Relationships in Recovery - Addiction Recovery

Gaslighting: 10 Signs of Gaslighting You NEED to Know

Gaslighting is incredibly abusive, and can be extremely damaging. Here's 10 signs of gaslighting to recognize....and protect yourself from.

Gaslighting: 10 Signs of Gaslighting To Recognize & Defend Against

Table of contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

November 5, 2023

The Forge Recovery Center

Ever feel like someone was manipulating you? Have you ever questioned your own sanity or reality?

If so, chances are you may have been a victim of gaslighting. Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that makes the victim doubt their own perceptions and memories, causing them to question their sanity.

Gaslighting can occur in any type of relationship – romantic, familial, work-related. It is important to be aware of the signs of gaslighting to protect yourself from this toxic form of manipulation.

In this article, we will discuss 10 common signs of gaslighting and how to deal with gaslighters.

What is Gaslighting?

Before we dive into the signs, let's first understand what gaslighting is. The term "gaslight" originated from a 1938 play, Gas Light, where the husband tries to convince his wife that she is going insane. It was later adapted into a film in 1944 and has since become synonymous with psychological manipulation.

Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic invalidating someone's feelings, experiences, or perceptions, making them doubt their reality and sanity. It is crucial to recognize gaslighting in relationships because it can have profound emotional and psychological effects on the victims. Many individuals have found themselves in situations where their entirely valid feelings were dismissed or twisted to serve someone else's agenda.

For instance, a partner might make them feel guilty for expressing discomfort or concern about their behavior.

Narcissists are often associated with employing gaslighting tactics to exert control and domination over others. They may downplay or deny their actions, shifting blame onto their victims and causing them to question their judgments.

Recognizing gaslighting is the first step towards breaking free from such toxic dynamics and restoring a sense of self-worth and clarity. It's essential to create awareness around gaslighting to empower individuals in identifying and addressing this destructive behavior in their relationships.

What Is a Gaslighting Narcissist?

A gaslighting narcissist uses tricky methods to have power and control in relationships. They usually show signs of narcissistic personality disorder, like thinking they're super important, not caring about others, and always wanting people to praise them. What makes them different is how they sneakily use gaslighting tricks. This means they twist or deny the truth, making the people they're doing it question their own thoughts, feelings, and sanity.

These individuals are skilled at shifting blame, downplaying their actions, and making their victims feel responsible for the problems created by their manipulative behaviors. Recognizing the presence of a gaslighting narcissist is crucial for protecting one's emotional well-being and maintaining healthy relationships.

Understanding Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a sneaky trick that some people, usually those with narcissistic qualities, use to control and confuse the people they're doing it to. It means they twist the truth, so the person being tricked starts to doubt what they think, feel, and even if they're thinking straight.

Here's an example: If the gaslighter does something hurtful, and the person they hurt talks about feeling bad, the gaslighter might say the person is actually the one with the problem or being too sensitive. This way, they make it seem they're not to blame for what happened.

A gaslighter might keep saying they're not getting what they want in a different situation. Still, they don't realize how their own words and actions affect the other person. Gaslighting can mess with a person's mind and make them feel unsure about themselves, anxious, and less sure of themselves. Knowing about this tricky manipulation is essential so you can recognize it and protect yourself from unhealthy situations in relationships is essential.

Subtle Signs of Gaslighting

Gaslighting often operates subtly and insidiously, making it difficult for victims to recognize. It can happen in various types of relationships, including close friendships. Imagine a scenario where you have a friend whom you trust wholeheartedly, and they consistently downplay your emotions or experiences.

For example, suppose you feel hurt by something they said or did. In that case, they might respond with phrases like, "You're too sensitive" or "You're overreacting." Over time, this erodes your confidence in your own feelings and instincts.

Another subtle sign is when your friend repeatedly questions your memory or perception. They might say things like, "I never said that," or "You must be mistaken." This constant invalidation can lead you to doubt your recollections and judgment.

Gaslighting in friendships, even when it seems subtle, can be emotionally damaging. It's essential to be aware of these signs and trust your feelings and perceptions. Healthy relationships are built on mutual respect and validation, not manipulation or control.

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10 Signs of Gaslighting You Need to be Aware of

The best way to defend yourself from being gaslit is to see what’s coming. Gaslighting comes in many different forms, but most gaslighters use the following tactics:

Gaslighting Sign #1: Denying Reality

One of the key signs of gaslighting is the gaslighter's consistent denial of reality. They often dispute facts or events that have unquestionably occurred. For instance, imagine you had a discussion with a friend about a specific topic; later, they adamantly deny ever having that conversation. This blatant contradiction can make you doubt your own memory and wonder if you're honestly mistaken. 

Gaslighters do this to make you doubt yourself and start depending on what they say happened. As time passes, you might start wondering if your own memories are right, giving them more power over what you believe is true. Knowing about this trick is essential for keeping your self-confidence and emotional health intact because it helps you trust your memories and experiences.

Gaslighting Sign #2: Shifting Blame

Another prominent sign of gaslighting is the gaslighter's tendency to shift blame onto their victims. They skillfully deflect responsibility for their actions and behavior, making their victims feel accountable for the manipulator's wrongdoings.

For example, if a gaslighter loses their temper and shouts at their partner, they might later claim it was because their partner made them angry or provoked them. This blame-shifting can be incredibly disorienting, causing the victim to internalize guilt and question their role in the abusive dynamics.

Gaslighters further undermine their self-esteem and self-worth by attributing blame to the victim. It becomes a cycle where the victim starts believing they are the problem, reinforcing the gaslighter's control. Recognizing this manipulation is essential for regaining a sense of self and setting healthy boundaries in toxic relationships.

Gaslighting Sign #3: Trivializing Feelings

Another insidious sign of gaslighting is the gaslighter's habit of trivializing their victim's feelings and concerns. They downplay and belittle the emotions and anxieties of the person they are manipulating, making them feel insignificant and irrational.

For instance, if someone expresses hurt or distress over a hurtful action, a gaslighter may respond with dismissive statements like, "You're overreacting" or "You're too sensitive." This relentless invalidation of feelings can erode the victim's self-esteem and make them question the legitimacy of their emotions.

Gaslighters try to make their victim unsure about what they see and feel so they can control them better. To regain control of their emotions and start standing up for themselves, victims need to see this trick for what it is. It's an important first step to breaking free from the gaslighter's influence.

Gaslighting Sign #4: Withholding Information

Another manipulative sign of gaslighting is the deliberate withholding of information. Gaslighters often keep their victims in the dark about important matters or events, preventing them from making informed decisions or understanding the full context of a situation. This tactic maintains control over the victim by limiting their access to information and knowledge.

For example, a gaslighter might exclude their partner from crucial conversations or meetings and later claim that the victim never needed to know. This secrecy creates a power imbalance in the relationship, with the gaslighter holding all the cards. Victims of this form of gaslighting may gradually lose trust in their own judgment and become increasingly dependent on the gaslighter for information, reinforcing the cycle of manipulation and control.

Recognizing such behavior is essential for regaining autonomy and breaking free from the gaslighter's influence.

Gaslighting Sign #5: Using Confusion as a Weapon

Gaslighters employ a cunning tactic of using confusion as a weapon to disorient their victims. They often contradict themselves or provide conflicting information, making it difficult for the victim to discern what is true and what isn't. This deliberate inconsistency serves a dual purpose: it erodes the victim's trust in their judgment. It creates a sense of dependency on the gaslighter for clarity.

For instance, a gaslighter might say one thing today and vehemently deny having said it the next day, leading the victim to question their memory and sanity. This calculated confusion leaves the victim feeling off-balance and unsure of their own perceptions, making them more susceptible to manipulation. Recognizing this gaslighting sign is crucial for regaining clarity and breaking free from the gaslighter's psychological grip.

Gaslighting Sign #6: Isolating the Victim

Gaslighters often employ a sinister tactic of isolating their victims from friends and family, effectively cutting off external support systems. By doing so, they create a situation where the victim becomes increasingly reliant on the gaslighter for emotional support and validation. This isolation enhances the gaslighter's control and diminishes the victim's ability to seek help or perspective from others.

For example, a gaslighter may subtly discourage the victim from spending time with their close friends or dismiss the importance of family gatherings, gradually leading to social isolation. This isolation reinforces the gaslighter's influence and makes the victim more vulnerable to their manipulative tactics. Recognizing this sign of gaslighting is crucial for breaking free from the toxic cycle and seeking the support needed to regain independence and self-assurance.

Gaslighting Sign #7: Projecting Insecurities

Gaslighters often employ projection as a means of manipulation. They project their own insecurities, faults, or undesirable traits onto their victims, causing the victim to doubt their own stability and self-worth. For instance, a gaslighter who is dishonest may repeatedly accuse their partner of being untrustworthy, thereby deflecting attention away from their own actions.

This insidious tactic serves multiple purposes for the gaslighter: it allows them to avoid taking responsibility for their behavior, undermines the victim's self-esteem, and creates confusion and self-doubt. Victims may find themselves constantly defending against baseless accusations and trying to prove their innocence, all while the gaslighter continues their manipulative tactics.

Recognizing this sign of gaslighting is essential for victims to reclaim their self-confidence and break free from emotional abuse.

Gaslighting Sign #8: Love Bombing and Discarding

Gaslighting narcissists are known for their rollercoaster-like relationships, characterized by a cycle of idealization followed by devaluation. Initially, they shower their victims with excessive affection, attention, and praise, a phase often called "love bombing." During this stage, the victim may feel adored, unique, and deeply connected to the gaslighter.

However, this idealization is short-lived. Gaslighters eventually shift to the devaluation phase, becoming critical, dismissive, and emotionally distant. They may insult or belittle their victims, undermine their self-esteem, and even discard them emotionally or physically. This abrupt shift leaves victims confused and desperately longing for the return of the loving partner they initially encountered.

Understanding this cycle is crucial for recognizing gaslighting behavior and avoiding further emotional manipulation. Victims should seek support and professional help to escape this damaging pattern.

Gaslighting Sign #9: Creating False Narratives

Gaslighters are adept at weaving false narratives to suit their manipulative agenda. They often concoct elaborate stories or events, distorting reality to paint their victims as unreliable or unstable. This tactic is designed to discredit the victim's perspective, erode their self-confidence, and maintain control over the relationship.

For example, a gaslighter might insist that the victim misremembered past events, making the victim doubt their own memory and perception of reality. They may even involve others to corroborate their false accounts, further isolating the victim from sources of support.

Recognizing this tactic is essential for victims to regain a sense of agency and self-trust. Seeking the support of friends, family, or a therapist can help victims break free from the web of deception by gaslighters.

Gaslighting Sign #10: Loss of Self-esteem

With its weird tricks and emotional harm, gaslighting can hurt people over time. It can make them feel much worse about themselves like they're not as good as they thought. As time passes, they might start believing the doubts and worries the gaslighter planted in their mind and might not trust themselves as much.

The constant denial of reality, shifting blame, and trivialization of feelings can erode a person's confidence in their thoughts and emotions. Gaslighters aim to make their victims feel inadequate and dependent on their validation, diminishing their self-esteem.

Recognizing the signs of gaslighting and seeking support, whether through therapy, counseling, or confiding in trusted friends and family, is crucial for victims to rebuild their self-esteem and break free from the cycle of manipulation.

Understanding that the gaslighter's tactics are about control and not a reflection of the victim's worth is a critical step toward healing and reclaiming one's self-esteem.

Suffering From the Effects of Gaslighting? The Forge Recovery Center Will Help You

At The Forge Recovery Center, we see the results of toxic manipulation like gaslighting every day. Gaslighting creates the kind of lasting trauma that can lead to substance abuse and worse. That's why The Forge Recovery Center is dedicated to helping you recover from the damage caused by gaslighting.

Guided by a trauma-informed philosophy, our dedicated mental health programs will help you safely explore the roots of trauma caused by gaslighting. Our expert staff is dedicated to helping you learn about and move past your experiences into a happier life. We offer effective, evidence-based care for mental health, dedicated mental health housing, 24/7 support, and more.

If you'd like to learn more about gaslighting and how to recover from its effects, reach out to The Forge Recovery Center today.

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