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What Is Gaslighting?

How to handle toxic relationships

What Does Gaslighting Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of gaslighting is “the act or practice of grossly misleading someone, especially for one’s own advantage.”

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation and type of abuse that makes a person question their own reasoning and sanity.

Gaslighting can come from anyone in a place of power, whether it be a family member, romantic partner, boss, coworker, acquaintance, or others.

Often, the intention is to gain power and control over a person or situation.

What Is A Gaslighting Behavior?

A person who engages in gaslighting behaviors does things to make the other person doubt themselves.

They may blatantly lie and convince the other person that they are wrong; they may invalidate them, gossip about them, deny that they are in the wrong, shift blame onto others, or twist stories and words.

"What does gaslighting mean?" is written above the definition of gaslighting behaviors and on the left of the text is an illustration of a woman holding a cracked heart.

Is Gaslighting Toxic Behavior?

Gaslighting is toxic, unhealthy, and considered an abusive relationship.

Gaslighting can harm both parties’ mental health and cause serious damage.

What Does Gaslighting Lead To?

Not only can gaslighting lead a person to negative feelings of self-image and self-worth, but it also can lead to mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, and trauma.

It can also affect a person’s future relationships and make it hard for people to trust others.

What Is The Difference Between Gaslighting And Other Forms Of Manipulation?

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation.

Other forms of manipulation can include guilt-tripping, trivializing, countering, diverting, giving the silent treatment, flattery, and triangulation, among others.

The difference between gaslighting and other forms of manipulation, like the silent treatment, is that the person is intentionally and actively trying to gain control over the other person.

With other forms of manipulation, a person may be using manipulative techniques to gain something other than control, possibly to get what they want or to get out of doing something.

"Different Types of Manipulative Behaviors" written on top of list of 6 behaviors with relevant icons and explanation

Gaslighting Examples

What Is The Most Common Form Of Gaslighting?

Common gaslighting techniques often involve shifting blame or denying what happened.

What Is An Example Of Gaslighting?

An example of gaslighting could be when a person confronts the other about something they did that hurt them. Possibly, the person was cheating in a romantic relationship.

When confronted about it, they may say lie about what actually happened. Or, they may say things like “You’re overreacting” or “You’re being paranoid.”

A person who is gaslighting their partner will be dishonest and almost never take the blame and make the other person doubt themselves.

"Signals of Gaslighting in Relationship" written above 2 columns of text for "Signals to look out for" and "Examples"

What Are Some Gaslighting Phrases?

Some common gaslighting phrases can include:

  • “That’s not what happened”
  • “You’re overreacting”
  • “You’re being paranoid”
  • “You’re making things up”
  • “That’s your fault”
  • “Why are you always bringing up the past?”
  • “You’re crazy”
  • “I did it because I love you”
  • “Other people think you’re crazy too”
  • “I’m sorry you think that”
  • “You don’t make any sense”
  • “You’re too sensitive”

What Is Gaslighting In A Relationship?

Gaslighting in a romantic relationship involves emotional manipulation and abusive behavior to make their partner doubt themselves, often for their advantage.

Signs Of Gaslighting

What Are Signs Someone Is Gaslighting You?

Common signs a person is gaslighting you can be when they:

  • Deny your recollection of events
  • Call you “sensitive” when you communicate your feelings
  • Insist that you are wrong or are making things up
  • Retell events to you or others to make it seem that you are the one to blame
  • Downplays certain scenarios
  • Doubt your feelings and behaviors
Common Signs Of Gaslighting are written under each relevant illustration like a woman denying something, a woman looking puzzled, a man blaming someone else.

Other signs that you may be experiencing gaslighting can include:

  • Feeling the need to always apologize
  • Constant feelings of self-doubt or minimizing your feelings
  • Experiencing nervousness and anxiousness
  • Loss of a sense of self or feeling that you have lost your identity
  • Feeling that you never do anything right
  • Feeling hopelessness or emotional numbness

How Does A Gaslighter Talk?

A gaslighter often lies and attacks others so that they doubt and second-guess themselves.

If someone close to them tries to communicate how they feel or if they’ve been hurt, the gaslighter will invalidate them and their feelings, try to convince them they are wrong, and often twist the situation to benefit themselves.

How Do You Tell If Someone Is Gaslighting You?

Gaslighting can take a toll on a person’s mental health.

If someone is gaslighting you, they will often lie, never take accountability, and invalidate your feelings.

When a person is being gaslighted, they may:

  • Feel confused or that they are crazy
  • Constantly doubt themselves and their own memory
  • Have difficulty trusting others
  • Constantly apologize
  • Make excuses for others’ actions
  • The sense that something is wrong but not able to tell what it is
  • Feel alone

It is important to know that you are not alone. Talk to someone you trust.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.

Am I Being Gaslighted Self-Checklist with three questionnaires and score next to it with illustrations of a woman being controlled by a hand like a puppet and a man yelling at his partner

What Mental Illness Causes Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is often used by people with narcissistic personality disorder.

A person with narcissistic personality disorder has a distorted view of themselves and needs to be praised and superior to others. Because of this need for attention, they will gaslight others to make them seem that they are better, right, or to benefit themselves.

Gaslighter Facts

What Is A Gaslighter?

A gaslighter is a person who manipulates others and makes them doubt themselves, often for their own benefit.

What Is The Root Cause Of Gaslighting?

Gaslighting may be caused by a number of different things.

A person often gaslights as a way to gain power and control over others and situations.

On the other hand, a person may gaslight because they grew up with parents who were gaslighters, and they learned these behaviors as they grew up.

Two main causes of gaslighting illustrated with relevant illustration like a woman who's trying to fix or control a man and a man who's thinking about his childhood experience of being gaslighted by his mom

What Is A Gaslighter Personality?

The personality of a gaslighter commonly involves a need to have control over others, a feeling of superiority, and a disregard for others and their feelings.

Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder often use gaslighting tactics.

What Traits Does A Gaslighter Have?

Common traits of a gaslighter can include:

  • Being highly manipulative
  • Trying to cover up insecurities by calling out other people’s flaws
  • Low self-esteem
  • Highly controlling
Traits of a Gaslighter with relevant icons listed out next to a man gaslighting his male partner

How Does A Gaslighter React When Confronted?

When a gaslighter is confronted, they will often lie, shift the blame, and invalidate the person’s feelings.

It is not uncommon for a gaslighter to become frustrated if they are confronted by the person they are trying to control.

When they are confronted, the conversation may escalate as they try to gain control over the situation.

What Does A Gaslighter Want?

A gaslighter often wants to have power and control.

They want to be right and want the other person to doubt themselves for the gaslighter’s benefit.

Do Gaslighters Know They Are Lying?

Some gaslighters are largely aware of what they are doing and will continue to engage in gaslighting behaviors to get what they want.

Others may gaslight unintentionally.

Do Gaslighters Have Feelings?

A person who gaslights may have a hard time recognizing and addressing their feelings.

They have feelings but often cope with them in unhealthy ways, causing them to emotionally hurt others.

Do Gaslighters Love Their Victims?

Some gaslighters use the phrase, “I did it because I love you.”

They may say things like this to make you believe they are doing things out of love when their intention is to serve themselves, whether it be to gain more power or control or to feel that they are better than others.

Some people have parents who may be gaslighters. That doesn’t mean they don’t love them, but rather indicates a problem and need help.

Should you trust "I did it because I love you" reasons written next to an illustration of a woman being obsessive to her male partner

Do Gaslighters Have Empathy?

A gaslighter often lacks empathy for others.

They will emotionally abuse others and harm their mental health without regard.

What is medical gaslighting?

Medical gaslighting refers to the manipulation and abuse of power by medical professionals in order to make a patient question their own health concerns, symptoms, and experiences.

This can include denying or dismissing a patient’s symptoms, refusing to run necessary tests or provide appropriate treatment, and even accusing the patient of making up their symptoms or exaggerating them.

This power dynamic can lead to a delay in diagnosis and treatment, and can cause harm to the patient.

This form of gaslighting can be particularly damaging as it can put the patient’s health at risk. If a patient feels that they are being gaslighted, it’s important to seek a second opinion or change healthcare provider.

"Is your doctor gaslighting you?" is written at the top of the infographic. Medical Gaslighting Behavior Examples written around a medical chart and response tips written above an illustration of women talking to each other while looking at papers.

How To Respond To Gaslighting

What To Say When Your Partner Is Gaslighting You?

One of the first steps in responding to gaslighting is recognizing what gaslighting is and when it is happening.

When a person is gaslighting their partner, they often do so to gain power.

If you are being gaslighted, ways you can respond may include:

  • “I realize we have different perspectives, but I am not imagining things”
  • “My emotions are valid”
  • “I feel that I am not being heard, and I need some space”
  • “If you continue to speak to me this way, I am not continuing this discussion”
  • “I understand that you are mad, and I am angry too”
  • “I know what is best for me”
  • “I am not responding to that”
  • “I am not devoting any more energy to this conversation”

How Do You Outsmart A Gaslighter?

You should not worry about “outsmarting” a gaslighter; rather, think about the simplest way to protect your mental health.

To some, outsmarting a gaslighter may mean that you are not letting go of your identity or control over the other person.

One way to do this is by taking space away from the gaslighter. Setting boundaries and communicating that you are not okay with toxic behaviors can show the gaslighter that you are not going to let them control you or your life.

Some people find that it is best to disengage with the gaslighter completely as they experience numerous negative effects from the emotional abuse that they endured.

Practice confidence and self-worth. A gaslighter wants to make the other person doubt themselves, often making them feel powerless and at a loss of identity.

Another way to outsmart a gaslighter is by speaking up. Often, they expect the person to comply with what they say and believe everything they say. Showing them that you will not take their behaviors in a calm and assertive matter can help get them to leave you alone.

Additionally, you should focus on taking care of yourself.

While this is not a direct answer to gaslighting, taking care of your physical and mental health can help improve your overall well-being and help you overcome challenges you may face.

4 Tips to protecting your mental health from a gaslighter listed out with relevant illustration on a dark navy background

Should I Ignore A Gaslighter?

Some people find it beneficial to take space from a gaslighter.

If they are harming your mental health, you should not ignore your feelings and should take the appropriate steps in doing what you can to take care of yourself and your mental health.

How Do You End A Conversation With A Gaslighter?

When dealing with a gaslighter, it can be helpful to remove yourself from the situation or end the conversation before it escalates.

The last thing you want to do is get into an argument with the gaslighter and worsen the matter.

Things that you can say to end a conversation with a gaslighter in a calm and assertive manner can include:

  • “If you continue to speak to me this way, I will not keep putting energy into this conversation”
  • “I am walking away from this conversation”
  • “I am not willing to speak to you about…”
Healthy ways to engage with a gaslighter written next to an illustration of woman trying to keep a distance

How Can You Avoid Being Gaslighted?

To avoid being gaslit, whether it is in a romantic relationship, between family members, in the workplace, or in any other relationship, you should practice clear communication and healthy boundaries.

If you think you are being gaslit, you should try to talk things out with the other person to avoid it in the future. If things don’t improve, then you should take steps to decide what is best for your mental health.

Damage Of Gaslighting

How Does Gaslighting Affect Victims?

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that can harm a person.

It can affect a person’s confidence, self-esteem, sense of self, and mental health.

Over time, gaslighting can hurt a person’s psychological health and cause them to have a distorted perception of reality, and make them feel that they deserve to be treated negatively.

Damages Of Gaslighting written above a hexagon chart each containing an icon that represents different damages of gaslighting

How Do Gaslighting Victims Feel?

Gaslighting can make a person feel powerless, lonely, and lost.

It can make a person feel that they can never be right and that their feelings are wrong.

They often feel confused and feel that something isn’t right but have a hard time determining what it is.

Gaslighting victims can also have low self-esteem and feel at a loss of a sense of identity because, for possibly a long time, they have felt out of control of their lives.

They also may have problems trusting others, themselves, and their own perceptions.

Can You Get PTSD From Gaslighting?

Gaslighting can lead to a number of different mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

Do Victims Of Gaslighting Become Gaslighters?

Some people who gaslight do it because they are victims of gaslighting themselves.

They may have had parents who were gaslighters or have been in relationships with gaslighters.

"Some people who gaslight do it because they are victims of gaslighting themselves." Written above a transparent illustration of a man thinking about his childhood experience of being gaslighted by his mom

Gaslighting Help & Treatment

Is There Treatment For Gaslighting?

A person can receive help and treatment for the effects caused by gaslighting.

It can take time for a person to recognize they are being gaslit, especially if it has been a constant pattern of behavior in a relationship. Sometimes, people may think it is normal because it is all they have known for a long time.

Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, can be helpful for people who have both experienced gaslighting or who have gaslit other people.

How Do You Recover From Gaslighting Mentally?

Gaslighting can affect many aspects of a person’s life.

It can affect their trust, their confidence, their future relationships, and their health.

Mentally recovering from gaslighting can take time and support.

A person who has experienced gaslighting should focus on rebuilding their confidence and identity and spend time taking care of themselves.

Getting professional help and going through therapy can help a person mentally recover from gaslighting.

4 Tips to recover from gaslighting represented with relevant illustrations

Should You Stay With Someone Who Gaslights You?

A gaslighter often wants to stay in a relationship because they don’t want to give up control.

Often, the best thing to do is end the communication with the gaslighter.

Can A Gaslighter Be Cured?

It is possible to change gaslighting behaviors.

But, the person has to want to change and make the conscious effort to do so. They need to acknowledge and understand that there is a problem and take steps to change unhealthy behaviors.

What it takes to cure a gaslighter written above three boxes containing necessary components to cure a gaslighter

What Should You Do If You Think You’re A Victim Of Gaslighting?

If you think you are a victim of gaslighting, you should talk to someone and seek help.

It can take time to realize that you have experienced gaslighting. It can be a difficult thing to talk about and cope with. Talking about it can help give clarity and support. Seeking help from a mental health professional can help a person heal from the effects of gaslighting.

If you have experienced domestic abuse, you can call the national domestic violence hotline at 800-799-7233 for help.


You have questions. We have answers.

Our goal is to provide the most helpful information. Please reach out to us if you have any additional questions. We are here to help in any way we can.

A gaslight apology is an apology given that often appears sincere but the person is actually not taking any responsibility for what they have caused.

Gaslighters tend to want to stay in relationships because they don’t want to lose control or power over the other person.

It is believed that the term “gaslighting” came from the 1944 film “Gaslight,” which came from the 1938 play “Gas Light.”

In the movie, a husband manipulates his wife into questioning her own reality.

It is possible for a person to unintentionally gaslight.

This may happen when a person doesn’t want to take responsibility for certain things that they have done, so they resort to gaslighting without knowing what they are doing.

Nevertheless, they are still responsible for their behavior.

Not every gaslighter is a narcissist.

However, gaslighting is a typical behavior of individuals with narcissistic personality disorder.

In the context of gaslighting, “dimming” refers to a tactic used by the perpetrator to make the victim question their own memory and perception of past events.

This can be done by changing small details in a shared story or memory, denying that certain events occurred, or insisting that the victim’s recollection of events is incorrect.

The goal of dimming is to make the victim doubt their own sanity and begin to rely on the perpetrator as the only source of truth. This can be a very effective form of manipulation and can have serious consequences for the victim’s mental health and well-being.

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Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation and emotional abuse. It can affect a person’s self-esteem, trust, and hurt their mental health. Sandstone Care is here to support teens and young adults with mental health and substance use disorders.