23 Examples of Gaslighting (with Tips + Expert Insights)

It often starts with trivial things—a small comment here or a slight contradiction there. Then, it progresses to blatant denial of your reality and twisting of facts. Before you know it, you’re questioning your own sanity and feeling completely lost in the fog of manipulation.

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that can leave you feeling confused, anxious, and unsure of yourself. While it’s often associated with romantic relationships, gaslighting can actually happen in any type of relationship—with friends, family members, and coworkers.

So, if you’re here, there’s a good chance you suspect someone might be gaslighting you. Let’s explore some common examples of gaslighting behaviors to help you identify the red flags and reclaim your sense of reality.

In Romantic Relationships

Denying Your Reality

Have you ever experienced a situation where your partner completely denies something they said or did, even when you clearly remember it? It can be incredibly confusing and frustrating, especially when you know what you experienced.

For example, let’s say you and your partner had a heated argument where they said some hurtful things. Later, when you bring it up, they might say, “That never happened. You’re making things up.”

Over time, it can chip away at your self-confidence and make you feel like you can’t trust your own judgment. And that’s exactly what the gaslighter wants—to gain control and power in the relationship. They want you to rely on them for the “truth” because your own version of events is supposedly unreliable.

Downplaying Your Feelings

We all have feelings, and those feelings are valid. But a gaslighter will try to minimize or dismiss your emotions, making you feel like you’re overreacting or being too sensitive. They might say things like,  “You’re too sensitive” or “You’re making a big deal out of nothing.”

Are you really being too much, or is it normal to feel this way? Over time, you might even start keeping your feelings to yourself, fearing that eye roll or that dismissive chuckle.

What they’re doing is making it look like your emotions are no big deal. You end up feeling small like you’re the one who can’t handle things. But that’s not true. Your feelings matter just as anyone else’s.

Alienation

It starts subtly, doesn’t it? A little comment here, a slight suggestion there, like “Are you sure you can trust your friends?” or “They don’t really want what’s best for you.” It’s their way of trying to get between you and the people who have your back.

Maybe they don’t like one friend, then another, and before you know it, it feels like it’s just the two of you against the world—but not in the way you see in the movies. It’s more like you’re isolated, and that makes it way easier for them to play their mind games.

They want you to think no one else gets you but them.

The odd thing about alienation is how it creeps up on you. One day, you’re having fun with friends, and the next, you’re second-guessing their intentions. If you notice yourself growing distant from loved ones at someone’s behest, take a pause—chances are, it’s not just your imagination running wild.

Playing the Victim

It’s frustrating, isn’t it? You’re dealing with the issue at hand, and suddenly, you’re the one apologizing. This flip of the script can leave you feeling like you’re always the aggressor, even if you started the conversation feeling hurt or upset.

For example, they might say things like, “I wouldn’t have to lie if you weren’t so insecure,” or “I wouldn’t get so angry if you didn’t provoke me.” Don’t buy into it! It’s important to recognize this manipulation for what it is.

Don’t let them rewrite the story. It’s important to stand your ground and hold them accountable for their actions. Remember, it takes two to tango, and both partners share responsibility in a relationship.

“Forgetting”

Oh, the classic “I don’t remember that.” It’s when your partner conveniently forgets things that were said or done, leaving you questioning your own memory and sanity.

When it happens once or twice, sure, it might just be a slip. But when it happens regularly, especially about important conversations or promises, this tactic can make you feel like you’re living in a different reality from your partner.

Suddenly, you’re the one who’s always bringing up “non-existent” issues, making it seem like you’re the problem. Take a moment here and trust your gut. If something feels off, it probably is. Keeping a diary or notes can help reinforce your memory against these so-called “slips.”

Generalizing Mistakes

So you messed up, forgot something, or made a mistake. It happens to everyone, right? But if your partner uses it as an opportunity to say things like “You always do this” or “You never learn,” that’s not cool.

Generalizing your mistakes is a way of making you feel like you’re constantly messing up and that you’re incapable of improving. It can really chip away at your self-esteem and make you feel like you can’t do anything right.

Try to confront these sweeping statements with specifics. For instance, if they say, “You always leave a mess,” you might respond, “Actually, I cleaned the kitchen last night and just left out my coffee cup this morning.”

Weaponize Love

This one’s sneaky because it uses love as a justification for bad behavior. Your partner might say things like, “I only get jealous because I love you so much,” or “I’m only controlling because I care about you.”

But here’s the thing: love shouldn’t feel controlling, manipulative, or suffocating.

Here’s how to spot when love is being weaponized:

  • Actions that are selfish or hurtful are painted as acts of love.
  • You are made to feel guilty for not appreciating their ‘love.’
  • Your personal boundaries are ignored under the guise of love.

It’s like they’re trying to guilt-trip you into accepting their actions, even if those actions make you uncomfortable or unhappy. True love is about respect, trust, and supporting each other’s growth. It’s not about using affection as a weapon to get your way.

Criticizing Choices Subtly

Your partner might say things like, “Are you sure you want to wear that?” or “That color doesn’t really suit you.” These lines might seem like they come from a caring place, but when they pop up too often, they are usually not about concern—they are about control

Such subtle digs at your choices can make you question your judgment about the smallest decisions. And before you know it, your self-esteem starts to dip.

Catching these little digs can be tricky because they’re often masked as helpful advice. One good rule of thumb to remember is that genuine advice is meant to support, not discourage. If feedback consistently makes you doubt your choices, it might not be as well-intended as it appears.

It’s important to remember that you have the right to express yourself through your clothing, hairstyle, and overall appearance. Don’t let anyone’s words dim your shine!

"Emotional abuse is complicated for many reasons. Many people will ask if "it ever got physical," and if that individual did not, then it is somehow "not that bad." However, what we now know about the effects of emotional abuse proves significant damage to the person on the receiving end. 

Examples of gaslighting and symptoms in a relationship look like this: 
- "You are so jealous!"
- "Why are you making things up?"
- "Are you sure? You tend to have a bad memory."  
- "It's all in your head." 
- "Huh? That's not how it happened!"  
- "Your memory is so crappy!"  
- "It didn't happen that way!"  
- "Why do you keep saying things like this?!"  
- "I don't want to hear this again."  
- "You are imagining things." 
- "You are too sensitive!" 
- "People have been saying (insert hurtful lie)." 
- "You are going to get all upset over something so small?"


Individuals who have experienced gaslighting have to learn how to trust themselves again. Gaslighting causes doubts about memory, perceptions, instincts, and one's own sanity. 

Remember, you are never wrong in how you feel, and it's crucial to learn to detach and set boundaries when you suspect you are being gaslighted."

Mandy Morris, LPC, EMDR | Executive Psychology Coach | Mental Health Expert

In Personal Relationships

Trivializing Your Feelings

We all have those friends who just don’t seem to get it when it comes to emotions. You know, the ones who brush off your feelings with a dismissive “You’re too sensitive” or “It was just a joke.”

Often, these remarks come under the guise of humor, making it challenging to address them without seeming like you’re the one spoiling the fun. Yet, consistently hearing that your feelings are an overreaction can lead you to suppress them, which isn’t healthy.

If they truly care, they will listen to your concerns and apologize if they’ve hurt you—even unintentionally. If they can’t seem to take your feelings seriously, it might be time to re-evaluate the relationship.

Denying Their Own Behavior

Let’s say they made a hurtful comment during an argument, and you bring it up later to discuss how it made you feel. Their response? A flat-out denial that those words ever left their mouth.

When they say, “I would never do that,” despite the opposite being true, it can leave you feeling frustrated and confused. This form of gaslighting is all about rewriting their actions to appear blameless, even saintly, in all scenarios—at the cost of your reality.

It’s important to remember that you deserve to be treated with respect, and that includes being honest and upfront with each other. If someone is consistently denying their own behavior, it might be a sign that they’re not ready or willing to take responsibility for their actions.

Using Others as Ammunition

Nothing quite adds weight to a gaslighter’s argument, like bringing in the opinions of the unseen masses. It’s a line that can make you feel incredibly small and alone, “Everyone thinks you’re overreacting.”

Suddenly, it’s not just your friend or family member you’re up against—you’re up against a collective judgment.

  • Encourages isolation: Suggesting that others share their view can make you feel isolated.
  • Amplifies self-doubt: If everyone thinks it, it must be true, right?
  • Pressures conformity: There’s an underlying threat of needing to change to fit others’ expectations.

It’s a tactic that leverages social anxiety and the natural human desire to fit in and be liked, making you more likely to question your actions and suppress your feelings—just to be part of the group again.

Projecting Their Behavior Onto You

Here, the individual flips the script by accusing you of the very behavior they are exhibiting. For instance, if they have been manipulating you, they might accuse you of manipulating them instead.

This can be especially confusing because it attacks your sense of justice and your understanding of the situation. You find yourself on the defensive, trying to prove that you are not the gaslighter, which can be exhausting and disorienting.

Don’t fall for this trap. If someone is accusing you of gaslighting them, it’s important to take a step back and assess the situation objectively.

  • Are they actually exhibiting gaslighting behaviors?
  • Are they trying to make you doubt your own reality?

If so, it might be time to create some distance from this person and prioritize your own emotional well-being.

Making You Doubt Your Sanity

Probably one of the more sinister tricks in the book. When you express concerns or discomfort about something they’ve done, they might counter with, “You’re just being paranoid—it’s all in your head.”

Imagine you’re feeling uneasy about how they flirt openly with others in front of you. Pointing this out might lead them to question your mental stability, suggesting you’re seeing things that aren’t there. It’s a way of belittling your emotions and making you feel irrational.

This tactic cuts particularly deep because it attacks your rationality, one of your core faculties as a human being. It can leave you constantly second-guessing your feelings and perceptions, which is exactly what the gaslighter wants.

In the Professional Settings

Taking Credit for Your Work

There’s nothing quite like the sting of seeing someone else bask in the glory of your hard work. You’ve poured hours into a project, only to hear your boss claim, “We did a great job,” when presenting your ideas as their own in a meeting. Even more frustrating when they add a casual, “Couldn’t have done it without the team,” while not mentioning your name specifically.

When this happens, your first thought might be to shrug it off as office politics, but it’s important to recognize it for what it is. This kind of behavior not only diminishes your role but can also impact your professional growth.

What’s more troubling is that over time, this can erode your sense of self-worth at work. Recognition is a big motivator, and without it, your enthusiasm and drive might just take a nosedive. Keep records of your contributions and, where possible, ensure your voice is heard in meetings or email chains about your projects.

Withholding Information

Sometimes, the game at the office can be all about who knows what. Being left out of the loop on important details that are crucial for your tasks is another subtle yet effective way of gaslighting. You might hear, “I thought I copied you on that email,” or “Wasn’t that mentioned in the last meeting?”

This tactic can make you feel incompetent, as if you’re always a step behind everyone else, no matter how proactively you work. The fear of appearing uninformed might stop you from asking questions, trapping you in a cycle of silence and ignorance.

The best way to combat this is to be proactive. Regularly check in with team members, ask for updates, and confirm information. Make a habit of looping back to fill any gaps in communication, ensuring you’re always on solid ground.

Casting Doubt on Your Competence

“Are you sure you can handle this project? It seems a bit out of your league.” Doubts like these can really shake your confidence. It’s a form of gaslighting that not only questions your capability but subtly suggests that your past successes might have been flukes.

Hearing these doubts often enough can make you overthink your qualifications and skills, which might lead you to pull back from opportunities for fear of proving these insinuations right. It’s like being slowly pushed back to the starting line just as you’re gearing up to race.

This undermining can be particularly damaging because it attacks the very foundation of your professional self-esteem and identity.

Shifting Blame

Nothing quite passes the buck like shifting blame in the workplace. When something goes wrong, suddenly, it’s your fault, even if the responsibility was shared or the failure stemmed from higher up. You might often hear, “If only you had followed up sooner,” or “This wouldn’t have happened if you had paid attention to my instructions.”

This blame game can leave you constantly on the defensive, always needing to justify your actions or decisions. It’s exhausting and can make you overly cautious, stifling your ability to work effectively.

Plus, it fosters an environment of mistrust and fear rather than one of learning and growth. Who wants to take risks or innovate when they’re perpetually a scapegoat for issues?

In Medical Settings

Deflecting Concerns

Have you ever walked out of a doctor’s office feeling more confused than when you walked in?

Maybe you went in worried about symptoms you’re experiencing, and instead of addressing these concerns thoroughly, the healthcare provider says something like, “It’s just stress,” or “Let’s not worry about that right now.”

This type of response can leave you feeling invalidated and frustrated, especially if your symptoms are impacting your daily life.

It’s important to remember that not all medical conditions have easily identifiable physical symptoms. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and your concerns deserve to be taken seriously. If you feel like your doctor isn’t listening or is dismissing your concerns, don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion.

Belittling Patient Knowledge

Okay, so maybe you haven’t gone to medical school, but that doesn’t mean you’re completely clueless about your own body, right? If you’ve done your research or have a hunch about what might be going on, it’s perfectly reasonable to share your thoughts with your doctor.

However, some healthcare professionals might respond with a condescending “You’re not a doctor” attitude, dismissing your input and making you feel like your opinion doesn’t matter.

Remember, while doctors have the medical training, you know yourself best. A good doctor will listen to your concerns and consider your input, even if they don’t ultimately agree with your self-diagnosis.

Dismissing your concerns

“It’s nothing serious, just part of getting older.” Sure, some symptoms might be common with aging, but what if it’s something more? When doctors dismiss your health worries without sufficient examination or explanation, you might start to feel like a hypochondriac for even mentioning them.

Lines like, “You’re making a big deal out of nothing,” can be particularly disheartening. This form of dismissal can prevent a thorough exploration of possible health issues and might deter you from pursuing further medical consultations.

Patients are left in a tricky position—do you push for more tests and risk further dismissal, or do you trust the expert’s brief assessment and hope for the best? It places unnecessary stress on patients who are already dealing with health anxieties.

In Politics
Reframing the Truth: “Our opponents want you to think that, but it’s not the real picture.”
Downplaying Concerns: “People say that all the time, it doesn’t mean it’s true.”
Denying Facts and Evidence: “That video is doctored. The media is lying to you.”
Attacking the Press: “Don’t believe what you read in the news. It’s all fake news.”

In Religious Institutions

Questioning Faith

Faith can be a complex journey filled with questions, doubts, and moments of uncertainty. It’s perfectly normal to wrestle with your beliefs and seek answers. However, in some religious environments, questioning or expressing doubts can be met with disapproval or even accusations of being a “bad” believer.

Leaders or fellow members might say things like, “If you had true faith, you wouldn’t question things,” or “Doubts are a sign of weakness.”

This type of response can be incredibly invalidating and make you feel like you have to suppress your natural curiosity and critical thinking skills. Remember, questioning and seeking understanding can be a healthy part of spiritual growth.

Insisting on a Single Truth

“This is the only true path to follow.” In religious contexts, asserting that there’s only one right way to believe or practice can be a form of spiritual control. It strips individuals of their agency to interpret or engage with their faith in ways that resonate personally with them.

When leaders insist on a single truth, any deviation from the prescribed path is often met with reprimands or exclusion. It’s particularly challenging in contexts where tradition holds significant weight, and questioning the established order is seen not just as rebellion but as a moral failure.

Using Scripture to Control

Someone might quote scripture out of context or cherry-pick verses that support their agenda while ignoring the broader message of love, compassion, and equality.

They might say things like, “The Bible says wives should submit to their husbands,” or “Children should obey their parents without question.” But it’s important to remember that religious texts are complex and open to interpretation. Using scripture to control or manipulate others is a misuse of faith.


More Insights from the Experts

“When what you recall as true is being questioned so convincingly that you wonder if you’re losing your mind, you’ve been gaslighted. 

When someone is so demeaning or disrespectful of you that you begin to trust their version of yourself rather than standing firm on what you know about yourself, then you are succumbing to being gaslighted. 

A person who practices gaslighting others only feels important and healthy when making others smaller and less important than him or herself. If it’s possible, eliminate this person from your life. 

If that isn’t possible, limit time spent with the gaslighter and invest in whatever counseling or encouragement you need to trust your own intuition or truth.”

Nancy Landrum, MA | Creator, Millionaire Marriage Club | Author, “How to Stay Married & Love It


One tip I would tell my clients is to write down conversations—a habit that can lead you to go over events with a more objective view. Now, you can look for signs of repeated denial and establish a pattern. 

Give yourself permission to feel all the feelings, especially since it’s bound to take a toll. Talk to close friends and family, and push them towards brutal honesty so you can have a fair 3rd person point of view and a shoulder to lean on. 

Finally, focus on feelings and not who’s right or wrong… If something is making you feel bad or second-guess yourself, that’s what you need to pay attention to.

Recognize these moments, and either attempt to fix them or abort the situation—putting yourself first, always. 

Sameera Sullivan | Relationship Expert, Sameera Sullivan Matchmakers


Frequently Asked Questions

Why do people gaslight others?

There are many reasons why someone might gaslight, but it often boils down to a desire for power and control. Gaslighters may use this tactic to avoid taking responsibility for their actions, to manipulate others into doing what they want, or to boost their own ego by making someone else feel inferior.

What are some ways to respond to gaslighting?

If you’re being gaslighted, the most important thing is to trust your gut. Don’t let someone else make you doubt your own reality. Document instances of gaslighting, talk to trusted friends or family members for support and consider seeking professional help if needed.

Is gaslighting a conscious act?

It can be both conscious and unconscious. Some gaslighters are fully aware of their actions and intentionally manipulate others for their own benefit.

On the other hand, some individuals might gaslight without fully realizing the harm they’re doing, often repeating patterns they have learned or experienced themselves.


Final Thoughts

Gaslighting is a serious form of emotional abuse that can leave lasting scars. It’s tricky and often hard to spot until it has already affected you deeply. So, recognizing these patterns is the first big step in protecting yourself.

If any part of this article hits close to home, please know that you deserve to be treated with respect. Trust your gut, seek support from professionals, and remember—you have the power to break free from gaslighting and reclaim your sense of self.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

As you found this post useful...

Share it on social media!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?


Advertisement
Talkspace

Talkspace is an innovative online therapy platform that connects you with licensed therapists, offering accessible mental health support right from your device. With flexible scheduling and a user-friendly interface, it empowers you to manage your well-being anytime, anywhere.

TAKE ASSESSMENT

Photo of author

Clariza is a passionate writer and editor who firmly believes that words have great power. She has a degree in BS Psychology, which gives her an in-depth understanding of the complexities of human behavior. As a woman of science and art, she fused her love for both fields in crafting insightful articles on lifestyle, mental health, and social justice to inspire others and advocate for change.

In her leisure time, you can find her sitting in the corner of her favorite coffee shop downtown, deeply immersed in her bubble of thoughts. Being an art enthusiast that she is, she finds bliss in exploring the rich world of fiction writing and diverse art forms.