Gaslighting: What It Is and How to Recognize It

Fred Bahnson 

Gaslighting is a subtle yet damaging form of emotional abuse. It can happen to anyone, in any kind of relationship, from romantic partners to coworkers, friends, or family members.

What is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic where the abuser makes the victim doubt their memories, feelings, and beliefs. It can be done through various means, such as denying wrongdoing, shifting blame, making false accusations, questioning the victim’s sanity, or outright lying.

The goal of gaslighting is to control the victim by making them feel confused, misunderstood, and powerless. The abuser seeks to undermine the victim’s confidence and autonomy, making them easier to manipulate and exploit.

The Signs of Gaslighting

Gaslighting can be hard to spot, as it often happens slowly and gradually. However, there are some red flags that might indicate gaslighting is happening to you.

One of the most common signs is when the abuser shifts the blame onto the victim, using phrases like “It’s your fault” or “You’re too sensitive.” They may also deny their wrongdoing, even when caught in the act, and act confused when confronted.

Another sign of gaslighting is when the abuser makes false accusations against the victim, such as claiming they are abusive or crazy. They might also use manipulative tactics, such as saying that “you need help” or “you’re the only one with problems.”

Gaslighters also love to make “you” statements, such as “You always do this” or “You’re overreacting.” They might accuse you of imagining things, lying, or being the problem.

The Impact of Gaslighting

Gaslighting can have severe psychological effects on the victim, leading to anxiety, depression, self-doubt, and even trauma. It can make the victim feel like they are going crazy, erode their self-esteem, and isolate them from friends and family.

In romantic relationships, gaslighting often happens in situations where one partner has more power than the other. For instance, if the abuser is the breadwinner, the victim might feel like they have no choice but to submit to the abuse. It can be hard to break free from this cycle, especially if the victim feels financially or emotionally dependent on the abuser.

How to Overcome Gaslighting

If you suspect that you are being gaslighted, the first step is to trust your instincts. Don’t let the abuser undermine your sense of reality or make you doubt yourself. Seek support from a trusted friend, therapist, or helpline that understands the dynamics of emotional abuse.

If possible, create an exit plan, and be prepared to leave the relationship. Don’t give in to false promises or gifts that the abuser might use to lure you back. Going “no contact” is often the best option for your safety and well-being.

If you choose to confront the abuser, do it in a safe and controlled environment, and use “I” statements instead of “you” statements to avoid escalating the situation. Stick to the facts and your own experiences, and don’t let them gaslight you further. Remember that you don’t owe the abuser anything, and that their behavior is not your fault.


Gaslighting is a serious form of emotional abuse that can happen to anyone. It’s important to recognize the signs and seek help if you suspect you are being gaslighted. Remember, you deserve to be treated with respect and empathy, and no one should make you doubt your reality or sanity.