7 signs you're being gaslighted and what to do about it

Photo credit: Jonathan Knowles
Photo credit: Jonathan Knowles

You might have heard the term 'gaslighting' being thrown around a lot lately.

Gaslighting is not new, but with the surge in dating app use and the number of people now freshly out of relationships and re-immersing themselves in the dating scene (albeit online), we seem to be hearing it more than ever.

What is gaslighting?

Nia Williams, at Miss Date Doctor relationship counselling service, explains: 'Gaslighting is a form of manipulation used in relationships and dating where your partner tries to get you to question your own sanity by lying and manipulating you. They then tell you that you don't know what you are talking about.

'Gaslighting is extremely common unfortunately and is used by players, abusers, narcissists and those wanting to take advantage of you. It is a form of psychological manipulation, where they try to get you to question your own memory and thought process.

'An example of gaslighting can be someone cheating on you. When you find evidence, they then tell you that you are crazy and misconstrued the situation. Another example is an abuser that makes you feel like you pushed them into their poor treatment of you, due to your behaviour, when you have did nothing at all. The psychological breakdown of the victim is the objective in gaslighting. It can be very demoralising and lead to depression for those that have been the victim of this monstrous behaviour.'

What are the typical traits of a gaslighter?

To find out what gaslighting looks like in reality, we spoke to Dr Martina Paglia, a psychologist at The International Psychology Clinic. Here, she lists the typical traits of somebody who is a gaslighter — although it is important to recognise that somebody doesn't need to embody all of these in order to be guilty of gaslighting:

If you ever confront the manipulator about their deeds and misbehaviours, they will respond by saying your memory is incorrect or that it wasn’t their fault. There will always be a denial or an excuse and they will inevitably play the victim.

The gaslighter will appear on the surface to be extremely self-confident. You will often find them talking excessively or bragging about themselves and seeking attention. Even if you start to talk about yourself, they will find some way to shift the conversation back to them. This is because the sole intention of their conversation, or even the whole relationship, is to secure admiration and fulfil personal gains.

You might even be aware that you’re dealing with a gaslighter, but it’s frustrating to have to accept that they will never admit they were wrong. Instead, they will turn any conversation into an opportunity to stress how you are wrong, and they are right. If you’re waiting for an apology, you’ll be waiting forever.

They will constantly make offensive jokes about you in such a way that you will feel hurt but they will remain blameless, insisting that it is you who can’t take a joke or that you are too sensitive. They will weave mean comments in to a conversation. They will poke fun at your insecurities and try to make you feel bad, while at the same time maintaining a friendly tone, deliberately confusing the issue.

Photo credit: Westhoff
Photo credit: Westhoff

They are devoid of any empathy. They cannot think from someone else's point of view and thus, cannot feel how others feel. Even if you are experiencing problems, they won't hesitate to exploit you for personal gain. You will often see them insulting others and showing no interest in the problems of other people. Their life is all about no one else but them.

Have you noticed how they try to cut you off from any potential support? They will fill your ears about other people, and in doing so, will limit your interactions with others who love and care about you. The more isolated and distanced you are, the easier it is for them to control and manipulate you. They will present themselves as the ultimate saviours who you can trust and rely on. Once they have your trust, they will manipulate you into leaving others who might help you see their true identity.

You’ll also come to realise that the gaslighter has few friends. You’ll hear tales of broken friendships and explanations why it was always the other person’s fault and how they were the victim.

If you’ve decided enough is enough and try to end the relationship, they will become charming and extra loving for some time. They will act as if they have changed, but then go back to being manipulative if you let them in again.

If you don’t fall for their faux charm, it’s highly likely that they will see it as a form of disrespect and defeat, and they will lash out at you by trying their best to damage you emotionally. They might even start instantly dating someone else just to make you feel jealous.

Photo credit: Justin Case - Getty Images
Photo credit: Justin Case - Getty Images

7 signs you're being gaslighted

If you are worried you are being gaslighted, or just want to arm yourself with knowledge, Lily Walford, behaviour profiler and dating coach at Love With Intelligence, shares the 7 signs to look out for...

  1. You feel unable to trust your judgment.

  2. You often think that something happened a certain way, but your partner will continually 'correct' your interpretation of events.

  3. You feel anxiety and uncertainty about your recollection of events, and your ability to plan things for the future.

  4. You have had 'nagging feelings' inside, but you or your partner have talked yourself out of acknowledging them.

  5. You make excuses for your partner’s bad behaviour, sometimes in the form of blaming yourself or feeling frustrated that you 'misunderstood'.

  6. Your partner will place all blame and responsibility for any problem onto you.

  7. You regularly feel the need to apologise, even over-apologising to people outside of the relationship for things which you don’t need to apologise for.

Recognising gaslighting as an insidious form of coercive control and knowing the signs are an important step to helping victims of emotional abuse. If you need any further help or advice visit Solace Women's Aid or call The National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247.

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