How can you tell if someone is gaslighting you?
If you’ve heard the term gaslighting and wondered what it is, you’re not alone. Gaslighting is a specific form of psychological manipulation that can leave you questioning your own sanity. Psychiatrist Shilpa Srinivasan, MD, explained more about gaslighting so you can tell if it’s happening to you.
What is gaslighting?
“Gaslighting is a form of abuse where one person or a group of people fosters a sense of self-doubt or confusion in the person who’s being gaslighted,” Dr. Srinivasan said. “It’s a form of control and a way to undermine the other person in the relationship. It typically occurs in intimate relationships, but it can occur in other social relationships or even in the workplace.”
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 3 out of 4 female victims of intimate partner violence have reported gaslighting by their partner in the context of their relationships.
Gaslighting gets its name from the 1938 play Gas Light and gained further popularity with an adaptation of the play to film in 1944. The story focuses on an abusive husband’s attempts to make his wife think she’s going insane in part by dimming the home’s gas lighting or causing the lights to flicker and then denying anything has changed.
What are some common signs of gaslighting?
It’s important to try to recognize when you’re being gaslit, but it can be difficult because of the power dynamic in the relationship. “It’s especially difficult in intimate partner relationships because the person who is gaslighting the other individual often tries to draw their victim away from their friends and family and isolates them,” Dr. Srinivasan said. This can make it hard to verify what really happened or what was really said.
Here are some common ways someone might gaslight you:
- Saying your recollection or perception is wrong – This type of gaslighting can range from hearing something that wasn’t said to outright lies about how a conversation or interaction went down.
- Blame shifting – The gaslighter shifts blame to the victim by saying, “I wouldn’t have said that if you didn’t do this.”
- Minimization of a situation – This can include being told you’re too sensitive or that the situation is not something you should get worked up about.
“It can be a very toxic situation,” Dr. Srinivasan said. “Being exposed to gaslighting is linked with negative mental health outcomes including anxiety, depression or even post-traumatic stress disorder.”
How should you respond to gaslighting?
If you’re concerned that you’re a victim of gaslighting, it’s important to talk to someone about it. Don’t try to handle it alone.
“Talking to someone can be very difficult to do because of feelings of low self-esteem or self-doubt, but reaching out to family and not allowing that isolation to happen is a critical first step,” Dr. Srinivasan said. “You might also want to seek professional help, particularly if you’re experiencing anxiety, depression or negative mental health issues.”
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