What Is Gaslighting? A Sneaky Kind Of Emotional Abuse
Updated September 08, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn
Have you ever been made to feel like you are too emotional or that the things you believe to be true are only your mind playing tricks on you? Do you know someone who constantly makes you feel anxious, makes you question your own sanity, or leaves you feeling like you constantly need to apologize? If this sounds familiar, you may be a victim of gaslighting. This article will cover the origins and signs of gaslighting, how to respond and navigate these situations, and options of professional help that you can seek out for additional support.
The term "gaslighting" comes from a stage play that eventually became a film. The 1944 movie Gaslight tells the story of a woman with a manipulative and controlling husband. In his attempts to control her, he began to manipulate her environment in ways that made her question her sanity. The husband would dim the gas lights in their home and make them flicker, then would deny that anything was happening when she mentioned it. He would tell her she was crazy and that nothing was wrong with them. The emotional trauma she experienced was severe. In the end, the woman found someone who helped her proves that she was not losing her mind and that the events were happening and not her imagination, and she left the marriage.
This abuse is not easy to detect. In fact, victims are often so overwhelmed by the abuser’s behavior and the self-doubt that it causes that it may take a long time to realize what is happening and to get help.
What Is Gaslighting Abuse?
Gaslighting is the act of manipulating someone using psychological efforts to make them question their own sanity. It's a severe form of emotional abuse that often leads them to question their own memories, thoughts, or events that have happened. If the behavior is not stopped, it can result in a victim doubting and losing their own sense of identity and self-worth.
Gaslighting abuse can occur in any type of relationship, whether personal or professional. Gaslighting is a common technique used by abusive spouses or intimate partners, narcissists, and people who try to control large groups of people such as cult leaders. The effects of this form of abuse can often be devastating.
Signs And Symptoms
Gaslighting may take on different forms and often happens in stages. Some of the most common signs of gaslighting abuse include:
Denial - The abuser denies they said something, even if there is proof of their lie.
Lying - Abusers tell lies and act shocked if you confront them with the truth.
Fake praise - Abusers will often use fake praise or acts of appreciation leaving you wondering if they are truly abusive or if you misunderstood.
Projection - This is the act of accusing someone else of your own shortcomings or faults.
Manipulation - Abusers are typically master manipulators. One way people try to manipulate through is they attempt to turn friends or loved ones against them. This often leads the victim to isolate from others who may be helpful or supportive. This gives the abuser even more control over a victim’s life.
Personality Of Abusers
What makes a person think that it’s okay to manipulate or confuse someone else and how can you identify them? There are personality traits that can signal to you that a person is gaslighting.
It is not uncommon for gaslighting abusers to suffer from their own personality and mental health issues. Gaslighting will likely include manipulating any situation they can to make it benefit them in some way and thus ease their own emotional pain.
What Causes Someone to Gaslight?
People who gaslight are often fueled by a person’s desire to have control or gain things they want without having to work for those benefits or taking responsibility for their actions. These kinds of individuals may convince themselves that what they are doing to you is for your good and that you should appreciate them. Although their behavior may suggest otherwise, they often feel intense anxiety about the thought of losing you.
Whether the abuser understands what they're doing or not, gaslighting can be damaging to you if you don’t get help. These individuals don’t want their victims to think for themselves, make decisions or have their own friends or personal life.
This kind of gaslighting individual who is unfaithful in a relationship may try to convince their partner that they are crazy or imagining things, even if the partner is sure they saw an inappropriate text message or heard a conversation to suggest otherwise. When victims try to confront the person demonstrating this kind of abuse, the abusing partner may employ tactics to make the victim second-guess what they saw or heard.
These kinds of individuals at work can cause disruptions in your work performance and hurt your emotional and physical health. Experiencing this form of abuse at work may cause you to lose focus and have trouble performing your duties. The intense stress can cause you to make mistakes you've never made before or avoid required meetings.
These can include:
Gaslighting Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors
When experiencing this kind of abuse - your thoughts, feelings, and actions may change dramatically. While you once may have felt confident or self-assured, you may now feel like you can't trust your mind. Take some time to upon how your thoughts toward yourself or others may have changed since being in a relationship with this kind of individual.
How to Handle Gaslighting And Abuse
If you have been gaslit, it’s important to understand that this is abuse. It is an emotional abuse tactic that can leave you feeling unsure about yourself, others, and life in general. If those experiencing this kind of abuse do not get help, it can have a long-lasting effect on both mental and physical well-being.
If you are in a relationship with someone who is manipulating or abusing you, it is best to end the relationship and seek counseling to help you deal with the emotional trauma. While the option that may seem obvious to others is to leave the relationship immediately, if you are married to or live with this kind of individual, you may not feel like you can leave right away.
Keep a journal of things that happen. Write down your thoughts and feelings. If possible, find a trusted friend or family member that you can confide in to discuss your concerns. Online therapy has also been proven to reduce symptoms caused by trauma.
Read the study here:
Navigating Work Abuse
Working with someone who uses gaslighting can make you feel like you don’t even want to go to work. What seems like their constant insults or questions regarding your work performance or abilities can make a day at work feel like a year. Remember, many of these types of individuals use tactics of manipulation to make you question yourself which makes them appear the “better person” in their own minds.
As with a personal relationship with this kind of individual, you should set boundaries and if the individual crosses those boundaries, it’s okay to ask for help from a supervisor or other authority figure.
At first, it may be difficult to understand what gaslighting can do to you emotionally or to your relationships. When a relationship is just beginning, you may not realize that you are being manipulated or abused.
Conclusion On Gaslighting
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