Gaslighting refers to psychological abuse in which a person or group makes someone doubt their sanity or perception of reality. It can cause people to feel anxious, confused, and unable to trust themselves.

Gaslighting is a term that comes from the 1944 movie Gaslight and the 1938 play Gaslight. In gaslight, a husband tricks his wife into believing she has a mental disorder. He dims their gas-fueled lights to make her feel she is hallucinating and then tells her that she is gaslighting.

This article will discuss common signs and symptoms of gaslighting. We will also talk about responding to gaslighting and when it is best to seek professional help.

 Examples of gaslighting 

Gaslighting can cause people to feel afraid and vulnerable and distrust themselves.

Gaslighting can often occur slowly, which makes it difficult to spot. The National Domestic Violence Hotline lists the following techniques that can use to gaslight someone:

  • Countering This refers to a person who questions someone’s memory. You might hear them say, “You never remember things accurately,” or “Are you sure?” Your memory is poor.
  • Withholding If someone withholds, they are refusing to have a conversation. This technique allows people to pretend they don’t understand another person, so they don’t have to reply.
  • Trivializing This is when someone disregards or belittles another person’s feelings. They might accuse them of being too sensitive or overreacting to valid concerns or feelings.
  • Denialism Denial is when a person pretends to forget about events or how they happened. They might deny that they have said or done anything or accuse others of fabricating things.
  • Diversification This technique changes the conversation’s focus and asks the other person if they are credible.
  • Stereotyping An article in the American Sociological Review states that Gaslighting may be used to manipulate a person’s gender or race. They may tell a woman that she will be deemed crazy or irrational if she seeks abuse treatment.

It can happen to anyone, but it’s more common in intimate relationships or social interactions involving an imbalance in power.

Can abuse, the behavior of the victim is also affected.

Intimate relationships with partners

An abusive partner might try to control, isolate, or control another person by accusing them of being insane or irrational. Someone might believe them until they forget.

Relationships between child-parents

Abusive caregivers might use gaslighting to control or shame children. They might accuse them of being too sensitive or forgetful to acknowledge their feelings.

Medical gaslighting

According to the CPTSD Foundation, medical gaslighting is when a doctor dismisses or trivializes someone’s concerns about their health based on the assumption that they are mentally ill. For example, they might tell the patient that their symptoms are in their heads.

2009 study showed that doctors were twice as likely as middle-aged men to attribute symptoms of coronary heart disease in middle-aged women to mental conditions.

Racial gaslighting

According to Politics, Group, and Identities, racial gazing is when people use gaslighting techniques against a group of people based upon race or ethnicity.

One example is that someone might deny that a particular group experiences discrimination, even though evidence supports it, or criticize civil rights activists as being too emotional to discredit their message.

Political gaslighting

According to a Buffalo Law Review article, political gaslighting refers to when politicians use lies, denials, or manipulate information to control people.

Some examples include downplaying, hiding, concealing things their administration did wrong, discrediting politicians based on mental instability, or using controversy to divert attention away from important events.

Institutional gaslighting

An article in the Journal of Perinatal & Neonatal Nursing explains that institutional gaslighting can happen at a company. An organization might deny or conceal information, lie about employees about their rights, or paint whistleblowers who expose problems within an organization as mentally ill or incompetent.

Signs and symptoms of gaslighting

Gaslighting can often make it difficult for victims to recognize they are being abused. People who are subject to abuse may not be able to question their abusive partner’s behavior because they have a sense of dependence on them.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline indicates that someone experiencing gaslighting could:

  • Feel confused and second-guess yourself constantly
  • It isn’t easy to make simple decisions
  • They are often asked if they are too sensitive.
  • Resign or become unsociable
  • Always apologize to the abuser
  • Protect the behavior of an abusive person
  • To avoid making excuses for your family and friends, lie to them
  • Feel hopeless, depressed, worthless, or incapable

Gaslighting can cause anxiety, depression, and psychological trauma, mainly if it is part of a larger abuse pattern.

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