What Gaslighting Means And How to Stop it From Happening to You

Gaslighting is a term that gets thrown around on a daily basis, sometimes incorrectly. Here’s what you need to know about gaslighting and what to do if it is happening to you.

What is Gaslighting?

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The term came from the 1944 movie “Gaslight,” where an abusive husband manipulates his wife into doubting her sanity. It’s a slow and subtle form of abuse where the abuser creates confusion and a loss of confidence. Gaslighters will tell their victim the opposite of what they know is true or turn things around on their victim to make it seem as though they are the ones in the wrong.

The Impact of Gaslighting on Mental Health

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Gaslighting is beyond frustrating. Over time, it can cause the victim to question themselves and isolate themselves from others to only be around their abuser. “I think of gaslighting as when someone makes you seem or feel ‘crazy.’ I often talk about it as a form of psychological abuse. Usually, if we’re talking casually with people—domestic violence victims, for example, they might refer to an experience they have had with an abuser as ‘crazy-making.’ So I often just describe it to people as the sort of crazy-making form of abuse — that experience of someone messing with your reality,” says Paige Sweet, PhD. Over time, gaslighting trauma can cause anxiety, depression, and issues with self-worth.

Common Gaslighting Techniques

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Gaslighters are often compulsive liars who distort reality to confuse their victims. Love bombing—the practice of lavishing someone with attention in order to manipulate them—is a common technique of gaslighters. Because the abuse is subtle, even highly intelligent and successful individuals can get caught in the web.

Recognizing Gaslighting in Different Relationships

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Gaslighting can happen in more than just romantic relationships; though that is most common, it can also happen in platonic friendships, family relationships, and at work. One example of gaslighting is when a partner does something abusive and then denies it ever happened. Gaslighters will also deny things they have said, even when their victim has evidence.

First Step- Recognize the signs

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The first step to fixing any problem is recognizing there is a problem at all. Educate yourself on this particular type of manipulation. Knowing what the signs are can be the first step to bringing your power back.

Phone a trusted friend

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The quickest way to see “red flags” is to tell your story to someone else. When you verbalize a story to another person, it often brings on that “ah ha” moment you’ve been keeping from yourself.

Trust yourself

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This can be a hard step when you’re being programmed to not trust your own memories, but it can be done. Remind yourself that what you remember did happen and how you feel is valid.

Document, Document, Document

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Once you’ve realized you are being gaslit, it is important to start documenting incidents. This can include saving text messages, keeping a journal, or asking friends to send their observations on abusive events. This will not only give you something to show your abuser but also help retrieve some of your own clarity. If the gaslighting is in the workplace, “Do not keep this information on a work-issued device, as your company may have access to that information and will take the device upon your quitting,”  Stephanie Sarkis, PhD advises.

Speak Up

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If it is safe to do so, speak up for yourself. Tell your partner/friend/coworker what they are doing. Use “I” statements to let them know how you feel and how their behavior is affecting you. Under no circumstances allow them to negate how you feel.

Set boundaries

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Setting boundaries is crucial to any healthy relationship. With a gaslighter, it is especially difficult and even more critical to maintain. Decide what you will and will not tolerate, vocalize it, and stand firm. We get it, way easier said than done.

Don’t fall for it again

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When a gaslighter feels like they are starting to lose their control over you, they will revert back to the love-bombing behavior that probably drew you in in the first place. Watch out for extra attention, gifts, and huge gestures. It may seem like they want to change, but most of the time, it’s just to get you back, and then they will revert to the abusive behavior- yes, cheating is abuse.

Regulate your reactions

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Learning to control your emotions when dealing with a gaslighter can help take your power back. Abusers feed off of emotions, especially anger, sadness, and fear. Find a place in your mind to go to that helps keep you from reacting. But feel free to cry it out later when they are gone.

Hit the block button

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There is nothing a gaslighter hates more than being ignored. When they start gaslighting you, just don’t respond at all. If the communication isn’t in person, hit the block button and don’t even give yourself the opportunity to respond. We understand it’s tempting.

Plan an escape

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If you live with your tormentor, you may need a plan to leave. Start saving money, have a bag packed and hidden in a safe place, and know where you can go to be safe. In cases where the abuse is more than mental, you may need to seek legal protection or contact the police.

Forgive yourself

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Even after leaving a relationship with an abuser, their manipulations can maintain a stronghold on your state of mind. We often blame ourselves for allowing the behavior to happen or being “stupid” in believing them. Again, even successful, intelligent people can be taken in. Forgive yourself and now that you know better, do better.


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This type of abuse can be extremely difficult to move on from. Victims find it hard to trust themselves and others moving forward. The best thing you can do for yourself is to seek the help of a professional. They can help you with anxiety, depression, and self-doubt. As choosingtherapy says, “A therapist can provide emotional support during this time that is really helpful, and can also guide them through the process of integrating the information, healing, and figuring out what to do next.”

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