11 Signs Of Gaslighting That You Need To Recognise

Knowing these signs of gaslighting can help you identify if you are in an emotionally abusive relationship. Remember, all abuse is not physical in nature!

Knowing these signs of gaslighting can help you identify if you are in an emotionally abusive relationship. Remember, all abuse is not physical in nature!

Gaslighting is one of the most prominent behaviour patterns found in cases of intimate emotional abuse. The word owes its origin to the 1944 Hollywood film titled Gaslight, in which the husband emotionally exploits his wife to the extent that she begins to question her own sanity. A similar kind of abuse was partially portrayed in the Bollywood flick Damini also.

The abusers in cases of gaslighting are often people closely related to you – romantic partners, spouses, siblings, parents and sometimes even bosses and colleagues.

Let’s understand how gaslighting works and the tactics used by the abuser:

  1. The abuser lies to you blatantly and with such a plain face that you believe them. For instance a partner may lie about an affair and indicate that the other person pursued or lured them and they did nothing or a parent may tell you that they left a wonderful life and many exaggerated privileges just to raise you.
  2. Even when the victim/survivor has written/audio/video evidence of abuse in such cases the abuser is an expert in manipulating it so that they may indicate they meant no harm. For instance they might control your movements and say I was just protecting you, or the word I used was not in the derogatory sense.
  3. The abuser takes advantage of your emotional Achilles heel – for most women it is their young children or ageing parents. The abuser may suggest that they have been kind and loving to your dear ones to make the victim/survivor feel obliged and dependent.
  4. They eventually up their game of subtle abuse. It begins with small jokes about how you look, eat or speak, and if the victim/survivor takes offence he/she might be told to be a sport and understand humour, not sulk etc.
  5. The abuser may intermittently be good and polite towards you, show some kindness or courtesy so the victim/survivor starts doubting their own judgement about the vile behaviour of the abuser and become a co-dependent in abuse. They may believe things like “he only uses bad language when drunk”; “he lied to me because of love” etc.
  6. There is a wide gap between what they say/promise/preach and what they do. They would promise truthfulness and lie the very next moment without any scruples. They might promise sharing responsibility and then make excuses for not doing the same simultaneously.
  7. The abusers know that when a person is doubtful they are easy prey so they always keep you walking on eggshells as they say. You become doubtful about yourself and also about your powers of decision-making.
  8. The abuser makes you believe that everything wrong with the world and their life is because of you. They often say things like “Why do you have to make me angry? I would not lose my temper if you did this my way” etc. They blame you for their addiction, bad habits and behaviour.
  9. Isolation is one of the strongest tools in gaslighting. The abuser creates a rift between you and whosoever they think could offer you support or make you see their bad behaviour towards you. Isolated people are easy to manipulate and abuse. They will find fault with all your friends and family.
  10. They tell others that you have a mental health issue and use that against you. They will say things like “she has depression and anxiety, stay away from her” or “He has a personality disorder.”
  11. They try to make you a liar publicly. An abuser tries to discount all your truths. They will contradict your versions of everything and try to make you a liar publicly so that you become further isolated and dependent on them.


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About the Author

Pooja Priyamvada

Pooja Priyamvada is an author, columnist, translator, online content & Social Media consultant, and poet. An awarded bi-lingual blogger she is a trained psychological/mental health first aider, mindfulness & grief facilitator, emotional wellness trainer, reflective read more...

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