Gaslighting – The Invisible Abuse That Makes You Question Your Sanity

Are You Being Gaslit? Navigating the World of Emotional Manipulation

Have you ever felt like you’re losing your mind in a relationship, or that your partner is intentionally manipulating your emotions? Do you find yourself constantly doubting your own thoughts and feelings, unsure if you’re just imagining things or overreacting? If so, you’re not alone.

Many people experience gaslighting, a cunning form of emotional abuse that manipulates individuals into questioning their own sanity, typically within close personal relationships.

Gaslighting affects people across all demographics, and its impact can be deeply damaging. Recent studies indicate that gaslighting is alarmingly common in relationships, with over 40% of women and 30% of men admitting to being victims at the hands of a romantic partner. In this article, we’ll explore gaslighting in detail, examining its origins, common tactics, and the effect it can have on your mental health and overall well-being.

What is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a discreet yet harmful form of emotional abuse in romantic relationships. It’s a manipulative behaviour pattern where the abuser plants seeds of doubt in their partner’s mind, causing them to question their own thoughts, feelings, and perceptions.

The abuser may utilise various tactics such as blatant lies, fact denial, trivialising, or dismissing their partner’s emotions.

The victim may experience disorientation, anxiety, and isolation, ultimately leading to doubt their sanity and judgment. Sadly, gaslighting is prevalent in romantic relationships and can wreak havoc as it erodes trust and undermines the foundation of a healthy partnership.

The Origins of “Gaslighting”

The term “gaslighting” originates from the 1938 play “Gas Light,” later adapted into 2 films. The story revolves around a husband who deviously manipulates his wife’s perception by secretly dimming the gaslights and denying any change in the light, making her doubt her own sanity.

Over time, the wife becomes increasingly confused and disoriented, until she finally uncovers her husband’s scheme and exposes it. Since then, the term “gaslighting” has been commonly used to describe similar patterns of psychological manipulation and emotional abuse in various contexts.

Recognising the Signs of Gaslighting

Gaslighters employ a range of tactics to make their victims doubt their own memories, emotions, and experiences, which can have grave long-term effects on their mental health and well-being. Here are some of the most common signs of gaslighting to watch out for in your relationships:

  • Lying or withholding information to make the victim doubt their memory or perception – For instance, a gaslighter might tell you that you never told them about an important event, even though you’re sure you did
  • Disregarding or trivialising the victim’s emotions and experiences – A gaslighter might dismiss your feelings as invalid or unreasonable, minimise your concerns, or say things like, “You’re overreacting,” or “You’re too sensitive”
  • Using confusion to undermine the victim’s sanity or judgment – A gaslighter might frequently change their story, deny saying things they’ve said before, or blame you for their actions, leaving you feeling disoriented and doubting your memory
  • Accusing the victim of being crazy, unstable, or overly sensitive, leading to isolation – A gaslighter might spread rumours about your mental stability or create narratives that make others less likely to believe you, leading to isolation and further emotional distress

What are the Phases of Gaslighting?

While there is no strict consensus on the specific phases of gaslighting, much research describes a general pattern of behaviour that can be broken down into several stages.

A common framework for understanding gaslighting includes the following 3 stages, but it’s important to remember that the process may vary depending on the situation and the individuals involved.

The 3 Stages of Gaslighting

  1. Disbelief – The gaslighting process starts with seemingly harmless or charming behaviour by the gaslighter, which can confuse you. They may use tactics like lying or withholding information, or flattery and love-bombing to gain your trust and create a false sense of security
  2. Defence – You begin to question your own perceptions and beliefs as the gaslighter’s behaviour becomes more pervasive. However, they may respond defensively or aggressively when confronted, belittling or dismissing your concerns and maintaining their power and control
  3. Depression – Gaslighting takes a toll on your emotional well-being, leaving you feeling helpless, hopeless, and completely lost. The gaslighter’s tactics wear down your confidence and sense of self, and you may become increasingly depressed or anxious. They may also isolate you from your support network, making it more difficult for you to seek help or support

A Real Life Story of Gaslighting

“I never imagined that my relationship with my partner would turn out to be like this. At first, everything was perfect. He was charming, attentive, and seemed to really care about me. But over time, things started to change.

At first, I didn’t even realise what was happening. He would tell me things happened differently than I remembered, and I started to doubt my own memory. He would accuse me of being too sensitive or overreacting, making me feel like I was the problem. I would try to confront him, but he would always turn it around on me, making me feel guilty for even bringing it up.

As time went on, I began to feel like I was losing my mind. I couldn’t trust my own perception of reality. I was always second-guessing myself and doubting my own memory. I felt isolated and alone, like I had no one to turn to. It was like I was in a fog, and I couldn’t find my way out.

Eventually, I became so depressed and anxious that I could barely function. I felt trapped in the relationship, unable to escape the constant manipulation and gaslighting. I lost my sense of self and my confidence, and I was constantly walking on eggshells, trying not to upset him. It was a dark and lonely place to be, and it took a lot of time and therapy to finally break free from his hold on me.”

Why Do People Gaslight?

There are several reasons why a person might choose to gaslight someone, including:

  • To maintain power and control over the victim – Gaslighting can be used to exert control over another person by making them doubt their own experiences and perceptions of reality
  • To avoid taking responsibility for their actions – Gaslighters may use manipulation and deceit to shift blame onto others or to avoid facing consequences for their own behaviour
  • To meet their own emotional needs – Gaslighting can be a way for the gaslighter to cope with their insecurities, fears, or emotional issues by projecting their own feelings onto the victim and creating a sense of dependency and control
  • To satisfy a need for attention or validation – Gaslighters may use manipulation and deceit to gain attention or validation from others, creating a sense of dependency and control that fulfils their own emotional needs
  • Due to personality disorders or mental health issues – Some experts suggest that gaslighting behaviour may be associated with certain personality disorders or mental health issues, such as narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, or antisocial personality disorder

What Can I Do if I’m Being Gaslit?

If you suspect that you are being gaslit, there are ways to protect yourself from further harm. Here are some tips:

  • Trust your instincts – When something feels off or seems too good to be true, trust your intuition – it’s usually right
  • Document events – Keep a journal to record your thoughts and feelings, which can help you track events and validate your own experiences
  • Set clear boundaries – Establish limits with the gaslighter and be firm in maintaining them. This could mean limiting contact or even ending the relationship altogether
  • Prioritise self-care – Focus on activities that bring you joy and reduce stress, like exercise, meditation, or spending time with loved ones. Taking care of yourself is key to regaining your strength and confidence
  • Seek support – Connect with people who can validate your experiences and provide emotional support during difficult times
  • Join a support group – Consider joining a support group or online community for people affected by gaslighting. Connecting with others who have experienced similar situations can help you feel less alone and provide valuable insights for coping with gaslighting
  • Avoid engagement – Resist the urge to argue or defend yourself, as this can give the gaslighter more power over you
  • Consult a professional – A therapist or counsellor can help you navigate the effects of gaslighting and provide guidance on how to regain your sense of self


The insidious nature of gaslighting can leave even the strongest of us feeling lost, confused, and doubting our own reality. It’s essential to remember that you are not alone in your struggles, and there is hope for recovery and regaining your sense of self.

By understanding the tactics used by gaslighters and trusting your intuition, you can begin to reclaim your power and rebuild your confidence.

Surround yourself with supportive friends and family, prioritise self-care, and never hesitate to seek professional help when needed. Remember, you deserve a healthy, respectful, and loving relationship, free from manipulation and deceit.

Your journey to healing may be challenging, but you are resilient, and you will emerge stronger than ever. Embrace your truth, know your worth, and take back control of your life. If this article raises issues for you or someone you know, please visit my support services page for a list of organisations that can help you