Do any of the phrases sound familiar?
- You must be crazy. That is not what happened.
- “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
- You are imagining things.
- No need to be very sensitive. I was only joking.
If someone in your life often says things like this to you, you may be experiencing gaslighting.
Gaslighting refers to intentional attempts to manipulate you into doubting your feelings, perception of events, and reality in general. Someone trying to gaslight you typically wants to confuse you and make you doubt yourself to make it more likely you’ll go along with what they want.
- Trivializing. They minimize your feelings, suggest your emotions don’t matter, or accuse you of overreacting.
- Countering. They question your memory, make up new details, or deny that something happened. They might blame you for the situation instead.
- Withholding. They brush off your attempts to have a discussion or accuse you of trying to confuse them.
- Diversion. When you bring up a concern about their behavior, they change the subject or turn it back on you by suggesting you’re making it up.
- Forgetting or denying. When you mention a specific event or something they said, they might say they can’t remember or tell you it never happened at all.
- Discrediting. They suggest to other people that you can’t remember things correctly, get confused easily, or make things up. This can threaten your career when it happens at work.
Although emotionally abusive partners and family members commonly use this tactic, gaslighting can also show up in friendships or the workplace. Left unchecked, it can have a serious impact on your mental health, productivity at work, and other relationships.
There are eight tips for responding.
Gaslighting is hard to recognize, since it often starts small and other behaviors can seem similar.
A pattern of manipulation is developed. The person wants you to doubt yourself and depend on their version of reality.
Someone who gives a different opinion than yours is not necessarily gaslighting.
People sometimes feel confident in their knowledge and insist they are right even when there is evidence against them. You are wrong! I know what I am talking about, but it is not polite if they are trying to manipulate you.
People can unintentionally light up. Sometimes, responses like “I don\’t have time to listen to this” or “Don\’t you think you\’re overreacting” are not helpful.
Take stock of your feelings when you consider whether someone is trying to gaslight you.
How do you feel?
Gaslighting can lead you to:
- Do you doubt and question yourself?
- Is it possible that you are too sensitive?
- apologize frequently.
- Difficult with decision making.
- Feel confused and not like your usual self.
- “You don’t know how to explain what’s going on.”
It’s understandable to experience a lot of strong emotions when dealing with gaslighting.
Try not to let your feelings guide your reaction, as they are all valid. Staying calm can help you deal with the situation more effectively.
You might want to deny what the person is trying to light up. They may not back down, and your distress can encourage them to keep trying to manipulate you.
Keeping calm can help you focus on the truth, which can make it less likely that their false version of events will sway your faith in yourself.
To get some physical space, suggest taking a break and revisiting the topic later. Going for a walk or stepping outside briefly can help you clear your mind and refocus.
“If you can’t leave, try to stay.”
- Breathing exercises.
- grounding yourself with a photo, object, or visualization exercise
- Slowly counting to 10.
- repeating an affirming chant.
You can keep track of what is happening by documenting your interactions with someone trying to gaslight. You can check the truth for yourself if they deny a conversation or event.
There are a few ideas.
- Take a picture of texts and emails.
- Take pictures of the damage.
- Dates and times of conversations are noted.
- Direct quotes are available when possible.
- You can use your phone to record conversations. Laws in your area may prevent you from using these recordings, but you can inform others about the situation.
It’s not always safe to confront abuse in person. But having proof can go a long way toward restoring your peace of mind and supporting your emotional well-being.
When you know the truth, you won’t question or doubt yourself. This alone can help boost confidence and make it easier to handle the gaslighting going forward.
“You can use your notes as evidence. Since your company may have access to work devices, it’s important to keep your notes on paper or your phone. You can keep them with you or store them in a safe place.”
While collecting evidence, be sure to set boundaries and practice self-care so as not to overwhelm or increase anxiety. This may be especially true if you’re highly anxious, as documenting gaslighting may lead to rumination, and this behavior could increase feelings of anxiety.
“Gaslighting works because it confuses you. If you show that the behavior doesn’t bother you, the person trying to gaslight you may decide it isn’t worth it.”
“Gaslighting often involves criticism and insults. You won’t accept the behavior if you calmly and assertively call them out. Making others aware of the situation will give them more incentive to leave you alone.”
“They may try to make the insult sound like a joke or compliment. Asking them to explain the joke as if they don’t understand may help them realize these strategies won’t work on you.”
A co-worker makes a comment about you not doing your fair share of work. You could say, “Actually, I have completed the tasks for this week already.” We can review them if you like.
Everyone remembers things a little differently than how they happened on occasion, and you might wonder, “What if it did happen the way they said?”
But don’t give in to the urge to question yourself — they want you to doubt reality.
“Small details, such as the color of a shirt or other people in the room, are what Misremembering involves. Your brain doesn’t make entire memories. Gaslighting is when they deny your memory if you remember something clearly.”
You know what happened so repeat it calmly. Showing them any proof you have will encourage them to back down. It may not have an impact.
“Don’t get drawn into conflict if they continue challenging you. If you argue you are more vulnerable to manipulation. You protect yourself and maintain control by not arguing.”
You might say, “It seems we remember things differently, but I don\’t want to argue about it.” Changing the subject or leaving the room is a good way to avoid further discussion.
Taking care of your physical and emotional needs probably won’t do anything to directly address the gaslighting, but good self-care can still make a difference by improving your state of mind. A gaslighter may try to make you feel undeserving of self-care, or label practices as lazy, or indulgent. However, it is important to maintain self-care habits despite this.
“It’s hard to find pleasure in even your favorite things when you have doubts about gaslighting and its impact on your job or relationships.”
But dedicating time to relaxation and wellness practices can improve your physical and mental health, helping you feel stronger and more capable of facing challenges in your daily life.
Try these strategies to improve your well-being.
- Spend time with people you care about.
- Incorporate positive self-talk into your daily life. To counter gaslighting tactics, for example, you might build yourself up by reminding yourself of your accomplishments and strengths.
- Affirmations to practice daily.
- Make time for hobbies.
- Try meditation or yoga.
- Keep a journal to help sort through emotions.
Physical activity can also help. It’s good for physical health, for one. But exercise can also serve as an outlet for tension and distress. A long run or intense workout class may help drain some of the upsetting emotions that come up in response to gaslighting.
Exercise can also help you get better sleep, so if worries over gaslighting have started to interfere with your rest, regular activity can have some benefits here, too.
You might be concerned that talking to other people will lead to drama. It is important to get support from people you trust. It is possible to get input from different people in your life to reinforce your knowledge.
Your support network is not directly involved in the situation, so they are not as emotional as you might think. It is easier for them to offer an unbiased perspective, along with calm guidance and support.
When gaslighting happens at work, it is a good idea to avoid meeting with the person alone. If you have to meet with them, bring along someone who is neutral and trustworthy, or ask them to listen in on the conversation.
You are not pulling them in to support one side. You want them to observe what is happening. Someone trying to use gaslighting tactics will have a harder time manipulating more than one person.
Gaslighting can sometimes become serious, even abusive. This doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong — emotional abuse is often difficult to confront.
Talking with a therapist is always a good first step. Directories like Healthline’s find a therapist tool can help you start your search for local counseling resources.
Find help now
If you’re dealing with gaslighting from a partner or family member, the National Domestic Violence Hotline provides free, confidential telephone and chat support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call 1-800-799-7233 or talk with a counselor.
If the gaslighting happens at work, your human resources department may also offer support. Learn more about harassment, and filing a charge, from the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
You can also find out if your employer offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
Employees with personal or work related emotional well-being problems can receive mental health assessments, counseling, and medical referrals through the work-based EAPs.
“You don’t need to handle gaslighting alone. Hotline counselors and therapists can offer guidance based on your situation, including safety planning tips and resources to help you handle a crisis.”
Crystal Raypole worked as an editor for GoodTherapy. Her interests include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. She is committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues.