How to spot gaslighting in your relationship

3 April, 2023 / words by IALH Editorial Team

Written by Rochelle

Image by @shopshrine

Gaslighting is a term that’s been in the news a lot lately, but do you know what is it, how to recognise it, and how to recognise a gaslighter?

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse and psychological manipulation. It occurs when an individual (the manipulator) makes another person (the victim) question and doubt their own judgement, memory and even their own experiences. Gaslighting often occurs in abusive relationships – but did you know it can happen in friendships, co working relationships and in families too? The manipulator will use gaslighting as a way to control and manipulate their friends, colleagues and family members.

A simple example of this is if you were told to meet at 8, but then the other person says no, you’re wrong, we never agreed to meet, you must have imagined it. This makes you question your memory, what you heard and yourself.

Here are 5 red flags / signs you are being gaslighted

Make you question your own reality
The number one sign of being gaslighted is when the manipulator will challenge your reality and recollection of events. This is incredibly damaging and can cause a state of confusion and uncertainty for the victim. The manipulator may say things like “Are you sure? You have a bad memory’ or ‘You’re imagining things’. They will inherently deny, question and cast doubt on the things you say have happened by twisting your words to make you feel like you’re going crazy. 

Another tactic used is when the person gaslighting will project their own behaviours, flaws or insecurities onto you, making you feel as if you are the problem, rather than them. An example of this is being accused of cheating, stealing or something completely different. The gaslighter will emphasise on your own behaviours or actions drawing attention away from their own and making you feel responsible.

Positive reinforcement
Believe it or not, a gaslighter will throw in an occasional positive reinforcement. This is to keep you hooked in the relationship, and to stop you from viewing them as bad person. If a gaslighter praises you amongst the negativity, you may reconsider staying in the relationship and ‘sweeping away’ what has occurred. Positive reinforcement may involve praise, buying gifts and using excessive physical affection.

Trivialising your feelings
A gaslighter will continue to exert control by dismissing your feelings. This can sound like ‘you’re being too sensitive’ or ‘do you know how crazy that sounds’ or ‘you’re overreacting’. Invalidating the feelings of their partner, friend, colleague or family member can result in the victim self doubting their own emotions, which may prevent them from expressing their feelings again. This empowers the gaslighter, further isolating the victim.

Lie and confusion
A common form of gaslighting is lying! Manipulators will tell blatant lies, and will continue to lie to you, even when there is proof they’re lying. They will convince you that there isn’t a problem, using confusion and lies to make you doubt yourself. If the victim makes an attempt to confront the manipulator, they may face responses such as ‘no one would believe you’ or ‘can you hear yourself’. The manipulator will continue to deflect, shift blame and pretend that things you say happened did not happen, even though you know they did. The victim may begin to question their own sanity, it will impact their ability to think clearly and rationally, thus making the situation worse by them believing the gaslighter – spiralling further and further into the lies.

There are many ways in which the manipulator can phrase things, but here are a few examples. If you repeatedly hear these, or anything like these, you should consider if you are being gaslighted:

“I didn’t do that”

“It’s your fault

“Stop acting crazy”

“You need help”

“There you go again”

“Why are you upset, I was only joking”

“You’re so dramatic” 

“It’s your own fault you feel that way”

“Stop exaggerating”

“I wouldn’t have done that to you”

What can you do if you’re being gaslighted?

Identify the warning signs
If you recognise some of the above you may be a victim of gaslighting. There is no justification for gaslighting, some manipulators may not know they are doing it, but regardless if its intentional or not you should not have to experience it.

Collect evidence
It’s important to understand your situation, it can be hard to recognise gaslighting. Make a note of conversations, take screenshots of texts, take photos, record conversations. Then when something happens you can go back and check to see the truth. This leads onto our next point.

Ensure its gaslighting
It’s not always easy to recognise gaslighting, the two steps above will help to recognise the signs and to understand your situation. Can you recognise a repeated pattern of behaviour? Can you see a change in your mental well being? Are you questioning things which you can prove are true?

Take time out and talk to others
Removing yourself from the situation can help give you a sense of perspective. While in it, it can be hard to make sensible, rational decisions. Your friends and family can help view the situation from an unbiased position, to better judge without direct involvement. Talking with others and seeing the truth of the situation can help address the issue. This external validation can be very important to the victim’s mental state.

Speak up
If you feel able, you need to talk to your abuser and explain how their behaviour is affecting you. The abuser may or may not be aware of their gaslighting. Having proof can help, remaining confident in your version of events and possibly the support of an unbiased third party. Put boundaries in place, seek professional help if needed, and be prepared to walk away if the abuser is unwilling to change their behaviour. Remember that depending on the individual confronting an abuser can be a dangerous and daunting thing to do, so please take precautions if you feel they are needed.

Look out for yourself
Lastly and possibly most importantly. Being gaslighted can be mentally exhausting and damaging. It’s important to take care of yourself, to understand that you are not going mad, that the world is as you see it, to take back control of the negative thoughts the gaslighting has caused. Try to relax with hobbies, meditation, yoga, be positive, tell yourself you deserve to be treated better, spend time with family and friends. Don’t be scared of seeking professional help if needed.


IALH Editorial Team


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