Eliza, (M.Sc. in Applied Psychology), who specializes in issues like anxiety, depression, relationships, and self-esteem.

What Is Narcissistic Ghosting?

Before we talk about narcissist intimidation tactics and the reasons behind a narcissist ghosting you, let’s understand what the term means. Anita says, “Narcissism is a personality trait in which a person lacks empathy, shows a constant need for admiration, and considers themselves more important than others. Ghosting is when someone abruptly stops communicating with another person without any explanation. When we combine these two traits, narcissistic ghosting occurs, which means a person with narcissistic tendencies ends a relationship without any regard for how their partner feels.”

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She explains, “Imagine dating someone who:

  • Thinks highly of themselves
  • Suddenly snaps all contact
  • Acts like the relationship never mattered
  • Ends the relationship without any reason or regard for you

That’s exactly what many narcissists do.” Narcissistic individuals may use ghosting as a manipulation tactic to control the emotional state of their partner. They might see it as a means to maintain control over the relationship and avoid difficult conversations or responsibility for their actions. This behavior can be particularly damaging to the emotional well-being of the person who is ghosted, as they are left to deal with confusion, unanswered questions, and unresolved emotions.

Related Reading: Here’s Why I Ghosted Him In Online Dating

What Causes A Narcissist To Ghost You?

Why is a narcissist ghosting you? What is the cause of this continuous cycle of abandonment? Narcissistic people have an inflated sense of self-importance and a need for control. And when they abruptly cut off all communication, it’s like you’re suddenly deleted from their world. Why do they do it? According to Anita, there could be several reasons:

1. Lack of empathy can make a narcissist ghost you

Anita says, “Narcissists may find it challenging to understand how ghosting can emotionally affect someone else. Their difficulty with empathy means they prioritize their wants and needs over the feelings of others.”

Empathy involves recognizing and caring about how someone else might feel, but a narcissist, driven by self-centeredness, doesn’t easily connect with the emotions of others. Lack of empathy in a narcissist means:

  • An inability to understand their partner and their rights within the relationship
  • Inability to consider the impact of the unanswered questions, confusion, and hurt
  • Finding it easy to abruptly end it all with no regard for the emotional impact and well-being of their partner

2. They might have a fear of confrontation

Narcissists often struggle with taking responsibility for their actions. Anita says, “Narcissists may choose to disappear or ghost you rather than deal with confrontation or difficult conversations when ending a relationship or explaining their actions.” Confrontation requires empathy and accountability — traits typically lacking in a narcissistic person.

A Quora user says, “Narcissists avoid facing problems. If they know you want changes in the relationship, they’ll run away instead of dealing with it. They can’t handle the effort needed for a healthy relationship.”

3. Their need for control rules all their actions

They engage in a covert narcissist ghosting style, which allows them to assert dominance over their partner. Anita says, “Narcissists desire control in relationships. Ghosting empowers them to assert dominance and end things without considering the other’s feelings.” This kind of covert narcissist ghosting allows them to:

  • Exit the relationship on their terms
  • Engage in love bombing followed by a slow fading of commitment
  • Get away without having to engage in difficult conversations
  • Not face any accountability for their actions
  • Manipulate emotions

She further explains, “A narcissist often tries to avoid taking responsibility by shifting the blame onto other people. They do this by ghosting, leaving the other person feeling unsure about their role in the breakdown of the relationship.”

Related Reading: Signs Your Partner Is A Control Freak

4. A narcissist ghosts you to seek attention and validation, either from you or someone else

Anita explains, “Narcissistic individuals enjoy attention, admiration, and validation. If you’re thinking of ghosting or establishing a no-contact rule with narcissists in return (after they re-establish contact), you can imagine it would not go over well with them.”

Why do narcissists ghost their partners then? Anita tells us, “A slow fading of affection, ghosting, or cutting off all communication with someone without reason can be used as manipulative tactics to make the other person:

  • Chase them
  • Seek closure
  • Try to win back their favor

This can provide the narcissist with a sense of power and control over the situation.”

If a narcissist’s ego gets bruised and they find someone who gives them more attention or validates their feelings, they might ghost their partner without hesitation. Their self-importance makes them believe they deserve better and can easily discard anyone who doesn’t meet their expectations.

This Quora user explains, “Narcissists have an insatiable need for validation and control. They thrive on admiration and attention, using others as tools to boost their fragile self-esteem. However, once they sense a threat to their ego or if they’ve exhausted their use for you, they’re quick to move on.”

contact after silent treatment
Narcissists can pop up again in your life, trying to make contact after silent treatment

5. Boredom can lead to slow fading of their interest in you

For some narcissists, a relationship is like a game, and it needs to be ‘exciting.’ They may become easily bored when relationships lose their novelty. If they find a relationship unexciting or discover a new source of narcissistic supply that seems more appealing, they might conveniently ghost their current partner without warning and seek that new thrill. Remember to not let such ghosting narcissists define or reflect your worth.

While these factors may contribute to narcissistic ghosting, each individual is unique and the motivations for their behavior may be a combination of these and other factors. Additionally, not everyone who engages in ghosting behavior is necessarily a narcissist.

Related Reading: 28 Fun Things To Do With Your Boyfriend At Home

3 Major Signs Of Narcissistic Ghosting

Anita says, “Although narcissistic ghosting isn’t a formally recognized term in psychology, certain sets of behavior in individuals may suggest these tendencies.” Identifying narcissistic ghosting can be challenging in real life, but here are three major signs to look out for:

1. Sudden, unexplained appearance/disappearance

Narcissistic ghosting is like a sudden vanishing act in a relationship. Imagine having a regular chat, and then poof! No messages, no goodbyes — just silence. One moment everything seems normal, and the next, it’s radio silence. What’s tricky is that a narcissist might not stay gone for good. They can pop up again in your life, trying to make contact after silent treatment by liking your posts or sending a casual text.

But don’t be fooled — It’s not about fixing things; it’s about control. They might be playing with your emotions or just reminding you that they’re around.

2. Lack of empathy and understanding

Imagine you’re pouring your heart out to someone, but they just walk away without a word, cold as ice. This is a major sign of narcissistic ghosting. This silence doesn’t make sense and leaves you reeling with sadness. It’s like being lost in a dark forest with no map, and it hurts. The worst part? The narcissist ghosting their partner doesn’t seem to understand how being ghosted after an argument (or for no reason at all) feels. Empathy is a foreign emotion to them.

Anita explains, “Ghosting narcissists have difficulty understanding their partner’s emotions. They prioritize their own needs over others. The withdrawal can feel abrupt because they may not feel the need to offer any explanation or closure. This total lack of communication shows that the narcissist doesn’t care about the emotional impact their actions have on the other person. They may not feel remorseful or even acknowledge the consequences of their actions.”

3. A series of tricky behavior

Can a narcissist ghost you again after re-establishing contact? Anita explains, “By now, we know that ghosting is a tactic that narcissists use to maintain control and manipulate emotions. They might disappear to create a sense of mystery or get the other person to chase them. Their underlying motive is often a desire for attention. If they make contact after silent treatment, be wary. This narcissist ghosting pattern can recur.”

Narcissistic ghosting is like a puzzle piece in a bigger picture of tricky behavior by the narcissist. It is another way to stay in charge and avoid taking responsibility for their actions. Watch out for sudden changes in their behavior before they ghost you. If they seem:

  • Overly critical
  • Emotionally distant
  • Too focused on something else
  • To be picking fights for no reason
  • To suddenly have eyes for someone new

… these could be signs they’re about to vanish from your life. It’s their way of setting the stage for their grand exit, leaving you behind with nothing but questions, doubt, confusion, and sadness. This discard phase can impact your mental health and personal growth, preventing you from moving forward.

People ghost for different reasons, but if you notice these warning signs, it’s likely a case of narcissistic ghosting. If you’re dealing with a similar situation, read on to know how such covert narcissist ghosting impacts those at the receiving end of it and what you can do to heal from this cycle of abandonment.

Related Reading: How To Fix Lack Of Communication In A Relationship – 15 Expert Tips

How Does Narcissistic Ghosting Impact The Victim?

Anita explains, “Experiencing narcissistic ghosting can have a profound impact on the victim’s emotional well-being and mental health. It leaves the person feeling confused, sad, and angry, affecting their self-esteem and trust.” Here are a few ways it can affect the person at the receiving end of it:

cycle of abandonment
Narcissistic ghosting can cause serious mental health issues in the victim

1. Doubt and self-blame

“The lack of closure leads to confusion and self-blame, often causing mental health issues like depression and anxiety,” Anita explains. A ‘narcissist ghosting after discard’ pattern may make the victim internalize the experience and blame themselves for the relationship’s demise. The absence of a clear explanation may lead the victim to question their worth, behavior, and actions, fostering self-doubt and a persistent feeling of not being good enough.

Sharing a client story, Anita says, “Sara (name changed), a 34-year-old marketing professional came to me for therapy after experiencing narcissistic ghosting from her partner following a seemingly committed year-long relationship. During therapy, Sara revealed a profound emotional toll marked by confusion, betrayal, and distress. She was grappling with feelings of rejection and self-doubt.”

2. Loss of trust

The betrayal inherent in narcissistic ghosting can result in a significant loss of trust. The traumatic experience can make it difficult for the victim to trust others, leading to isolation and social withdrawal. Anita says, “Forming new relationships becomes challenging due to the fear of abandonment, rejection, and betrayal, which can further lead to an identity crisis where the victim questions their self-worth and authenticity of future relationships.”

3. Self-esteem issues

The ‘narcissist ghosting after discard’ pattern or being ghosted after an argument without any explanation may contribute to feelings of unworthiness. The victim may internalize the narcissist’s lack of empathy and the implied criticism through ghosting, further damaging their self-esteem. They might start questioning their own value and find it difficult to engage in social interactions confidently.

Anita explains, “Without proper healing, people may find themselves stuck in toxic relationships. Seeking therapy is crucial for processing emotions and gaining valuable insights for healing and personal growth.” The impact of narcissistic ghosting varies depending on the victim’s resilience, support system, and past experiences. It’s crucial to acknowledge the potential harm and seek support if needed.

Related Reading: Trust Issues – 10 Signs You Find It Difficult To Trust Anyone

9 Ways To Respond To Narcissistic Ghosting

While the sting of narcissistic ghosting can be intense, you don’t have to let it define or control you. It is important to prioritize your well-being and emotional health. Here are nine ways to navigate similar situations while taking care of your needs and emotional boundaries:

1. Accept your feelings

It’s normal to feel hurt, confused, angry, or even relieved after being ghosted. Allow yourself to acknowledge and process these emotions without judgment. Accept, feel, and validate all of it. Anita gives you three things to remember:

  • Give yourself time to feel the full impact
  • Ghosting isn’t about your worth
  • Take your time before deciding what to do

2. Snap all contact

Gale, a 32-year-old video editor from Atlanta, shares with us, “I’ve been trying to give my ex a taste of their own medicine. I firmly believe that we should all make collective plans of ghosting narcissists, just the way they ghosted all of us.” Go for it, Gale. Create your army.

After all, chasing a narcissist will only give them more power and fuel their manipulation tactics. Establish a no-contact rule. Avoid calling, sending messages, or emails. Stay away from mutual friends. Seeing the narcissist’s online presence can trigger negative emotions and hinder your healing process. Take a break from social media or block them for your own sanity. And if you do end up calling them, you can still make amends — Join Gale in her mission to “ghost back your narcissist.”

3. Change the narrative

Ghosting reflects the narcissist’s issues, not yours. Shift the focus back to yourself. Remind yourself of your worth, independence, and ability to build healthy relationships. Remind yourself that ghosting is a reflection of the narcissist’s behavior and not of your worth. Resist the urge to blame yourself or internalize their words and actions.

Related Reading: Coping With Breakups: The Must-Have Breakup Apps For Your Phone

4. Prioritize self-care and self-compassion

Self-care is crucial for rebuilding your emotional resilience after dealing with a narcissist ghost — Pun intended. Prioritize self-care activities that bring you comfort and joy, that nourish your mind, body, and spirit. Here are the basics:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat healthy food
  • Sleep well
  • Try journaling
  • Keep in touch with trusted friends

Anita says, “Focus on the activities and hobbies that bring you joy and relaxation. Taking care of yourself is crucial during tough times.” Responding to narcissistic ghosting can be challenging, but it’s important to prioritize your well-being and take steps to regain control of your emotional health.

More on Narcissism

5. Seek support from friends, family, or a professional

On how to respond to narcissist ghosting, Anita advises, “Seeking support can help. Talk to a friend, family members, or a therapist who can offer support and provide strategies to cope. Sharing your feelings with someone you trust can help you understand things better and encourage you to move forward.”

Share your experience with people who can provide empathy, understanding, and encouragement during this difficult time. If the emotional impact of narcissistic ghosting is significant, consider seeking professional help. You can choose a therapist from Bonobology’s panel of experts; they would provide valuable insights to help you process your emotions as you heal.

6. Introspect on all aspects of your personal growth

Use your experience of this unhealthy relationship as an opportunity to learn and grow. Reflect on your boundaries, communication styles, and what you want in future relationships. Consider self-development resources like books, workshops, or therapy to invest in your well-being. Spend time with loved ones. Engage in activities that promote your physical, emotional, and mental well-being.

7. Don’t seek revenge or closure

Anita explains, “Don’t chase closure. It might not work in this case. Avoid aggravating your frustration by holding on to the idea of closure. Resist the urge to retaliate or shame the person publicly. Keeping your self-respect helps you move forward gracefully.”

Engaging in any form of retaliation might feel tempting, but it will only hurt you more. Instead, learn to move on without closure or seek it within yourself. Understand that it may not come from the narcissist. Reflect on the relationship, accept its end, and work toward letting go of the need for their validation.

Related Reading: How To Get Out Of An Unhealthy Relationship: A Step-by-Step Guide

8. Practice mindfulness and acceptance

Accept that this experience is painful but temporary. Practice mindfulness techniques, like meditation or deep breathing, to manage intrusive thoughts and emotional reactions. Time and self-compassion are powerful healers. Reading about narcissistic abuse and ghosting can provide valuable insights and guidance too.

Anita says, “Learn from the experience so that you can make healthier choices in the future. Use it to spot any warning signs you might have missed in the relationship.”

9. How to respond to narcissist ghosting: Set boundaries

Establish and enforce clear boundaries with the narcissist. If they attempt to make contact after silent treatment, decide the level of interaction you are comfortable with, if any. Anita explains, “Be clear about your expectations. Let them know how their actions affected you. Be firm about what you will accept in the future.”

If you don’t want to speak to them anymore, tell them about it in a firm and assertive way. Let them know of the consequences if they do not respect you or your boundaries.

Key Pointers

  • Narcissistic ghosting occurs when a narcissist ends a relationship without any warning or explanation
  • Lack of empathy, need for control, boredom, a constant need for validation, and fear of confrontation are a few reasons behind a narcissist ghosting their partner
  • A narcissist ghosting pattern includes lack of understanding, manipulative behavior, and sudden appearance or disappearance in a relationship
  • Victims of narcissistic ghosting start doubting themselves, engage in self-blame, lose trust in relationships, and deal with low self-esteem
  • To cope, establish clear boundaries, focus on self-care and personal growth, and seek support from loved ones or get professional help

With time, support, and self-compassion, you can heal from the hurt and move forward in life. Learn about narcissist intimidation tactics to gain valuable insights into the dynamics of such relationships. Ghosting is a reflection of the narcissist’s need for control and the inability to deal with things in a healthy way. It’s not your fault, so don’t blame yourself. Instead, surround yourself with supportive people and work toward healing yourself.

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