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Gaslighting: 5 Ways to Recognize Manipulation and Protect Your Mental Health

Updated: Jan 24

The word gaslight in neon above a stage

Imagine doubting your thoughts, feelings, and even your memories. You may have been a victim of gaslighting, which is a form of psychological manipulation that can be harmful. Let's explore what gaslighting is, how it can affect individuals, and most importantly, how to recognize and protect yourself from this damaging behavior.

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse where one person tries to make another person doubt their reality, perceptions, or sanity. The term originated from a 1944 movie called "Gaslight," where a husband manipulates his wife into thinking she's going insane by dimming the gaslights in their home and then denying it when she points it out.

Ways to Recognize Gaslighting:

A rose with a flame behind it over a black background

It is important to have ways to recognize gaslighting. Gaslighters will trivialize your feelings, making you feel like your emotions or concerns are unimportant or irrational; often shifting the blame for their actions onto you, making you feel guilty or responsible.

Denying Reality: A gaslighter may deny things they've said or done, even if you have proof.

Projecting: They might accuse you of things they do themselves, diverting attention from their actions.

Withholding Information: A gaslighter may withhold or give you false information to keep you in the dark.

Discrediting Your Memory: They often say, "You're imagining things" or "You have a terrible memory."

Isolation: Gaslighters may try to isolate you from friends and family, making you more dependent on them.

Adult woman looking down at her hands wearing a multicolored sweater and green pants

Gaslighting can have severe consequences on your mental health:

Low Self-Esteem: Over time, you may doubt your abilities and lose self-confidence.

Anxiety and Depression: Constant manipulation can lead to anxiety and depression.

Isolation: You may withdraw from relationships and become socially isolated.

Guilt and Self-Blame: Gaslighters often make you feel like you're at fault, leading to feelings of guilt and self-blame.

Confusion: The constant manipulation can leave you feeling confused and disoriented.

Protecting Yourself from Gaslighting:

Trust Your Instincts: Trust your instincts if something doesn't feel right. Your feelings are valid.

Seek Support: Talk to friends, family, or a therapist who can provide an objective perspective and emotional support.

Set Boundaries: Establish healthy boundaries and communicate them.

Keep a Journal: Document instances of gaslighting to help you see patterns and gain clarity.

Practice Self-Care: Prioritize self-care to help maintain your mental and emotional well-being.

How to Respond to Gaslighting:

A mug with coffee inside and the words "be strong" on the side

Stay Calm: Gaslighters may escalate if you react emotionally. Try to stay calm and composed.

Assertive Communication: Use "I" statements to assertively express your feelings and concerns.

Maintain Independence: Keep your independence and maintain your support network.

Seek Professional Help: If gaslighting is causing severe emotional distress, consider seeking help from a mental health professional.

Gaslighting in Relationships:

Gaslighting often occurs in close relationships, such as romantic partnerships or family. It's essential to recognize it and take steps to protect yourself. Healthy relationships are built on trust, respect, and open communication, not manipulation.

In Conclusion

Gaslighting is a damaging form of emotional abuse that can leave you questioning your reality and self-worth. Recognizing the signs of gaslighting is the first step in protecting yourself from its harmful effects. Trust your instincts, seek support, and practice self-care to maintain your emotional well-being. Remember, you deserve relationships built on trust, respect, and open communication, free from manipulation and deceit. By staying informed and taking action, you can protect yourself from gaslighting and its negative impact on your mental health.

About the Author

Sandra Strozier, MA smiling wearing a purple dress and pearls

My name is Sandra Strozier, MA. As a proud native of Atlanta, Georgia, and a "Grady Baby," I am fueled by a deep passion for empowering individuals through evidence-based curriculum within the Metro Atlanta Family Treatment and Juvenile Courts. With an associate degree in Sociology from Georgia Perimeter College and a BS in Urban Policy Studies, specializing in planning and economic development from Georgia State University's Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, I have built a solid educational foundation. Furthermore, I hold a Master of Arts degree in clinical mental health from Clark Atlanta University, School of Counselor Education.

In my current role as an Enforcement Analyst at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Atlanta, I am committed to making a positive impact on our community. Beyond my work with HUD, I have also founded DIVAS, Incorporated., a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering young individuals to develop self-confidence and effective communication within their family structures. Through DIVAS, I have extended my reach to assist families in healing from the trauma associated with substance use disorders.

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