In all honesty, it’s not always easy to know when you’re being gaslighted. The individual who is doing the gaslighting aims to distort your perception of events, causing you to question yourself and your sanity and ultimately lose sight of reality. Unfortunately, that’s how they gain and maintain control. Nonetheless, there are signs you’re being gaslighted that you can study, analyze, and increase your awareness of to safeguard your emotional and physical well-being, regardless of who enters your life.
What Is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a form of manipulation used to undermine a person’s perception to gain control, avoid accountability, and maintain power. Once you start questioning yourself and believing their side, it gives them a sense of superiority to establish the narrative that they’re right and you’re wrong. However, gaslighting isn’t the same as lying or someone disagreeing with you. Unfortunately, it can happen in any situation: politicians denying events with insurmountable evidence, doctors persuading you to believe you’re imagining your symptoms, overhearing family members speaking poorly about you and feeling confused after they say, “I didn’t say anything; You can’t remember anything!” (learn more about parental gaslighting here), or romantic relationships deflecting cases of unfaithfulness. Anyone can gaslight in any context.
17 Signs You’re Being Gaslighted
There’s an interwoven web of signs you’re being gaslighted: specifically, the actions and the resulting psychological response you experience. Therefore, self-reflect on the signs/symptoms below to determine if you’re experiencing this behavior.
- The person consistently insists you said or did something contrary to your memory
- You wonder if what they’re saying is true, causing you to believe you’re losing your mind, wrong, inadequate, unintelligent, or not enough
- When you address a situation, the person denies it immediately or laughs at you
- You often feel confused and can’t find clarity between their retelling of the situation and your memory
- When you express your feelings, they call you “too sensitive”, “crazy” or “you’re blowing things out of proportion”
- You worry and often believe their criticism: “Are they right, and I am too sensitive?”
- They manipulate, distort, and twist the situation, causing you to blame yourself and feel guilty
- You spend a great deal of time apologizing for who you are and what you do
- They refuse to take accountability for their actions
- You have a deep-rooted fear that there’s something wrong with you
- You frequently experience anxiety, fear, and or depression
- You have a sense that something isn’t right about the relationship or situation
- You often believe you can’t do anything right, leading to low self-esteem
- You struggle to make decisions for yourself because you don’t know whether or not you can trust yourself
- You often second-guess yourself, your judgment, perception, and ability to remember
- You feel others are disappointed in you and how you react/behave
- You feel lost, vulnerable, powerless, and alone
9 Ways to Cope When You’re Being Gaslighted
1. Know when it’s happening
The first step to cope is to know when it’s happening. Indeed, increasing your awareness will give you the power to assert your confidence and step away from relationships that don’t serve your highest self. For example, when you experience gaslighting, you’ll often exhibit reduced self-esteem and feel emotionally reliant on the manipulator. Especially during conflicts, you’ll experience a cycle of repetitive arguments, both within your mind and with the abuser, causing intense emotions like anger, frustration, and severe sadness. To aid your awareness of when it occurs even further, here are a few common phrases someone gaslighting might say;
- You’re the problem, not me
- I don’t understand why you’re making a big deal out of nothing
- I never said that
- I only did that because I love you
- If you truly loved me, you would…
2. Gather evidence
Strengthen your detective skills and do anything in your power to note when the abuse happened, the signs, and the patterns to preserve your self-trust. For example, you can journal to maintain a record of the events and your subsequent feelings to help you feel confident and firm in your truth. Doing so will also help the seeds of doubt from disrupting your perception of reality.
3. Vent to a trusted loved one
Talk to your trusted loved ones to help you gain clarity. It will also allow an opportunity to cope with the signs of being gaslighted to heal your emotional wounds. The more support you have will protect you from the abuse and the attempts to harm your self-esteem and self-trust.
4. Establish and maintain boundaries
Someone who is gaslighting you will use every tool to minimize, deflect, and distort your perception. Therefore, spend time self-reflecting and checking in with how you feel. If you feel the conversation is unfair, one-sided, and/or abusive, allow yourself to walk away. It is a boundary that enables you to protect your well-being and perception of events. Additionally, you can say, “If you continue to speak to me that way, we can no longer see each other“. In this instance, you are standing up for yourself and setting clear limits that adhere to your values.
5. Don’t try to win the argument
In the heat of an argument, the desire to gain the upper hand can be compelling, but true victory often lies in letting go. Even if you present evidence from multiple perspectives, they will most likely continue to manipulate, distort, or deflect. Instead, you can say confidently, “I know my feelings, and I stand by my truth,” then walk away. Protecting your emotional well-being is far more important than proving a point.
6. Prioritize your needs
An aftereffect of persistent gaslighting is often low self-esteem. The individual gaslighting aims to warp your perception to the degree where you question your integrity, memory, values, and self-worth. It can even lead to emotional dependence because you lose trust in yourself. Therefore, it’s paramount to prioritize your physical and emotional needs. For example, attend to your self-care by receiving quality sleep, eating immunity-boosting foods (stress takes quite a toll on our health), spending time with your loved ones, and regaining your sense of control and identity by doing what you love. Additionally, creating a self-love routine, including following habits to increase your mental strength and confidence, may make it easier to navigate gaslighting attempts.
7. Practice calming your nervous system
One of the best ways to cope with the signs you’re being gaslighted is to discover how to heal your nervous system. Indeed, gaslighting can induce chronic stress and anxiety, causing you to enter survival mode. Even more, consistently being told you’re wrong can cause you to become flustered and emotionally reactive. However, grounding techniques for anxiety, like deep breathing, meditation, and mindfulness, can better prepare you to discern the manipulative tactics and respond vs. react.
8. Consider ending the relationship
After everything, you may have to face the uncomfortable and painful truth that this person isn’t right for you. If they’re consistently gaslighting you, the only way to end the abuse is to end the relationship. Unfortunately, as much as we want to believe they’ll change, this hope will only cause more psychological and physical harm.
9. Speak with a mental health professional
Understanding when you’re encountering gaslighting is not a process that occurs overnight. Especially because the one gaslighting often uses your childhood trauma and limiting beliefs against you. As a result, your self-worth can diminish, and your vulnerability to burnout, anxiety, and depression increases, among other conditions. Therefore, speak with a mental health professional. They will help you recognize the patterns and signs, deal with gaslighting in relationships, and accept what’s happening. By increasing your awareness, you’ll discover how to heal childhood wounds, attachment styles, painful emotions, and how to explore healthy boundaries.
While it’s not always easy to detect, learning the signs you’re being gaslighted will arm you with the necessary clarity, confidence, and self-assurance to protect your well-being. Additionally, it will shield you from further manipulation as you attract more loving and authentic relationships into your life.
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