Gaslighting: How to spot it and stop it

This article was last updated on 12 August 2020.

Gaslighting is a dangerously subtle form of one-to-one control, often so much harder to spot because it wears the charming face of your friend, lover, colleague or relation – and it’ll tell you it only wants the best for you.

The term was originally coined after a 1944 film ‘Gaslight’ portrayed a controlling marriage in which the husband manipulated his wife into doubting her own sanity. The term gaslighting has recently found notoriety again, thanks in part to the popularity of reality TV programmes.

To ‘gaslight’ someone is to make them constantly doubt themselves, their actions and their perception of reality. This behaviour can occur in any relationship, not just romantic ones, and is sustained over a period of time. If a victim of gaslighting raises legitimate concerns about their treatment, their abuser may turn the tables on them, deflecting any responsibility for how they feel.

Watch Psychologist Honey Langcaster-James explain how to spot red flags, and the difference between unintentional and malicious gaslighting:

How to shut it down

  • Reach out. Talk to someone and get support on your side before challenging the behaviour.
  • Get an outsider’s perspective on the relationship. Seek out the validation that you are not going insane and you do know your own mind.
  • Take space and take time for yourself. Find your own reality again.

Where to find support

If you have concerns about your relationship, visit Relate for more information, and to message a counsellor for support.

It is always good to speak to someone you trust about the issues you might be facing, no matter how big or small. Although it can be hard talking about relationships, everyone finds them challenging at times. So if you are experiencing difficulties, don’t feel ashamed or different and don’t feel you have to hide away from it.

If you are experiencing emotional or physical abuse, or are concerned about someone who is, you can speak to someone at SafeLives call the 24 hour Domestic Abuse helpline on 0808 2000 247.

Alternatively, you can speak confidentially to someone at Women’s Aid and Mankind, or visit their websites for more guidance and advice.

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