What Is Gaslighting in Relationships? (2023)

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse in relationships. It happens when one person convinces their target that they're remembering things wrong or that they’re misinterpreting events. The gaslighter is trying to manipulate the other person and presents their own thoughts and feelings as the truth.

There are ways to recognize gaslighting as it's happening. However, it can be difficult to notice those signs when you're the one being manipulated. Below, you’ll learn how to recognize the signs of gaslighting and understand their impact on your mental health.

What Is Gaslighting in Relationships?

Gaslighting is a common form of abuse in unhealthy relationships. It can happen in romantic relationships at any age — teenage relationships, adult engagements, and even marriage.

(Video) How to Spot the Hidden Signs Someone Is Gaslighting

Gaslighting may not happen at the beginning of a relationship. The person doing it may first build trust, which is part of why gaslighting can go unrecognized for a long time.

Studies show that gaslighting happens when people use gender-based stereotypes and other inequalities against their victims to manipulate their reality. In relationships, gaslighting is common in domestic abuse.

Gaslighting is an abusive tactic, meant to make you doubt your thoughts and feelings. It may start in small ways, then grow into a false sense of reality. It can occur in minor incidents, making it so it’s hard to notice there’s a problem at all, especially in a relationship where you trust your partner.

(Video) What Is Gaslighting in Relationships?

A common example is when the gaslighter convinces their partner that their accomplishments and other relationships are unimportant. The goal is to make the abuser the most important person in their victim’s life.

The Effects of Gaslighting

Gaslighting is bad for your mental health. It can make you doubt your sanity and make it difficult to tell truth from lies. It creates unhealthy, codependent relationships, and it may feel impossible to leave.

Losing trust. Recovering from gaslighting can be difficult. During this emotional abuse, all trust is lost. You may have a hard time identifying what is real and the truth.

(Video) 10 Examples of What Gaslighting Sounds Like

Feeling like you're insane. When you’re being gaslit, your partner may use terms like “crazy” and “insane.” They're trying to make you question yourself. Being told that you’re “crazy” stigmatizes mental health. Your mental health is used against you as a weapon, and that can make you fear losing credibility with your friends and family.

Difficulty getting treatment. Getting help for gaslighting can be a challenge if you don’t recognize the abuse. If you’ve been gaslit, your partner’s behavior may not seem wrong or dangerous. You may even feel grateful because they still care about you. People who gaslight will make their victim feel guilty or question their sanity if they try to seek help.

Protecting Yourself

If you're experiencing gaslighting in your relationship, it isn’t your fault. It can be difficult to recognize, let alone keep gaslighting from happening.Knowing the signs and understanding that you’re not “insane” can help keep gaslighting from affecting your mental health.

Warning signs of gaslighting. There are some common behaviors and traits that can help you know when someone is trying to gaslight you.

  • Tell white lies
  • Deny something even if you have proof
  • Make you doubt your own judgment
  • Make you mistrust others or lose interest in people and things that take your attention away from them
  • Wear you down and make you feel exhausted or hopeless

It’s hard, but you can leave an unhealthy relationship. Seeking help may let you heal faster. You can talk to your primary care provider or mental health professionals about getting treatment for being gaslit.

(Video) Gaslighting In A Relationship

Once you’re out of an abusive relationship, you can focus on reaffirming positivity in your life. It may be helpful to journal and write down what’s true as you know it. Surrounding yourself with people who validate you and your reality will help ground you.

(Video) What does gaslighting mean in a relationship? Signs and examples of narcissistic gaslighting.


What is gaslighting in a relationship? ›

What is gaslighting in a relationship? It's a form of psychological manipulation in which one person makes the other partner doubt his or her perceptions, experiences, memories, or understanding of events that happened.

What is a good example of gaslighting? ›

Gaslighting happens when an abuser tries to control a victim by twisting their sense of reality. An example of gaslighting would be a partner doing something abusive and then denying it happened.

Can you explain gaslighting to me? ›

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which the abuser attempts to sow self-doubt and confusion in their victim's mind. Typically, gaslighters are seeking to gain power and control over the other person, by distorting reality and forcing them to question their own judgment and intuition.

What is a simple example of gaslighting? ›

In relationships, an abusive person may use gaslighting to isolate their partner, undermine their confidence, and make them easier to control. For example, they might tell someone they are irrational until the person starts to think it must be true.

Do gaslighters love their victims? ›

Gaslighters love to wield your love and affection for them as a weapon against you and will use this phrase to excuse a wide variety of bad behaviors, Stern says. But the bottom line is that you can love someone and be upset about something they did at the same time.

What is the most common form of gaslighting? ›

Shifting blame is a common gaslighting tactic. Accusing the victim of being the gaslighter causes confusion, makes them question the situation, and draws attention away from the true gaslighter's harmful behavior, Sarkis says.

What are the 5 signs of emotional abuse? ›

5 Signs of Emotional Abuse
  • They are Hyper-Critical or Judgmental Towards You. ...
  • They Ignore Boundaries or Invade Your Privacy. ...
  • They are Possessive and/or Controlling. ...
  • They are Manipulative. ...
  • They Often Dismiss You and Your Feelings.
23 May 2017

What are the earliest signs of gaslighting? ›

10 Signs of Gaslighting Behaviour
  1. Blatant Lies. You know the person is lying, often and with ease, yet they say they do not recognise this in their behaviour. ...
  2. Deny, Deny, Deny. You know what they said. ...
  3. Using What You Love Against You. ...
  4. Losing Your Sense of Self. ...
  5. Words Versus Actions. ...
  6. Love and Flattery. ...
  7. Confusion. ...
  8. Projecting.
15 May 2019

What are the 11 signs of gaslighting? ›

👓 11 Warning Signs of Gaslighting | Psychology Today
  • They tell blatant lies.
  • They deny they ever said something, even though you have proof.
  • They use what is near and dear to you as ammunition.
  • They wear you down over time.
  • Their actions do not match their words.
  • They throw in positive reinforcement to confuse you.
4 Oct 2018

What triggers gaslighting? ›

One of the most common reasons people gaslight is to gain power over others. This need for domination may stem from narcissism, antisocial personality, or other issues. Like most cases of abuse, gaslighting is about control. As gaslighting progresses, the target often second-guesses their own memories and thoughts.

What does gaslighting mean in simple terms? ›

Psychologists use the term “gaslighting” to refer to a specific type of manipulation where the manipulator is trying to get someone else (or a group of people) to question their own reality, memory or perceptions. And it's always a serious problem, according to psychologists.

How do you prove gaslighting? ›

How do you recognize that gaslighting is happening?
  1. You ask yourself, “Am I too sensitive?” many times per day.
  2. You often feel confused and even crazy in the relationship.
  3. You're always apologizing.
  4. You can't understand why you aren't happier.
  5. You frequently make excuses for your partner's behavior.
3 Jan 2019

What is the goal of gaslighting? ›

Gaslighting is an extreme form of emotional manipulation that is aimed at controlling the way someone sees themselves and their reality. Through tactics such as denial, lying, and contradiction, this form of psychological abuse tries to destabilize a person from the outside in.

What type of personality does gaslighting? ›

Gaslighting is the use of a patterned, repetitive set of manipulation tactics that makes someone question reality. It's often used by people with narcissistic personality disorder, abusive individuals, cult leaders, criminals, and dictators. It's important to point out that gaslighting is a “patterned” behavior.

What is casual gaslighting? ›

If you're not familiar with the term, gaslighting is when someone makes you question your sanity by manipulating your thoughts and emotions. A gaslighter might say/do things to make you feel worthless. Or they might lie to you outright and then deny that they ever said anything, making you doubt your memory.

What is and isn't gaslighting? ›

“It's making someone seem or feel unstable, irrational and not credible, making them feel like what they're seeing or experiencing isn't real, that they're making it up, that no one else will believe them.” Gaslighting involves an imbalance of power between the abuser and the person they're gaslighting.

How do you shut down gaslighting? ›

Phrases to shut down a gaslighting in any situation

"I hear you and that isn't my experience." "I am walking away from this conversation." "I am not interested in debating what happened with you." "I will speak to you about [A+B].

Can you gaslight someone you love? ›

Gaslighting is a type of emotional or mental abuse when someone uses manipulation and distraction tactics to distort the truth, making their victim question their own reality. It can happen in any type of close relationship, including romantic relationships but also between family members, friends, and coworkers.

What are gaslighting techniques? ›

They defend themselves by accusing others of lying, denying that the event ever happened or accusing the other person of being crazy. Habitually lying and distorting reality are the hallmarks of gaslighting behavior. Even when it's obvious they're lying, they can be very convincing.

Do gaslighters end relationships? ›

Typically, gaslighters do not want to break up. "In most cases, they want to stay in the relationship and keep it on their terms," says mental health counselor Rebecca Weiler.

What gaslighting does to your brain? ›

Gaslighting is a form of abuse that involves a person deliberately causing someone to doubt their sanity. This may cause feelings of confusion or powerlessness. The long-term effects of gaslighting include trauma, anxiety, and depression.

Whats the opposite of gaslighting? ›

Critical Thinking. The opposite of gaslighting is critical thinking, not validation or deference or coddling.

Who typically gaslights? ›

Being gaslit can occur in any type of relationship, whether in romantic relationships or professional relationships. Being a gaslighter is a common technique used by abusive spouses or intimate partners, narcissists, and people who try to control large groups of people such as cult leaders.

What are 3 characteristics of abusers? ›

Red flags and warning signs of an abuser include but are not limited to:
  • Extreme jealousy.
  • Possessiveness.
  • Unpredictability.
  • A bad temper.
  • Cruelty to animals.
  • Verbal abuse.
  • Extremely controlling behavior.
  • Antiquated beliefs about roles of women and men in relationships.

What are the four characteristics of abusers? ›

Characteristics of Abusers
  • Keeps track of what you are doing all the time and criticizes you for little things.
  • Constantly accuses you of being unfaithful.
  • Prevents or discourages you from seeing friends or family, or going to work or school.
  • Gets angry when drinking alcohol or using drugs.

What are signs of narcissistic abuse? ›

With that in mind, here are 12 signs that might suggest you've experienced narcissistic abuse.
  • They seem so perfect — at first. ...
  • People doubt the abuse took place. ...
  • They've started a smear campaign. ...
  • You feel isolated. ...
  • You freeze up. ...
  • You have trouble making decisions. ...
  • You always feel like you've done something wrong.

What is silent gaslighting? ›

Like gaslighting, the silent treatment is used to change another person's behaviors and thought process by means other than direct discussion and constructive argument. Disagreement is inevitable within platonic and romantic relationships, even healthy ones, but being upset does not need to translate to conflict.

Why do men gaslight? ›

“There are two main reasons why a gaslighter behaves as they do,” Sarkis explains. “It is either a planned effort to gain control and power over another person, or it because someone was raised by a parent or parents who were gaslighters, and they learned these behaviors as a survival mechanism.”

Are gaslighters insecure? ›

As stated before, narcissists and gaslighters are ultimately insecure and thin-skinned. To counteract this lack of confidence, they will project false and exaggerated images of themselves. In the case of persons with vulnerable narcissism, they will try to convince others of their importance as their coping mechanism.

Is gaslighting just an excuse? ›

Gaslighting is often used in an accusatory way when somebody may just be insistent on something, or somebody may be trying to influence you," Dr. Stern says.

Am I being Gaslighted or am I the gaslighter? ›

You are guilty of downplaying others' emotions.

When a person is hurt by something you've said or done, your usual response is that they're overreacting and to stop making things up. This may make a person believe their emotions are not valid or excessive. If this sounds like you, you are definitely gaslighting.

Can you gaslight and not be a narcissist? ›

You don't have to be a narcissist to gaslight someone. In fact, victims of narcissistic abuse will likely experience a variety of non-narcissistic gaslighters on their healing journey.

What are the signs of a gaslighter? ›

Signs of Gaslighting
  • Lying. Using this gaslighting tactic, the gaslighter will tell you outright lies. ...
  • Countering. This technique questions your memory or version of events. ...
  • Denial. The gaslighter may deny that they ever said or did something you know they did. ...
  • Diverting. Another sign of gaslighting is diverting.
4 May 2022

What are 10 signs of gaslighting? ›

10 Signs of Gaslighting Behaviour
  • Blatant Lies. You know the person is lying, often and with ease, yet they say they do not recognise this in their behaviour. ...
  • Deny, Deny, Deny. You know what they said. ...
  • Using What You Love Against You. ...
  • Losing Your Sense of Self. ...
  • Words Versus Actions. ...
  • Love and Flattery. ...
  • Confusion. ...
  • Projecting.
15 May 2019

What does a gaslighter want? ›

Gaslighting refers to intentional attempts to manipulate you into doubting your feelings, perception of events, and reality in general. Someone trying to gaslight you typically wants to confuse you and make you doubt yourself to make it more likely you'll go along with what they want.

What does gaslighting do to the mind? ›

Gaslighting is a form of abuse that involves a person deliberately causing someone to doubt their sanity. This may cause feelings of confusion or powerlessness. The long-term effects of gaslighting include trauma, anxiety, and depression.

Who is most susceptible to gaslighting? ›

Gaslighter's Victims

People who are most susceptible to being victims of gaslighting more often exhibit characteristics of ADHD, anxiety or depression, said Sarkis. Gaslighting is present in about 30 to 40 percent of the couples she treats, where such disorders are more commonly represented.


1. 5 Signs It's Gaslighting, Not a Disagreement
2. 10 Gaslighting Signs in an Abusive Relationship
3. What does gaslighting look like in a relationship?
4. Gaslighting Abuse - What It Is & How To Handle It | BetterHelp
5. 12 Gaslighting Phrases Abusive People Use To Control You
6. 3 Simple Steps to Handle Being “Gaslighted” (Matthew Hussey)
(Matthew Hussey)
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