Gaslighting: Definition, Signs, Impacts & What to Do to Stop It

Gaslighting—a term that has been thrown around a lot lately, but what does it actually mean?

At its core, gaslighting involves a manipulative individual who aims to create uncertainty in a specific individual or group, leading them to doubt their own memory, judgment, or mental stability. The perpetrator utilizes this technique to acquire authority and domination over their victim.

Gaslighting is often used as a form of emotional abuse in relationships, but it can also occur in other types of relationships. Persistent gaslighting can be incredibly damaging over time, as it can harm a person’s sense of self and can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.

This article dives into the world of gaslighting and explores its signs, effects, and what you can do if you find yourself falling victim to this toxic behavior. Whether or not you’re currently affected by gaslighting, it’s important to understand it’s impact and how you can protect yourself.

Origin of the Term “Gas Lighting”

The term “gaslighting” originated in the 1938 psychological thriller play “Gas Light” by Patrick Hamilton. The plot revolves around a wealthy couple, Jack and Bella Manningham, who live in a Victorian-era house in London. 

Jack is a manipulative husband who tries to drive his wife insane by convincing her that she’s losing her mind. He does this by intentionally making things disappear and reappear and by dimming the gaslights in the house, making Bella question her own sanity. 

The husband’s goal is to manipulate her into believing that she is insane, so he can search for a valuable collection of jewels that he believes is hidden in their home. As the story progresses, the wife becomes more and more insecure about her own perceptions as the husband’s lies and manipulations take their toll.

However, she eventually discovers the truth about Jack’s plot with the help of Rough—a police detective who exposes Jack’s true identity as a criminal who murdered the former owner of the house in order to steal valuable jewels. The play ends with Jack being apprehended by the police and Bella realizing that she is not crazy after all.

The term “gaslighting” has since become shorthand for a type of psychological abuse in which one person manipulates another into doubting their own perceptions, memories, or sanity. It’s a powerful and insidious form of abuse and is often used by people who have a vested interest in keeping their victims under their control.

Types of Gaslighting

Gaslighting can be hard to detect and even harder to escape, but once you understand the different types of gaslighting, you can become better equipped to recognize it and protect yourself from it.

According to the Cognitive Center, there are six common manifestations of gaslighting:

  • Countering: Aims to undermine a person’s memory by questioning its accuracy and validity. This sounds like, “Are you positive? You have a tendency to forget things.” This can leave the victim feeling unsure of themselves and their own recollection of events.
  • Withholding: This is when someone deliberately hides information or changes the subject to make someone else feel confused or unsure about what’s going on. For example, a gaslighter might say, “I don’t remember that,” when asked about an event, even if they were there.
  • Trivializing: The abuser makes the victim feel like their thoughts, feelings, and experiences are not important. For example, the gaslighter may say, “It’s not a big deal,” or “Why are you making such a fuss over this?”
  • Denial: The person refuses to take responsibility for their actions and instead denies that the events took place or blames someone else. For example, the gaslighter may say, “That never happened,” or “You’re imagining things.”
  • Diverting: This tactic involves the gaslighter changing the subject whenever the victim brings up something that makes them uncomfortable. If the victim says, “I don’t like the way you’re speaking to me,” the gaslighter may respond with, “Let’s talk about something else.”
  • Stereotyping: This type of gaslighting involves the gaslighter using negative stereotypes to discredit the victim. For example, the gaslighter may say, “Women are too emotional,” or “Men can’t handle stress.”

Signs Someone Is a Gaslighter

Gaslighters often employ multiple tactics to control their victim and make them question their own perception of reality. But how do you know if someone is gaslighting you?

These are some signs to look out for:

  • They deny certain events or information that you know to be true.
  • They manipulate facts and events to confuse you.
  • They twist your words and make you doubt your own memory.
  • They make you question your own sanity.
  • They constantly blame you for their own mistakes or behavior.
  • They ignore, belittle, or mock your feelings.
  • They gaslight you in front of others, making you look crazy or unreasonable.
  • They use your insecurities, fears, or traumas against you.
  • They manipulate you into thinking you are overly emotional, unstable, or sensitive.
  • They isolate you from friends, family, or support systems.
  • They change the subject, deflect blame, or make light of serious issues.
  • They project their own negative behavior or emotions onto you.
  • They make you feel like you are constantly apologizing or making excuses for their behavior.
  • They make you feel like you are walking on eggshells in your own home or relationship.
  • They make you feel like you are constantly second-guessing yourself.

Impacts of Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that can have long-term effects on the victim. The main effects of gaslighting are:

  • Doubt: The victim begins to question their own memories, thoughts, and perceptions.
  • Confusion: The victim becomes unsure of what is real and what is not.
  • Anxiety: The victim experiences increased levels of anxiety and stress.
  • Depression: The victim may develop symptoms of depression, such as feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness.
  • Isolation: The victim may withdraw from friends and family, feeling that they cannot trust anyone.
  • Low self-esteem: The victim may feel that they are not good enough or that they are at fault for the abuse.
  • Anger: The victim may become angry and resentful towards the abuser.
  • Shame: The victim may feel ashamed and embarrassed about the abuse, leading to a lack of self-confidence.
  • Powerlessness: The victim may feel powerless and helpless, unable to escape the abuse.
  • Cognitive dissonance: The victim may struggle to reconcile their experiences with what the abuser is telling them.
  • Disbelief: The victim may struggle to believe their own experiences and may second-guess themselves.
  • Denial: The victim may deny that the abuse is happening or minimize its impact.
  • Memory loss: The victim may struggle with memory loss or forgetfulness as a result of the stress and confusion caused by the abuse.
  • Physical symptoms: The victim may experience physical symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, and insomnia.
  • Substance abuse: The victim may turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with the emotional pain caused by the abuse.
  • Self-harm: The victim may engage in self-harm or suicidal behavior as a way to cope with the emotional pain.
  • Trauma: The victim may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the abuse.
  • Trust issues: The victim may struggle to trust others in the future, leading to difficulties in forming and maintaining relationships.
  • Difficulty making decisions: The victim may struggle to make decisions and may second-guess themselves.
  • Lack of self-worth: The victim may feel a lack of self-worth and may struggle to find meaning and purpose in their life.

Gaslighting in Relationships

Child-Parent Relationship

Gaslighting in a child-parent relationship typically involves a parent denying, minimizing, or distorting the child’s experiences. Here are common examples of gaslighting in child-parent relationships:

  • A parent may deny promising to take the child to the park, despite promising to.
  • The parent may say, “That was just a dream,” when the child remembers a real event.
  • Criticizing the child’s perceptions and memories, calling them “crazy” or “overreacting.”
  • Playing the victim and claiming that the child is the one causing the problems.
  • A parent may gaslight a child by blaming them for their own emotions.
  • Denying or minimizing instances of abuse, making the child feel like they are overreacting or being too sensitive.
  • Shifting the blame for their own behavior onto the child, making the child feel responsible for things they have no control over.

Gaslighting can occur in any relationship, but it can be especially damaging in parent-child relationships. Children are often highly dependent on their parents for love, support, and guidance, and gaslighting can undermine their sense of trust and stability. 

In addition, children who experience gaslighting may develop low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. They may also struggle to trust themselves and others, making it difficult for them to form healthy relationships in the future.

In Romantic Relationship

Gaslighting can be difficult to spot in romantic relationships, as it often starts with small, seemingly harmless lies or exaggerations. Over time, however, the lies become more frequent and more elaborate, and the gaslighter becomes increasingly skilled at manipulating their partner. 

The gaslighter may also use passive-aggressive tactics such as acting like everything is fine while they’re actually upset or telling their partner that they’re being too sensitive and overreacting when they are upset.

So, how can you tell if you’re being gaslighted by your partner? Look out for these red flags:

  • Your partner consistently denies things that you know to be true
  • They play mind games and make you question your own memories
  • They constantly criticize you and make you feel crazy
  • They manipulate you into thinking you’re overreacting
  • They try to control your thoughts and behaviors

Gaslighting can have a devastating impact on romantic relationships as it erodes trust and creates feelings of self-doubt and insecurity. As time passes, the person subjected to gaslighting may start to disconnect from their own understanding of reality, making it challenging to escape the pattern of mistreatment.

The most important thing to remember about gaslighting in relationships is that it’s not your fault—the gaslighter is trying to control you by making you doubt yourself and question your perceptions of reality. 

Gaslighting in the Workplace

Gaslighting can happen anywhere—home or work—but it’s challenging when you have to spend time with your abuser on a daily basis at work because then you have no escape from the situation. This toxic behavior can affect both men and women; however, it tends to happen more often in male-dominated workplaces where there aren’t many women around for support or validation from others who might notice what’s happening.

Gaslighting in the workplace can have serious consequences for employees, including increased stress, anxiety, and feelings of insecurity. In some cases, it can even lead to depression, burnout, and other mental health issues. Beyond the personal impact, gaslighting can also harm the entire workplace by creating a toxic culture that undermines trust, collaboration, and productivity.

So, how do you know if you’re being gaslighted at work? Some common signs to look out for include the following:

  • Your manager or colleagues regularly question or deny things you know to be true.
  • Being told that you’re “too sensitive” or “overreacting” to valid concerns.
  • Being blamed for things that aren’t your fault.
  • Having your accomplishments downplayed or taken credit for by others.
  • Feeling constantly confused or on edge, as if you can’t trust your own memory or perceptions.
  • The manipulator presents false information to discredit you.
  • Constantly shifts blame for mistakes or issues to you.
  • You are being isolated from your colleagues or resources, making you feel alone and unsupported.
  • Discredits you by spreading false rumors or presenting you in a negative light to others.

Gaslighting in Politics

In politics, gaslighting refers to the deliberate dissemination of false information or the denial of facts by those in power in an effort to control the narrative and manipulate public opinion. The goal is to create confusion, sow division, and undermine trust in facts and institutions. This tactic can be seen in the form of denying facts, spreading misinformation, and shifting blame.

Gaslighting in politics can have disastrous effects on society. It can negatively affect trust in the democratic process, institutions, and the media, leading to an increase in cynicism and apathy. When people can no longer trust the information they receive, they become more susceptible to false narratives and propaganda. This can further fuel division and polarization, making it difficult for society to find common ground and move forward together.

Here are a few red flags to watch out for:

  • Those in power deny the reality of a situation, even when there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
  • They try to shift the blame for their mistakes or shortcomings onto others.
  • False information is spread deliberately with the intention of misleading the public.
  • Credible sources of information, such as journalists or experts, are discredited or dismissed in an effort to undermine their credibility.
  • When those in power accuse their opponents of doing the same things, they themselves are guilty.
  • When important issues are dismissed or downplayed in an effort to make them seem unimportant or irrelevant.
  • Conflicting information is presented in an effort to create confusion and sow division.
  • Events are deliberately portrayed in a different light in an effort to manipulate public opinion.

Gaslighting in politics is a common and effective strategy. It’s used by politicians to manipulate public opinion, and it can be hard to recognize when it happens.

The best way to deal with gaslighting in politics is through awareness and education about what gaslighting looks like and how you can keep yourself from being manipulated by it.

What to Do if You’re Being Gaslighted

If you suspect that you are being gaslighted, it is important to take steps to protect yourself and regain a sense of control over your life. Here are some strategies to deal with it:

  • Recognize the actions: If you feel like you’re being constantly second-guessed or made to feel crazy, it’s possible you’re being gaslighted.
  • Trust your instincts: If something feels off in a relationship, it probably is. Don’t dismiss your own feelings and experiences just because someone else is trying to convince you otherwise.
  • Keep a record of events: Writing down what happened, when it happened, and how you felt can help you keep track of the instances of gaslighting and provide evidence that you’re not losing your grip on reality.
  • Seek outside perspective: Sharing your experiences with a close friend, family member, or therapist can help you process what’s going on and provide you with a sounding board for your thoughts and feelings.
  • Draw a line: It’s important to establish clear boundaries with the person who is gaslighting you. Let them know that their behavior is not acceptable and that you won’t tolerate it any longer.
  • Maintain your self-care routine: It’s important to take care of yourself, both physically and mentally, especially when you’re dealing with a situation that’s affecting your well-being. Engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, such as reading, exercising, or spending time with loved ones.
  • Seek professional help: If the gaslighting is causing significant distress in your life, consider seeking the help of a therapist or counselor. A mental health professional can provide support and guidance in navigating the situation.
  • Seek legal help: In some cases, gaslighting can escalate to a point where it becomes a matter of safety. If you feel threatened or fear for your safety, reach out to the authorities and seek legal help.
  • Educate yourself: Understanding the dynamics of gaslighting and the tactics used by manipulators can help you recognize it when it occurs and respond effectively. Read books and articles, attend workshops, and seek out resources that can help you build awareness and resilience.
  • Have a plan: In the event that you need to leave the situation, it’s helpful to have a plan in place. This can include finding a safe place to stay, developing a support network, and having important documents and belongings ready.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do people gaslight?

Power and control: By making their victim doubt their own perception of reality, the gaslighter gains a sense of power and control over the situation and the victim.

Manipulation: Gaslighters often use this tactic as a means of manipulating others to get what they want, whether it controls access to resources or a sense of superiority.

Lack of empathy: Some people lack the ability to understand or care about the feelings and experiences of others, which makes it easier for them to engage in gaslighting behavior without feeling guilty.

Childhood trauma: Those who experienced trauma or abuse in childhood may use gaslighting as a coping mechanism to avoid facing their own pain and regain a sense of control in their lives.

Personal insecurities: People who struggle with insecurity and low self-esteem may use gaslighting to make themselves feel more powerful and to avoid facing their own flaws and vulnerabilities.

Is silent treatment a form of gaslighting?

Silent treatment, also known as “the cold shoulder,” is a form of emotional abuse that involves intentionally ignoring someone as a means of punishment or manipulation. On the other hand, gaslighting is a tactic used to confuse and manipulate someone into doubting their own memories, perceptions, or sanity.

While both silent treatment and gaslighting can be used as forms of abuse, they are distinct and separate tactics. However, they can be used in conjunction with one another, as someone who is subjected to the silent treatment may also be gaslighted.

It’s important to note that both silent treatment and gaslighting are forms of emotional abuse and can have serious consequences for the victim’s mental and emotional well-being.

Can gaslighting be accidental?

Yes. It’s possible for someone to unintentionally engage in gaslighting behavior, especially if they’re not aware of what gaslighting is. On occasion, gaslighting occurs without intention, maybe due to a desire to dodge accountability or to maintain the status quo.

However, the impact on the victim is the same regardless of whether the behavior was intentional or not. If someone brings to your attention that your behavior is having a negative effect on them, it’s important to listen and make changes.

Is it possible to gaslight yourself?

Yes, it is possible to gaslight yourself! In fact, self-gaslighting is a common phenomenon that occurs when individuals begin to doubt their own thoughts, feelings, and experiences. This can result in feelings of confusion, anxiety, and mistrust in oneself.

Self-gaslighting can occur when individuals internalize negative messages they have received from others and begin to believe them as their own truth. For example, someone who has been repeatedly told that they are too sensitive may begin to doubt their own emotional reactions and question whether they are indeed overreacting.

In other cases, self-gaslighting can stem from a desire to maintain an image or reputation. For example, a person who has worked hard to achieve a certain level of success may gaslight themselves into believing that they don’t struggle with impostor syndrome, even if they are feeling overwhelmed and unsure of their abilities.

Regardless of the cause, self-gaslighting can have serious consequences for one’s mental health and well-being. It can lead to feelings of low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression and make it difficult for individuals to trust their own perceptions and experiences.

Can gaslighters change their behavior?

Yes, gaslighters can change their behavior, but it requires a significant amount of self-reflection and a strong commitment to personal growth and change. 

With the right help and support, gaslighters can learn to recognize and challenge their toxic patterns of behavior. This process starts with acknowledging that their behavior is harmful and accepting responsibility for their actions. It also involves examining their own insecurities and past traumas that may be driving their need to control and manipulate others.

Once they have gained self-awareness, gaslighters can work on developing empathy and healthy communication skills. This includes learning to listen actively, validate others’ feelings, and express their own thoughts and feelings in a respectful and non-judgmental way. They can also practice self-care and engage in activities that help them manage their emotions and reduce stress.

It’s important to note that changing toxic behavior patterns is a gradual process, and it can take time and patience. Gaslighters may slip up and engage in old patterns, but it’s important for them to keep practicing and seeking support when needed.


Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation where a person or entity makes someone question their own sanity, memories, or perceptions. This manipulative behavior can have serious effects on a person’s mental health and well-being.

Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know about gaslighting:

  • Gaslighting involves manipulating someone into doubting their own perception of reality.
  • The abuser may use techniques such as countering, withholding, trivializing, denial, diverting, and stereotyping.
  • This type of abuse can have serious emotional and psychological consequences.
  • It’s important to recognize gaslighting and seek help if you believe you are a victim.

To put it simply, gaslighting is a dangerous game that seeks to undermine a person’s sense of reality. It’s a harmful behavior that should never be tolerated.

If you or someone you know is experiencing gaslighting, it’s essential to seek out for professional help and take steps to protect yourself.

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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.