What is Gaslighting? Everything You Need to Know

What is Gaslighting? Everything You Need to Know
Written By: Counselling Psychologist
M.Sc. Psychology - Swansea University, UK.
Reviewed By: Clinical Psychologist
National Institute for Empowerment of Persons with Visual Disabilities, Dehradun - M.Phil
Last Updated: 23-03-2023

Explore your right therapist by answering the questions below.

For Individual
Get Started
For Dating Couples
Get Started
Get Started
For Married Couples
Get Started


Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that involves making someone else doubt their own sanity and reality. It is a specific type of abuse that can be used to create doubt in the other person by making them question their own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. The abuser uses lies, false accusations, and other tactics to make the victim feel confused and isolated.

Gaslighting is a serious issue as it can have long-term effects and a devastating impact on the victim s mental health and well-being. It can often lead to feelings of worthlessness, depression, anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and even suicidal thoughts in extreme cases. Hence, it has become an important concept to understand and recognize the signs of gaslighting to protect yourself from this form of psychological manipulation.

Where does the word gaslighting come from?

The term was first coined in 1938 when British playwright Patrick Hamilton wrote the play Gaslight. The play depicted a husband who attempted to drive his wife insane by making her doubt her own perception of reality simply by manipulating the environment around her. While this type of manipulation has been around for centuries, it has become more widely recognized in recent years due to increased awareness about mental health and emotional abuse.

Gaslighting is often categorized as insidious abuse meaning it is deliberate in nature. The actions of the abuser come from a place of power and are meant to control and manipulate the other person emotionally.

Recognizing gaslighting phrases

One of the first steps in recognizing and dealing with gaslighting is to pay attention to the phrases used by the abuser. Below are the most commonly used gaslighting phrases:

“You’re too sensitive” 

“You’re overreacting”

 “I never said that”

“You must be imagining things”

“You’re making a big deal out of nothing”

The function of these phrases is to make the victim doubt their judgment and emotions. It can confuse the victim and question their memory and perception. It can confuse the victim and make them cross-examine whether their feelings are right or wrong and they also may begin to feel like they are overreacting.

Subtle Signs of Gaslighting

While it can be easier to recognize the gaslighting phrases to understand if you are a victim. Few subtle signs of gaslighting can be that much harder to recognize. 

The subtle signs of gaslighting include the abuser isolating the victim from their friends and family, making it easy for them to control or manipulate them. They can make them feel guilty or ashamed, and in some cases control their financial resources. The abuser may also attempt to control the victim’s behavior by creating a lot of self-doubts and making them feel like they are wrong or a bad person. 

How can you respond to gaslighting?

Once you recognize the signs of gaslighting and the phrases used by the abuser and are aware that you are being gaslit, it is important to know how to respond. 

Do not engage. It is of chief importance to avoid engaging in arguments with the abuser. Arguing with an abuser will only make the situation worse and can make the victim feel even more powerless.

State your boundaries without an explanation. This is regarded as the most effective as the victim takes a step back from the situation while not engaging with the abuser. 

Keep your response short and brief. Sometimes the victim wants to engage and put their thoughts and feelings forward. In this case, it is important to keep your responses short, brief, and to the point. 

Reach out to friends and family. Having a strong support system before and after you confront your abuser can be very helpful and useful. Confronting the abuser can cause a lot of distress to the victim. Hence, having someone to talk to can help process various thoughts and feelings. 

Seek professional help. Talking to a counselor or a psychotherapist may help you feel at ease. They can also help you validate your feelings and experiences which is necessary to get your self-confidence back. It can serve as a reminder that the abuser does not control you anymore. 

How can you protect yourself from gaslighting?

To protect yourself from gaslighting, it is crucial to be aware of the signs and phrases that can help you recognize if you are being gaslit. It is important to set boundaries when you feel you are being emotionally abused. 

If you feel like you are being gaslit, share your feelings and concerns with the people close to you. If you hear the gaslighting phrases, it is important to understand whether it is deliberate in nature or is it just a defense mechanism used by the other person in a conflicting situation. 

If you’re in a toxic and emotionally abusive relationship and you feel that you are being gaslighted, then the abuser may not want to give up the control they have over you. In this situation, the best course of action is to consider walking away from your partner and your relationship. Leaving a relationship can be very difficult to implement but being safe emotionally, physically, and mentally needs to be prioritized. 

To protect yourself from gaslighters, trust your emotions, feelings, and intuitions. You can depend on them and yourself to guide you. It is also important to take care of yourself by getting enough rest, eating healthy, and engaging in activities that make you feel good. Taking care of yourself is one of the best ways to protect yourself from gaslighting.

What are the different contexts of gaslighting?

Gaslighting can happen anywhere and in any relationship. Some of the contexts are: 

  • Romantic relationships
  • Medical provider
  • Relatives
  • Workplace 
  • Friends

What are the techniques used by gaslighters? 

The National Domestic Violence Hotline shared some of the methods that a gaslighter could employ to influence another person as follows:

Withholding (i.e., refusing to listen or claiming not to comprehend)

Countering (when the gaslighter challenges the victim s recollection of an incident) 

Blocking/diverting When the abuser changes the topic or probes the victim s reasoning, this is known as blocking or diverting.

Trivializing (Making the needs or feelings of the victim seem trivial or unimportant)

Forgetting/denial (when the manipulator appears to have forgotten what actually transpired or denies something he or she had previously committed to)

An example of gaslighting in the workplace

Gaslighting in the workplace can be categorized as a subtle form of emotional abuse and bullying. The power dynamics may lead people to ignore certain behaviors that can be a sign of gaslighting. The people around you may try to justify behaviors that can cause a person distress. An example of gaslighting in the workplace is: 

A co-worker makes you uncomfortable and you talk about it with your colleagues and boss. You also escalate it to HR and you receive the same response from everyone - “He behaves like this with everyone, you are overreacting and making a big deal out of it.”

An example of gaslighting in romantic relationships

Gaslighting in romantic relationships is one of the most common contexts of gaslighting. There are many signs that you are being gaslit in your relationship. Your partner may persistently lie to you or make you feel insecure. Your partner may try to belittle you and put you in a position of power. An example of romantic relationships: 

You and your partner are having a discussion. You say something that your partner disagrees with and their response is “You don t know anything; you just have to say things that you do not know about.”


Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation and abuse that is becoming more and more common in our society. It is important to recognize the signs of gaslighting and to understand the different types of gaslighting and the phrases used by abusers. It is important to remember that you are not powerless and that you can take steps to protect yourself from gaslighting. If you are in a situation where you are being gaslighted, it is important to seek help and to remember that you have the right to be respected and treated with dignity. 

If you or someone you know is a victim of gaslighting, you can seek help by talking to a trusted friend or family member and seeking professional help if needed.

Online Counselling & Therapy
Get help for anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues
Online counselling with HopeQure


What type of Online Therapy are you looking for?

Layer 1


Seeking a one on one counselling service with a trained psychologist?

Get Started
Layer 1

Dating Couples

Seeking a couples therapist specialized in dealing with romantic relationships?

Get Started
Layer 1


Seeking counselling services for an individual or a parent of a child in the age range of 13-19.

Get Started
Layer 1

Married Couple

Seeking marriage counselling from a trained psychotherapist?

Get Started

Connect with an expert

  • Video Call
  • Messaging
  • Phone