Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that involves forcing someone to question their thoughts, memories and the events happening around them. It can sometimes even convince victims to question their own sanity.
Although gaslighting is often associated with abusive romantic partners, it can also happen in friendships, families, in school or at work.
Gaslighting isn’t always intentional, but it can have a severe impact on our mental health.
Examples of gaslighting
People who gaslight often do it to people they know, because they are aware of the other person’s vulnerabilities and insecurities. Some examples include:
- Questioning someone’s memories. Someone who gaslights might say: “Are you sure that’s what happened? You’ve always had a bad memory”.
- Pretending not to understand what the other person is saying. Someone may do this to avoid responding to another person, saying something like: “I have no idea what you’re saying”.
- Trivialising someone’s feelings. This happens when someone tries to belittle another person’s feelings. They might say the other person is “too sensitive”.
- Denying that something happened. They may pretend they didn’t say or do something or accuse someone of making things up.
- Using stereotypes about the other person’s race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexuality or nationality to manipulate them.
In order to be gaslighting, this behaviour must be a repeated pattern of manipulation.
How gaslighting makes us feel
Gaslighting can have devastating effects on our mental health. Someone experiencing gaslighting may:
Gaslighting may contribute to anxiety, depression and other psychological disorders, especially if it happens alongside other forms of abuse.
What to do if you think you’re a victim of gaslighting
- Talk to a parent, carer, friend or trusted adult. Telling someone how you feel is important for your mental health and will help you get guidance and support from people you trust. Speaking with others will also offer more perspective on your experiences.
- Avoid meeting the person who is gaslighting you alone. Try to limit your contact with them and, if you do need to meet them, bring someone trustworthy and neutral with you.
- Keep a diary and take pictures. This will reassure you that you are remembering discussions and events correctly and help you to regain your confidence.
- If you live with the person gaslighting you, keep your devices in a safe place. Abusive people who gaslight might check your devices to gain even more control over you. Make sure to clear your search history after you look for information on gaslighting or abuse online.
- Seek professional help when you need it. The trauma of emotional abuse can be difficult to overcome, so don’t be afraid to reach out to a guidance counsellor, a therapist or Childline for support.
Whenever you need to talk, Childline is ready to listen. Call 1800 66 66 66 or chat online at Childline.ie, 24 hours a day, every day.