No Contact vs. the narcissist’s silent treatment & ghosting: The differences

6 minute read

Is the narcissist suggesting that you are narcissistic because of your decision to go No Contact? Are you in a dither wondering if perhaps there is something to this? After all, what’s the difference between going No Contact, the silent treatment and ghosting?

This constant self-questioning is yet one more outcome of having suffered narcissistic abuse. You have very deliberately been programmed by the narcissist to doubt yourself at every turn.

Particularly when it comes to worrying that you are the narcissist, rather than the victim of one (check out How you know you’re not the Narcissist for more detail on dispelling any fears on this front).

Going No Contact offers the narcissist a golden opportunity to exacerbate your fretting over this specific concern.

Inevitably when you make the decision to go No Contact, the narcissist will launch a smear campaign. Entirely false yet irksome information eventually makes its way to as a result (for more on this read Narcissist’s and smear campaigns: Why they do it).

The act of going No Contact (especially within the context of removing yourself from dysfunctional narcissistic family systems), is perfect because it offers fodder for their campaign. It is seized as ‘solid evidence’ that you are one sick puppy, truly narcissistic!

Their “logic” goes like this: The silent treatment is a form of emotional abuse used by narcissists. No Contact is silent. Ergo, you are an abusive narcissist. And of course, they are the poor, long suffering victim.


Unsurprisingly, and completely intentionally on the part of the narcissist, this triggers your fears, causing you further harm in the murky waters of spiralling self-doubt.

Regardless of the fact you are no longer in contact, if you fall for this they are still controlling and manipulating you.

Gorgeous one, do not let them! You have more than enough to work on right now in recovery. You have no more time nor energy for any more of their nonsense.

So let’s tackle No Contact vs. the silent treatment & ghosting, so that you can rest soundly knowing the differences between them are just as great as the contrast between you and the narc.

No Contact

No Contact drivers

No Contact involves severing all ties and communication channels with a narcissist (or other Cluster B Personality Disoder’d individual) who has caused you ongoing damage through abuse. It is the active prevention of interaction of any sort.

This includes all direct forms of communication with the narcissist. No receiving nor responding to any meet ups, phone calls, text messages, social media bombs, letters, emails etc. It also relates to blocking indirect dealings such as via the narcissist’s flying monkeys.

No Contact is frequently the last option for victims of narcissistic abuse who are pushed to do so as a self-preservation measure. It is about preventing exposure to any further abuse to begin healing and reclaiming a life of freedom.

The decision to go No Contact feels like the only available choice because:

  1. You realise the abuse has been ongoing, repeated, and unchanging for extended periods, often for years.
  2. This leads to recognition and acceptance that interaction of any sort will only result in more abuse.
  3. You simply cannot take any more pain.
  4. Their abuse is beyond your control. The only thing you can control, is to remove yourself from it.

No Contact outcomes

These circumstances force not only the conclusion that No Contact is necessary for survival, but also the devastating understanding that there will be no closure.

going No Contact is deeply distressing

Specifically, this means that for many, when the decision is reached, there can be no goodbye, no explanation provided to the other party as to why you need to do this.

To do so, to engage in any way, only prolongs the abuse and the harm sustained.

Despite what some may suppose who have blessedly not experienced narcissistic abuse, the decision is agonising and deeply distressing. For the simple reason that notwithstanding the abuse, for many, this means walking away from someone you love. And for the empath or codependent, this is unfathomably difficult.

The strength and courage required is mighty, and the depth of sadness one of real grief*.

Now to the silent treatment & ghosting…

Yep, the narc’s point around No Contact, the silent treatment & ghosting all being about silence is 100% correct. But what lies beyond this gross over-simplification? Let’s drill down.

Silent treatment and ghosting drivers

Both the silent treatment and ghosting relate to withholding information to exercise power and control over you. They are indeed forms of emotional and psychological abuse.

The silent treatment occurs during the devaluation phase of the abuse cycle to punish you and to fortify trauma bonds (see Why is it so hard to leave and abusive relationship with a narcissist? for more on trauma bonds).

It is also employed to communicate your decreasing and contingent worth to the narcissist depending on your ability to meet their supply needs.

The silent treatment can run from hours, to days, to weeks, to months. However long it takes for you to learn your lesson and amp up provision of supply.

Ghosting is a strategy used to discard you when the narc decides your supply no longer meets their needs. This approach conveys: ‘you have no value to me’.

Just as the name suggests, ghosting is a disappearing act. It is sudden & unexplained.

Your existence is in effect deleted from theirs.

To their mind, there is really no need to sully their hands with any unnecessarily unpleasant conversation if you are of no immediate nor further benefit to them. So, why bother?

Sure, you may need closure, but since when has this ever been about you?

ghosting is the narcissist's way of discarding you

Silent treatment and ghosting outcomes

The narcissist is well aware that refusing to communicate with you has psychological effects of cruel proportions.

The void created by the absence of information fosters crazy making ‘void filling’ repercussions within you, centred on answering the frantic question ‘what have I done wrong’?

This is clearly desirable because in going to this place you assume the responsibility for any given issue, and the narcissist continues to avoid accountability for their actions and behaviours.

Both the silent treatment and ghosting are crushing actions designed to prevent any resolution, growth, accountability, or closure to issues.

Furthermore, the narcissist knows that you are addicted to them and the relationship (see Why narcissistic abuse and trauma bonding is so powerful for codependents for more on addiction in narcissistic relationships). They have worked hard through trauma bonding to ensure this.

They know that the pain caused from withholding means that you will not only agree to take ownership of their abuse, but you are also willing to do whatever it takes to make things OK again.

Your emotional and psychological reaction to the silent treatment and ghosting is A grade supply for the narc.

This is why they do it.

So, what is the difference between No Contact, the silent treatment and ghosting?

As with most narcissistic behaviours, the litmus test you can apply in pinpointing the difference between No Contact, the silent treatment and ghosting, is intention.

This handy little magnifying glass shines the light on getting at the truth of most narcissistic situations when doubting yourself begins to creep in.

The intent behind going No Contact vs. using the silent treatment and ghosting is all in the drivers and the outcomes. They are as starkly contrasted as night & day. Or, as you are compared to the narcissist.

One is an act of self-protection & self-preservation and the other an act of punishment & manipulation.

One is to prevent harm, the other is to cause harm.

One is to abuse and the other to stop it.

You’ve got this gorgeous one. You’ve ended it.

No Contact vs the silent treatment and ghosting

Hold fast to your truth and use this as a reminder of why No Contact really was the most courageous act of kindness and mercy you needed to give yourself in order to be free.

With gratitude,

Maggie x


*Note – Of course, in looking at outcomes for you in enacting No Contact, only the immediate ones are put forward in this piece. The greater and overall more significant outcome of going No Contact is that you are reclaiming your life, your freedom, and your joy. It gets easier, I promise.

18 thoughts

    1. Dear Anonymous, you are most welcome gorgeous one. Take care of you. Stay strong in your truth. Light & love to you. Maggie x

      1. Hi Maggie, do you have a youtube channel? Not sure how I found you, may have been a search engine. Your site, posts etc., have been invaluable to me. I have had two and a half months of no contact, after a really nasty discard between Christmas/New Year 2018 & after 3 decades with the narc in my life and had gone back & forth about 6-7 times, as noted by some others. Do you think that it was possible the narc wasn’t one in the early years, or was it just more hidden/down as serious delression (from his words) & though he wouldnt seek help for it! Also, I didnt have hardly any family/friends around & had a difficult, disabled child & this consumed a lot of my energy. Maybe I didnt pick up on it until much later? But I’ve certainly paid for that in a big way. Plus I became unwell/disabled about 10 years ago, so kind of relied on him to assist me in the home. Ironically, he was pretty crap at it & managec to not do much support personally, as he resented it, while denying it. He would “help” by just making his own meals. I also picked up that he was likely using this to paint me in a bad life to his family & my son, “look how angry/bitter/difficult she is” & he was a “saint” putting up with it. Now see that this was used, leading up to the discard, so he could save face. Sorry, I’m rambling now, it will take a long time to get over/past this, if I ever do. But I’m feeling stronger now, despite my health & financial/unable to work situation, being bad.

      2. Dear marionfallon1961. I’m sorry for what you have experienced gorgeous one. In answer to your questions…you may never get the answers you are looking for. This is unfortunately very much part of the healing journey with cluster b personality disordered individuals who are abusive. There is never that concrete something we need for it to all fall into place & make sense. Far better for you gorgeous one to keep doing what you are doing which is healing yourself. All else is futile dear marionfallon1961. Totally crap to say. Totally crap to hear. But equally, 100% true. In response to your other q, I don’t have a youtube channel. There are though many wonderful channels out there on the topic. Read up. Watch up. Speak up. Do you. Heal hard. You’ve got this gorgeous one. Light & love to you. Maggie x

  1. Dear narcwisemaggie, I’ve discovered your blog today and I’m asking myself so much questions….
    Thanks a lot for this article. I’ll surely come back often I need to heal

    1. Dear Patricia, welcome to Narc Wise. So sorry you’ve found yourself here as there’s only one reason you would be reading up and seeking answers to all those questions. I’m excited for you though because this is the beginning of things being different for you, with every question you answer for yourself, you set yourself free bit by bit. I’m sending you buckets of light & love as you embark on your healing journey gorgeous one. Maggie x

    1. Dear Shelley, thank you for your kind words. I’m so very glad you’ve found some answers to rest easier. Light & love to you gorgeous one. Maggie x

  2. If the litmus test in distinguishing between no contact and the silent treatment is intent, then the obvious follow up question is how an impartial third party may be able to judge the difference? Anyone can make a claim about anything, but that alone proves nothing. Just because someone claims another is a narcissist or they’re being abused by one doesn’t make it so.

      1. Good answer now the victim doesn’t have to be dragged through the mud of entitlement of abuse , lie ,and deny and ignoring somebody’s pain ; which is abuse ❤️😊

  3. I am so glad you wrote this! Many times when I read articles about silent treatment and ghosting I feel the author must be very careful in distinguishing intent because it is literally what your are told to do in order to protect yourself from abusers even when the abuser may not realize they are abusers, which many don’t. 💜

    1. Dear Queen J, I’m so glad it was helpful. You are so on the money. I am with you. 100% with you. Intent is everything. Particularly when it comes to recognising manipulation & stripping back the layers of gaslighting. It is the compass in finding the path to truth. Light & love to you gorgeous one. Maggie x (p.s. loving the name – I bet you are indeed a queen!)

  4. So my narcissist is married to my brother. I was on to her immediately. They have two children less than a year apart. They have abused my parents beyond belief. I called them out and I got rather nasty. So now my punishment is the silent treatment and my parents can’t see their grandchildren. This is breaking our heart. Family means everything to us. How can we feed the narcissist and still see the kids without losing our minds?

  5. Hi.. i have been reading on this website for 3 hours now.. i have been experiencing this for one year now, and it is the first time i feel validated… from the bototm of my heart, thank you for being this thorough about this.

  6. Very eloquent. My sister has long debased me. I have finally gone ‘no contact.’ I have had enough of her abusiveness, criticism, browbeating.

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