How Does Ghosting Affect Teens’ Mental Health?

Published on May 16, 2024 by Rose Strawser

Although depression in teens may not be directly caused by a teen’s relational issues with friends or peers, it certainly can add to the feelings of depression or stress. Thanks to the rise of online social media, friendships have now become 24-7 and if those friendships end up with a disagreement or problem, that issue now has the ability to invade the teen’s life 24-7 or at least feel like it does. New terms have been created due to these online relationship issues, one of which is called Ghosting.

Ghosting is just as it sounds . . . you have contact with someone who suddenly stops responding or communicating with you. For example, your college-aged daughter has been communicating with a potential roommate, making arrangements for sharing a dorm in college next semester. Everything seems to be going fine until suddenly the potential roommate stops responding – it’s time to give your dorm arrangements to the college, but your daughter is no longer sure whether she has a roommate or not. Unfortunately, all the roommate had to do was simply reach out to say “I’m sorry, but I’ve decided to make other plans for living on campus this year.” But instead, she finds it easier to just stop responding, avoiding what she feels might be a slightly awkward conversation. HR managers also see ghosting with new applicants. If an applicant sets up an interview for a potential job but in the meantime accepts another job, instead of cancelling the interview or letting the manager know, they just prefer to not show up and no longer respond to messages from the company.

I can’t help but wonder if we are not teaching our teens about conflict resolution. If our teens had better conflict resolution skills would they be more apt to address the two issues mentioned above with open communication and respond honestly instead of just avoiding the situation? If the scenarios above were handled differently, the college-aged daughter and the HR Manager would both have been able to save themselves a lot of wasted time and, although disappointing at first, would at least be able to move forward to find someone else. Or, perhaps we need to help our teens think more about how the person on the other side feels. Ghosting doesn’t solve a problem – it simply ignores it, which can lead to an even bigger problem. In order to have healthy adult relationships, teens need to learn that relationships take work, and ghosting is not only a cowardice act, but it also shows a lack of empathy for others.

Ghosting seems to be a growing problem. A 2018 survey found that 25 percent had been ghosted at some point in their lives, but recent studies show that percentage has increased to 72 percent. With regards to teen depression, ghosting is shown to have a large impact on a teen’s mental health. We would expect this to be the case if you are the person being ghosted. However, studies actually show that being the ghost-er also leads to lower self-esteem and higher levels of depression as well.

For a teen, ghosting creates a lot of strong emotions including self-questioning, anger, frustration, confusion, and sadness. The most challenging part of being ghosted is that there is no closure, no knowledge of why something ended or what the intention was of the other person involved. Teens who have been ghosted may end up internalizing false beliefs that lessen their self-worth or make them feel that “if they were (fill in the blank)” then this wouldn’t have happened.

It appears that ghosting won’t be going away anytime soon . . . so we need to help our teens learn how to change the narrative in their head if they do experience ghosting. One of the ways to help change that narrative is to have our teens participate in the Blues Program to learn tools to help lower stress, anxiety, and/or depression. Please visit for more information.

Rose Strawser

Contributing to this article is Blues TOT Trainer Holly Hardin, MA; written by Rose Strawser.