You’ve likely heard the term thrown around a lot, especially over social media in the last few years. But do you know what gaslighting really means, how to tell if you’re being gaslit, or how to prevent it from happening?

Women questioning  and wondering what gaslighting means. She has been learning about how to get healthy in therapy

The term “gaslighting” refers to a situation where a person may find themselves questioning their own reality. Gaslighting behavior occurs when someone begins to manipulate facts and distort the truth, which can cause a person to feel misunderstood, confused, or like they’re “going crazy”. They may begin to question their own memories, not trust their own judgement, and struggle to clearly separate lies and exaggerations from truth and reality. Simply put, gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse and extreme manipulation that is common in toxic, unhealthy relationships. 

The term “gaslighting” itself comes from a 1938 play and 1944 film called Gaslight. In the story, the husband convinces his wife that she’s suffering from mental illness by dimming their gas-fueled lights, and telling her she is hallucinating. Nowadays, gaslighting can present in many different forms, and it’s important to understand how to spot them and what to do if you suspect your partner or someone else is trying to gaslight you.

Gaslighting often  begins with simple, seemingly innocent statements which, when used once or very rarely, may simply be an indication of insensitivity — it’s not always necessarily intentional or hostile. But the escalation into true and consistent gaslighting behavior can occur when these kinds of statements are used frequently, and begin to make the person being gaslighted feel confused, as though they are losing grip on their own reality, or questioning their own memories and emotions. 

Common examples of gaslighting statements might be: 

  • “What are you talking about? I never said that.”

  • “You’re imagining things.”

  • “What are you talking about? I never said I would do X.” 

  • “Why are you so upset? It’s not that big of a deal.”

  • “Stop being so sensitive.”

  • “You’re clearly confused/you misunderstood what I meant when I said X.”

woman sitting back to back disapproving potentially complaining about her being so sensitive | help for relationships in Roseville, CA | counseling in Fair Oaks, CA

Common forms of gaslighting can include: 

  • Withholding (the person gaslighting doesn’t want to listen, or makes no attempt to understand the situation or your feelings)

  • Countering (the person gaslighting questions your memories)

  • Blocking or diverting (the person gaslighting abruptly changes the subject of conversation or questions the way you think or feel)

  • Trivializing (the person gaslighting makes you feel as though your thoughts, feelings, and needs in the relationship aren’t important)

  • Forgetting or denial (the person gaslighting pretends they’ve forgotten the true version of events, or denies something they said or agreed to in the past)

Here are some common signs that you’re suffering from gaslighting:

  • You’re always second-guessing yourself and struggle to make your own decisions

  • You keep thinking about a certain character flaw (like being “too sensitive”)

  • If you try to question the person you suspect is gaslighting you, it usually ends in a fight you didn’t mean to start

  • You feel as though you’re saying the same things over and over again, and not being heard

  • You feel “fuzzy” and unsure, as though you can’t trust your own thoughts, feelings, beliefs or memories

  • You’re an over-apologizer (if someone tells you that you apologies too much, you answer, “I know. Sorry.”)

  • You find your making excuses for your partner’s behavior to family or friends

  • You have the feeling that something is wrong, but you’re not sure what, or how to explain it to someone else.

Women putting her hand up to stop gaslighting | Learn tools in therapy in Roseville, CA | relationship help in Fair Oaks, CA

If you suspect that your partner or someone else is gaslighting you, it’s important to trust yourself and your own instincts. If you feel as though something is wrong, and you recognize more than one example from the lists above, consider seeking help from a licensed professional therapist. They will be able to help you identify the gaslighting behavior, and develop a strategy for how to manage the gaslighter

Remember — you deserve to move forward with confidence, peace of mind, and happy, healthy relationships. 

Begin Relationship Therapy for One in Roseville, CA or Fair Oaks, CA:

If you are ready to make lasting changes in your life to strengthen your relationships with others, we can help! Our therapists are trained to provide relationship therapy for one for adults living in the Sacramento Area or online in the state of California. You can begin relationship therapy for one in Fair Oaks, CA or Roseville, CA by following these easy steps: 

Other Services offered at The Relationship Therapy Center:

In addition to relationship therapy for one, Our Sacramento area counseling clinics located in Roseville and Fair Oaks, CA are pleased to offer a variety of mental health services. Our couples services include: Couples Counseling, Counseling after infidelity, sex therapy, co-parent counseling, family therapy, divorce counseling, intensive couples retreats, and premarital counseling. Our individual therapy services include anxiety treatment, therapy for children, teen therapy, depression treatment, codependency counseling and individual relationship counseling. Our therapists offer online counseling in California to treat a variety of mental health concerns. Please reach out to our Sacramento area therapy office to learn more about the many ways we can help you or your loved ones.